Karen Hughes, former special counsel to President George W. Bush, spoke to an audience of about 450 people Saturday in Campbell Hall after a group of about two dozen people stood outside in protest of the Bush administration’s foreign policy.
Hughes was on tour to promote her new book, Ten Minutes to Normal, which recounts her time working for Bush during his campaign for Texas governor as well as his 2000 bid for U.S. president, up to the time she resigned from the White House in 2002. The protesters, who were not from any specific group, said they were taking the opportunity to protest Bush rather than Hughes’ talk.
“We’re using the occasion of the event to protest the policies of the Bush administration,” said Lisa Hajjar, a professor in the Law & Society Dept. “We have no opposition to Karen Hughes’ right to speak.”
Rounding out the protesters, about a dozen pro-Bush demonstrators also stood in front of the building, displaying “Bush and Cheney 2004” posters. Antony Mascovich, chair of the UCSB College Republicans, said liberal groups on campus come out in support of liberal speakers, and he wanted to do the same for a conservative speaker.
“Karen Hughes is obviously a big-time conservative speaker, and when a leftist speaker comes [to campus] the left is out there in force,” he said. “Traditionally when we have brought a conservative speakers, or conservative speakers come to the university, whether through the College Republicans or Arts & Lecture, the radical leftists have disrupted those speeches.”
Mascovich said liberal audience members have disrupted conservative speakers in the past, citing the visits of Ward Connerly and Oliver North as examples.
“I’ve come to events, be it for class or personal interest, that espouse views that I couldn’t agree with and maybe gone to the point finding un-American, but I wouldn’t seek to disrupt the speaker,” Mascovich said. “So that’s part of why we’re here … just so Karen Hughes can have a chance to give a presentation.”
Even with the protest, Hughes delivered her speech to the audience. Reading excerpts from her book, Hughes talked about why she decided to resign as Bush’s special adviser and return home to her family in Texas.
Hughes said she worked as a television reporter before coming into politics, and during that time, she became interested in government.
“The political process has so much influence in our lives,” she said.
It is possible to balance a career with family life, Hughes said
“You’ll have to make choices along the way, but it won’t be a choice of either/or,” Hughes said.
The most important thing in life, Hughes said, is to organize and prioritize one’s love. Her work conflicted with her family, and that is why she decided to leave.
“My husband and I decided to re-order our love,” she said.
Working with George W. Bush, Hughes said he liked to invent words.
“He’s creative like that,” she said, recalling a press conference in which Bush used “misunderestimate” as a word.
Hughes also spoke about the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
“The terror of that day was an awakening to the new security threat and to old American decency,” Hughes said.
She also defended Bush’s national security policies and the occupation of Iraq.
“I think the world is absolutely safer without Saddam Hussein in power,” Hughes said.
Hughes went on to say that Bush was not bent on using force in Iraq, but worked steadily with the United Nations.
“At some point your word no longer has credibility and you have to take action,” she said. “The president has worked with the U.N., but you cannot subordinate the security of America to the wishes of other countries.”
During the beginning of the presentation, a member of the audience who did not agree with Hughes stood up and interrupted her speech.
‘Why don’t you stop, you damn liar,” he said. “Why don’t you go back to Texas.”
Hughes calmly responded, “I’m glad you have the right to say that, and now the people in Iraq do too.”
Amber Irwin, a first-year business economics major, called Hughes’ presentation “awesome.”
“She was very articulate and addressed everyone’s questions,” Irwin said. “She was thoughtful.”