Republican strategist Karl Rove told local leaders he wants them to “realize not everything is affected by politics, and to look at the underlying strength in the American economy.”

Rove was the guest of honor Thursday at the University of Texas at Tyler’s second annual Leaders and Legends event.

The former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to former President George W. Bush spoke to gathered business and community leaders about issues including the political climate and the economy.

“Our consumers are good; housing is good,” he said. “Wages are rising. Particularly if you look at 2015-16, wages were rising, but they were rising 75% more for managers than they were for normal people. The last two years they’ve been rising for everybody, but 25% more for working people than for their managers or supervisors. So that’s good news for the economy.”

He also said that while there is political turmoil in Washington, D.C., with the president facing an impeachment hearing, business leaders don’t need to panic.

“We can’t talk ourselves into a recession; we must not allow that to happen,” he said.

“We’ve got a good economy, good policies in place, (and) we need to be talking about what it is we need to do next to keep the economy going and spread prosperity even more broadly.”

John Soules Sr. said the perspectives of speakers like Rove and last year’s guest Steve Forbes bring immeasurable value to the community.

“You get such a broader perspective,” Soules said. “We’re only one small spot in the state, and the state’s only one small spot in the universe and they bring a perspective that we don’t have the opportunity to get exposed to.”

Soules said Rove’s message was that business and community leaders should focus on the work ahead, rather than politics.

“(The biggest takeaway) was to not get too caught up in the news, and to have a greater perspective of time and a little more faith in the country in general,” Soules said.

Rove recalled working as an aide for Gov. Bill Clements as Tylerite A.W. “Dub” Riter worked with the state and UT System to get UT Tyler up and running. He said he was impressed by Riter’s leadership and advocacy for the region.

“(UT Tyler has) been a great economic driver for this region,” Rove said. “It allows people who live here to go get a quality education and skills that are of great need in the local economy and stay where they want to stay — which is in East Texas. So I think it’s a great sign that so many business leaders are so intimately involved in activities with the university.”

Rove also touched on national politics and the 2020 presidential election. He said that while former Vice President Joe Biden is currently the front-runner, that doesn’t mean he will win the Democratic nomination.

Rove also thinks the impeachment proceedings are likely to backfire on Democrats.

“They’re going to try and push the resolution through the House in the worst way and they’re going to rush it,” he said.

Rove praised the strength of the economy under President Donald Trump and his drive to hold allies more accountable when it comes to doing their fair share.

“The president should be, if he were the normal president, acting in a normal way, his numbers would be off the charts,” Rove said. “But he’s an unusual character and sometimes the things that he does, and the tweets that he sends out, might otherwise put off people who would otherwise be his natural allies.”

The Leaders and Legends gathering is an annual event, launched last fall, designed to bring national leaders to UT Tyler to offer their perspectives to business and community leaders.

Twitter: @TMT_Cory

Cory is a multimedia journalist and member of the Education Writers Association, Criminal Justice Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has appeared on Crime Watch Daily and Grave Mysteries on Investigation Discovery.

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