Former White House political adviser Karl Rove says he has an appreciation for all things Norse. Except lutefisk.
"Any food that's key element is lye takes an acquired taste," Rove said of the dried cod dish that is reconstituted by soaking it in the alkaline solution.
Lutefisk aside, the top strategist for former President George W. Bush said Tuesday that his Scandinavian roots run deep. His stepfather was of Norwegian ancestry, he said.
"I have a brother, uncle and great-uncle named Olaf," Rove said.
Rove is to North Dakota to be inducted into the Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame in Minot, despite criticism from state Democrats. He won't respond to that, saying it's not a time for politics.
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, a Republican who has known Rove for more than 35 years, plans to introduce Rove during the Wednesday night induction ceremony at the annual Norsk Hostfest, billed as North America's largest Scandinavian cultural festival.
Norsk Hostfest officials initially asked Gov. John Hoeven to introduce Rove. But the Republican governor, who is weighing a U.S. Senate bid against Democratic incumbent Bryan Dorgan, is attending a send-off for Army National Guard soldiers headed to Iraq.
State Democratic Party Director Joe Aronson calls Rove a "political attack dog" and said elected public officials in North Dakota should be "held accountable for rewarding Rove for being a hatchet man."
"Karl Rove is a divisive, vicious, political operative," Aronson said Tuesday. "These elected officials are associating themselves with him. I think it is my job as party spokesperson to question that judgment."
Stenehjem, who was inducted into the Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame in 2007, said the Hostfest decides on hall inductees independently.
"It was never intended to be, nor is it a political event," Stenehjem said.
At a news conference in Minot, Rove said he spoke with Hoeven before coming to North Dakota.
"He's doing a much more important thing by meeting with North Dakotans who are being deployed abroad," Rove said.
Rove said he's honored to be introduced by Stenehjem, who was his roommate in 1974 in Alexandria, Va. Back then Rove led the College Republicans while Stenehjem was a law clerk with the Air Force Court of Military Review.
"I'm sorry that he's had to take some potshots because of our friendship," Rove said, "but I'm going to leave politics out of it."
Also being inducted this year are Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., and Tom Netherton, a singer who appeared on "The Lawrence Welk Show."
Pomeroy said he would be in Washington during the induction Wednesday but would appear via satellite. He said Wegger Strommen, Norway's ambassador to the United States, was scheduled to introduce him.
North Dakota's lone congressman would not comment on Rove's induction, but he said he's delighted about his own.
"My 89-year-old mother is half-Norwegian and half-Swedish," Pomeroy said. "For her, this is right up there with winning the Nobel Peace Prize."
Rove said he has visited North Dakota at least a dozen times over the years. A 2005 visit to Fargo for a GOP fundraiser - when Hurricane Rita was expected to hit Texas - drew criticism from Democrats, but Rove came anyway.
Rove said his adoptive father, Louis, used to read to him literature from Iceland and Norway as a child. Louis Rove died in 2004.
"It's more of an honor for my father," Rove said. "The last big trip we ever did together was to Norway."