God and Country - 2005-06-20

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F188.png God and Country June 20, 2005, Hanna Rosin, New Yorker

In the last days before the 2004 Presidential election, Patrick Henry College, in Purcellville, Virginia, excused all its students from classes, because so many of them were working on campaigns or wanted to go to the swing states to get out the vote for George W. Bush. Elisa Muench, a junior, was interning in the White House's Office of Strategic Initiatives, which is overseen by Karl Rove. On Election Day, she stood on the South Lawn with the rest of the White House staff to greet the President and Mrs. Bush as they returned from casting their votes in Texas. Muench cheered along with everyone else, but she was worried. Her office was "keeping up contact with Karl," and she knew that the early exit polls were worse than expected. Through the night, she watched the results, as Bush's electoral-vote total began to rise. The next morning, after Kerry conceded, she stood in the crowd at the Bush campaign's victory party, in clothes she'd been wearing all night, and "cried and screamed and laughed, it was so overwhelming."

I found Muench in the Patrick Henry cafeteria at lunchtime one day a few months later. She is twenty-one years old and has clear, bright hazel eyes and sandy-brown hair that she straightens and then curls with an iron. Patrick Henry is a Christian college, though it is not affiliated with any denomination, and it gives students guidelines on "glorifying God with their appearance." During class hours, the college enforces a "business casual" dress code designed to prepare the students for office life—especially for offices in Washington, D.C., fifty miles to the east, where almost all the students have internships, with Republican politicians or in conservative think tanks. When I met Muench, she was wearing a cardigan and a navy skirt. The boys in the cafeteria all had neatly trimmed hair, and wore suits or khakis and button-down shirts; girls wore slacks or skirts just below the knee, and sweaters or blouses. Most said grace before eating, though they did it silently and discreetly, with a quick bow of the head.

Muench told me that she loved working for Rove—answering the phone and having a senator on the line, meeting Andrew Card, the chief of staff ("He's a nice guy"), and Vice-President Dick Cheney ("He's really funny"). She took a bus from Patrick Henry at six every morning to arrive at the White House by seven-thirty. Her work with Rove, she told me, affirmed her belief that he was a political genius.

Wikipedia cite:
{{cite news | first = Hanna | last = Rosin | title = God and Country | url = https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2005/06/27/god-and-country | work = New Yorker | date = June 20, 2005 | accessdate = November 12, 2021 }}