Howard Dean and Karl Rove
September 11, 2009, Greencastle, Ind. — [Download Video: "Rove and Dean Enter the Auditorium" - 899kb] About 2,000 people filled three auditoriums on the DePauw University campus to see and hear national political heavyweights Howard Dean and Karl Rove debate the issues of the day, including health care reform, deficit spending and the incivility of modern day politics. The two men faced off in Kresge Auditorium of the Green Center for the Performing Arts, where the 1,400 seats were already filled a half-hour before the Timothy and Sharon Ubben Lecture began. Overflow seating was available in nearby Moore Theatre and Thompson Recital Hall, where visitors watched a closed circuit telecast. (photos: Alex Turco '10)
The program, "America in 2009: Challenges and Opportunities," was moderated by Bruce Stinebrickner, professor of political science at DePauw, and featured questions posed by members of the University community who were chosen via a lottery. Members of the DePauw Debate Society served as timers and marshals for the event.
[Download Video: "Gov. Dean on Health Care" - 1312kb] "What I want is a health insurance that can never be taken away, that can never be denied, that you don't lose when you move," declared Dean, who served as governor of Vermont from 1991 to 2003 and chaired the Democratic National Committee from 2005 until earlier this year. "And my solution to that is something we already have. It's called Medicare, and why not let people choose it." Dr. Dean, who supports President Obama's health care reform initiative, told the crowd, "The public option is not saying you can't have private insurance, but it says you can have a choice -- you can choose what you have now, or you can choose a voucher and take it to the private insurance system, but you can also use it in a public insurance system just like Medicare. And if it's good enough for people over 65 and our veterans and for Congress, it ought to be good enough for us."
Rove, former deputy chief of staff and senior adviser to President George W. Bush, displayed a copy of today's Wall Street Journal, which listed 10 reasons why Medicare should not be a model for reform. [Download Video: "Rove Responds" - 2102kb] "Number 1 is, it's going bankrupt," Rove roared. After listing some of what he views as the systems other shortfalls, Rove added, "You think it's bad today, wait until you start throwing everybody into Medicaid and Medicare where the prices are set administratively by a bureaucrat in Washington and not by markets. And those bureaucrats sure do a damn fine job when they start pricing things like they do at the post office."
In a lively exchange, Dean offered, "If you don't like the post office, you get to choose UPS or FedEx. That's choice. Why can't we have that kind of choice?"
His Republican counterpart responded, "You do get to use the post office, FedEx or UPS. It's your choice. But only one of 'em runs a $7 billion a year deficits, and that's the United States Postal Service."
On the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Dean commended President Bush for strengthening America's homeland security and border patrols. In the course of the discussion of national security tonight, Rove declared, [Download Video: "On the CIA" - 662kb] "We have got to do everything possible to keep a strong CIA and intelligence service to find out the bad guys before they hit America and to get the information that will keep us safe. And I'm really worried about what this administration is doing in retrospectively looking back at the actions of the CIA. Really worried."
According to Gov. Dean, [Download Video: "Dean on CIA Interrogations" - 2326kb] "It is incredibly important for us to continue to be the great nation we are, and that means setting a higher standard than anybody else will set," which was greeted by applause. "I do not believe that Americans should engage in torture. I don't really want to get into the debate about whether we did or didn't torture, but what the CIA investigation is about is about finding out. I'm not so interested in prosecuting all the people down the chain in the CIA, but I am interested in making sure that we have a policy that upholds the greatness of America. The greatness of America is we have a higher moral standard than a lot of other people. Now we don't always meet that moral standard, but we try and that's what makes us... It's having the standard and striving to keep it that makes us a great nation. That we can't forget, because if we allow our standards to go down we have no moral authority in our war."
The two men found some common ground during the 95-minute debate. Rove offered his "strong support" for President Obama's efforts in Afghanistan. Dean, meanwhile, stated, [Download Audio: "Gov. Dean on Immigration" - 521kb] 'I thought George Bush showed a lot of courage with his immigration reform (efforts). It blew up in his face because of his own party."
The former governor who was a presidential candidate in 2004 asked, "How many people here have Native American blood in them?" After a few voices were raised, Dean stated, "Everybody else is an immigrant. You know why this country is the greatest country in the world? Because only the hardest working people who are willing to take a chance and work their butts off dare to get in those railroad cars and come across the border or dare to get in a boat and come over from Europe or China, wherever it is. And their kids are you. I agree with Karl -- you've got to secure the borders and you've got to do all these things. We have to stop beating up on immigrants in this country. We are immigrants, and it's what built this country," he said as the crowd cheered.
While clearly not a fan of many of the Obama administration's policies, Rove said he wouldn't put too much weight in the new president's falling poll numbers. [Download Video: "It's the Policies, Not the Polls" - 1733kb] "You know, I know they're worried over there in the West Wing about his standing but they shouldn't be. It comes and it goes. The question is, is he doing what he thinks to be the right thing and more importantly, at the end of the day will we look back and say he's doing the right thing? I don't think we will, but I'm not yet willing to say I'm writing off my country, I'm writing off my government, I'm saying his presidency is over because of where he is today."
Rove, who is a Wall Street Journal columnist and FOX News contributor, says the nation is consumed by the "24 hour news cycle" of cable television, to which he contributes as, in his words, a "talking head." In the Republican's view, "We gotta recognize that we have a strong, durable democracy. We've now had three elections in a row in which surprisingly large numbers of people have turned out to vote in presidential elections. We ought to be proud of that. We have an engaged citizenry."
Dean argued that restoring the Fairness Doctrine, which required broadcasters to give opposing viewpoints equal time, would restore civility; Rove sees the move as unnecessary and chilling to truly free speech.
[Download Video: "A Generational Change?" - 869kb] "Our generation is a partisan generation," Gov. Dean declared. "People have talked about the culture wars. We've spent a lot of time demonizing each other's side, that makes it very difficult. One of the extraordinary things about this new young generation is they're sick of it. The question I get most often from young people is, 'When can you guys stop fighting about this stuff you've been fighting about for 30 years and get something done about the things you can agree on?' And I think it's going to have to wait until this generation is fully empowered for that to happen."
Karl Rove believes political name-calling heated up in the 1990s, as the Clinton White House squabbled with Newt Gingrich. "What we need is a more healthy attitude where people say our object is not to question the character or the motivations of our political opponents but to have a respectful disagreement and to leave out the 'liars' and 'jerks' and other comments were routinely the comments of Washington in the '90s and I think still linger today."
Rove joked, [Download Video: "Putting it Aside" - 1300kb] "I was the resident hothead in the Bush White House. When Harry Reid stood up and said, 'President Bush is a liar,' I'd wanna take a 2x4 to him. But Bush would say, 'You know what? History will get it right and we'll both be dead. Who cares?'"
The evening's questions also included an analysis of spiraling federal deficits. Rove denied that the Bush administration contributed to the problems. [Download Video: "Rove on Federal Spending" - 748kb] "Sure, we're spending more on the military, you bet. We were starving it in the '90s. We're spending more for border security, doubled the size of the border patrol and tripled its budget. We're spending more on homeland security because 8 years ago this day we were hit. But we worked very hard to ratchet down the discretionary growth of government spending, and now it's gonna blow back up."
[Download Video: "Dean Discusses Deficits" - 1648kb] "I think we had no choice but to stimulate the economy," Howard Dean responded. "We really did come very close to a major meltdown. And I think (stimulus) was a bipartisan conclusion by Hank Paulson -- who, I thought, as Secretary of the Treasury, knew what he was doing -- and by President Obama and his economic team. But I do think that we're going to have to start cutting back on spending. I don't think raising taxes is a good idea now, but it's gonna have to happen sooner or later. I think we have to be honest about that. And I think we are gonna have to look at both Social Security and Medicare and be much more hard nosed about what we're doing. One of the things I like about the Obama health care bill is it starts to go after Medicare reform. Karl's going to say the president wanted to do that, President Bush, it's true he did. Well now the Democrats hopefully are going to do it for their own reasons."
Karl Rove and Howard Dean began their day at DePauw by participating in an afternoon student forum in Meharry Hall of historic East College. The session was moderated by Ken Owen '82, executive director of media relations and coordinator of the Ubben Lecture Series, which sponsored today's program. David Dietz, a DePauw junior and president of the College Democrats, and Sam Spahn, a sophomore and president of the College Republicans, led the discussion. [Download Video: "Rove on Student Leaders" - 1215kb] "And they actually like each other, " Rove said at the evening event. "I think that's probably the most important lesson that we can take away from tonight."
The next stop for the two visitors was a news conference at the Pulliam Center for Contemporary Media, which was the subject of a 6 p.m. live report by NBC affiliate WTHR from Greencastle. [Download Video: "WTHR Report" - 3922kb]
Dean and Rove dined with a group of alumni, students and friends of DePauw before engaging in their debate.
In his opening statement, Dean said he was delighted to be back in Indiana "especially since it's now a blue state." He urged students to be active in the political system, noting, [Download Video: "Gov. Dean on Engagement" - 1112kb] "All politics really is is resource allocation in a democracy and organizing people to accomplish something for the better in your community as you see it. You can never take a vacation from that. You transform the world. Our generation had our shot at transforming the world and we did, for better or for worse, and now it's your turn." Calling the victory of Barack Obama extraordinary, Dean added, "You have a responsibility for the rest of your lives until your children elect their first president to make sure that democracy survives and flourishes."
Rove told students they have a "responsibility to serve," and declared, "It's great to be here at DePauw. What can you say about a University whose first president [Matthew Simpson] was an FOA, Friend of Abe? Speaks well to the start of this University."
The evening ended with Dean, Rove and Professor Stinebrickner coming together and hoisting their arms in the air as the standing room only crowd erupted in applause. [Download Video: "The Evening's End" - 1203kb]