Karl Rove, Howard Dean square off at The Bob
From left, Howard Dean, Ralph Begleiter and Karl Rove at the Bob Carpenter Center
Karl Rove addresses UD students prior to the evening presentation.
Howard Dean speaks to UD students.


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2:39 p.m., Oct. 26, 2010----With an important midterm election just days away, two of America's most prominent political warriors visited the University of Delaware to press their visions of America's future during a UD Speaks discussion held Monday evening, Oct. 25, in the Bob Carpenter Center.

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During “Election Eve: Howard Dean and Karl Rove Together,” remarks by these political commentators drew applause from the nearly 2,000 members of the audience. The discussion was moderated Ralph Begleiter, Rosenberg Professor of Communication, Distinguished Journalist in Residence and director of the Center for Political Communication at UD.

Begleiter noted that having Dean, the former governor of Vermont and 2004 presidential candidate for the Democratic Party, and Rove, who served as deputy chief of staff and senior adviser to former President George W. Bush from 2000-2007, visit UD reinforced the University's reputation -- first noted by Bloomberg News -- as the epicenter of American politics.

“Howard Dean and Karl Rove are two of the smartest, most influential political operatives in the world,” Begleiter said. “They don't often appear together, so we are very lucky for that tonight.”

Both men answered questions submitted by UD students, including whether Americans were better served by a federal government in which the Congress and the White House are controlled by the same party, or whether it is better to have a different party in control of the legislative and executive branches.

“That depends on which party,” Dean said. “ I think that this Congress and the president have done a good job. It's been a very tough environment for them. The economy is not well. I think they have done significant things, and that the stimulus bill has helped. I believe the health care bill, even though I have some differences with it, is a step in the right direction, though we have a lot more work to do. I think Congress also has done a good job for their country in getting our troops out of Iraq.”

Rove said he believes it is all right for one party to control both Congress and the White House as long as the margin of control is slim.

“I don't think it's healthy for the president to have such huge margins in the House and Senate,” Rove said. “The Democrats passed a bill, and it means that the president doesn't care whether he gets the Republican vote or not. That is not the way to run the country.”

When it comes to the “tea party” movement, Rove said he does not believe that the grassroots organization will negatively impact the Republican Party on Election Day, Nov. 2.

“You have to look at the roots from which the tea party has sprung,” Rove said. “They were concerned with these massive debts and all of the bills that were passed. This all makes for a giant toxic stew that is not helping the Democrats at all.”

The tea party will help to drive the number of people voting up from an average of 82 million to around 86 million on Nov. 2, Rove said.

Calling the tea party a mixed bag, Dean said, “I think it is good that they exercise their Constitutional rights, but I think there are some extreme elements and this is beginning to mobilize the Democrats. I think people really are worried about some of the people they see on television.”

While both men drew applause for their positions on issues such as taxes and illegal immigration, the audience also reacted strongly to explanations about why the weapons of mass destruction touted by the Bush White House as the main reason for invading Iraq in 2003 were never discovered.

“We were dealing with a closed society in which we didn't have any sources to tell us,” Rove said.

“We did know that in the aftermath of the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein complied a list or what materials he had and that he systematically kept international inspectors from collecting those materials and taking possession of those materials,” Rove said. “The world intelligence community thought he had weapons of mass destructions. They got it wrong.”

Dean said that although he was the first prominent Democrat to oppose the 2003 invasion of Iraq, he is an advocate of a robust national defense.

“I supported the first President [George H.W.] Bush's invasion of Iraq. I also supported President [George W.] Bush going into Afghanistan and President Clinton when he went into Bosnia and Kosovo,” Dean said. “I would like the Iraqi people to succeed, but they have not been able to form a government for seven months. I hope I'm wrong about this because I really would like to see them succeed.”

Both Dean and Rove elicited a warm round of applause as they expressed bipartisan respect for U.S. Rep. Michael N. Castle (R-Del.), who was in attendance.

Presented by the Division of Student Life, University Student Centers and the Center for Political Communication, the event was part of the UD Speaks series dedicated to bringing world-class leaders to campus to educate, enlighten and enlighten the UD community.

Article by Jerry Rhodes
Photos by Kevin Quinlan, Kathy Atkinson and Ambre Alexander