Bush's former chief-of staff Andrew Card to speak tonight

Published: Wednesday, November 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 31, 2006 at 11:38 p.m.
With the midterm elections just days away, the University of Florida will play host to a former Bush administration official who's been the subject of recent headlines concerning the Iraq war.
Andrew Card, President Bush's former chief of staff, will speak at the O'Connell Center at 8 p.m. tonight. Card pushed for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's ouster, according to Bob Woodward's "State of Denial." Woodward's book, which relied on secret documents and interviews with officials, including Card, suggests the Bush administration failed to shoot straight with the public about the deadly toll in Iraq.
Card, invited by UF's student-run speaker's bureau, isn't the first politically oriented speaker to come to the university around election time. Michael Moore, a filmmaker who's been highly critical of Bush, appeared at UF shortly before the 2004 presidential election.
Like Moore, Card will be paid $50,000 by Accent Speakers Bureau for his appearance. Andrew Brown, chair of Accent, said he was aware that the timing of Card's appearance might draw some critics. On the other hand, Brown said he did not think Card would use the occasion to stump for Republicans in the Nov. 7 election.
"People are going to be mad, but there's nothing we can do about it," he said. "... I'm sure he's going to answer to Bob Woodward's book or somebody's going to ask about it. I don't think he's using this as a campaign stumping ground."
Moore's appearance at UF in October 2004 drew a complaint from an Arizona attorney who suggested that UF's payment of Moore was a violation of federal election laws. The Federal Election Commission dismissed the allegations.
Daniel Smith, a professor of political science at UF, said Card's appearance may make some waves but certainly won't evoke the same hostile reaction that Moore drew from conservatives. Indeed, the Rev. Al Sharpton's recent visit was probably more likely to stir negative passions, he said.
"Does he have the same type of arousal factor as Michael Moore? I don't think so," Smith said. "Is he even on par with Al Sharpton? No."
Sharpton, a 2004 Democratic presidential candidate who spoke at UF in September, wasn't coy in his attacks on Bush. He accused the president and his party of employing "boogeyman" politics to scare voters and lambasted the administration's slow reaction to Hurricane Katrina.
Brown said that Sharpton was also offered a speaking slot closer to the election but his schedule wouldn't accommodate it.
"A lot of times it's just a stroke of luck when a speaker comes," Brown said.
Accent works to balance the political leanings of its speakers, Brown said, offering conservative and liberal voices throughout the year.
"That's how we stay balanced," he said. "For every liberal/Democrat we have a Republican/conservative."
Jack Stripling can be reached at 374-5064 or Jack.Stripling@gvillesun.com.

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