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Karl Rove Lecture at UCSB Already Sparking Debate
But debate has already begun on campus, with anti-Rove students having organized a protest against the UCSB College Republicans’ guest speaker.
The architect of George W. Bush’s successful 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns, Rove caught the political bug in high school and became heavily involved in both school and national politics while attending the University of Utah in the early 1970s.
Rove has distinguished himself over the years with his political cunning, from a 1970 campaign prank against Democrat Alan Dixon in Illinois to his alleged use of push polls during Bush’s Texas gubernatorial campaigns in the 1990s.
Since resigning from the Bush administration in 2007, where he served as senior adviser and White House deputy chief of staff, he has worked as a political analyst and contributor for Fox News, Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal.
The student group SB Anti-War has been a key player in organizing and directing dissent against Rove’s appearance. Alleging that before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 he had a role in falsifying documents claiming Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, the group says that makes Rove a war criminal and an unsuitable speaker for UCSB’s campus.
“He lied to people about WMDs,” said Nick Di Masi, a third-year global history major and protest organizer. “He still has congressional subpoenas against him that he hasn’t been brought to justice on.”
The group also has complained that student fees are being used to pay for the event, although UCSB’s Office of Public Affairs said that student groups — in this case, the College Republicans, which sponsored the event along with the conservative Young America’s Foundation — are free to pick their own speakers.
“We got him for half of his usual cost,” said Ryan McNicholas, fundraising chairman of the College Republicans and a YAF member. “(SB Anti-War’s) objections are unfounded, and the debate isn’t even about Rove anymore. What this has come down to is infringing on Republicans’ free speech, and has made the cost of security (for the event) go up to $4,000.”
While some student fees were used to pay for Rove’s appearance, a significant amount of money was raised by the Young America’s Foundation.
Attendance at the lecture, scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday in UCSB’s Campbell Hall, is expected to top 700. McNicholas said 692 of the tickets were given to students, with the few remaining given to beneficiaries and members of the media (including Noozhawk; check back for complete coverage). YAF has sent 20 of its student members, culled from campus chapters around California, to attend the event.
SB Anti-War representatives said they are also miffed about the format of questioning, saying the moderation and a planned “free speech zone” are a violation of free speech rights.
“We’re not going to let the university marginalize us with this free speech zone,” said Alessandro Morosin, a global studies master’s student and SB Anti-War leader. “We’re not going to be intimidated from telling the truth. People don’t even know who Karl Rove is, and (this protest) brings political awareness to the campus.”
Asked why the College Republicans chose so contentious a speaker, McNicholas said it draws more of a crowd.
“If you get a controversial character, you get a lot more people talking about the issues,” he said, adding that his group invited author and former leftist radical David Horowitz a year ago.
Protesters plan to line up outside Campbell Hall an hour before the event, and leaders said they hope to attract the attention of a lot of students and passers-by.
“If a KKK member came to speak, he’d have the right to speak, but that doesn’t mean we’d have to respect him,” Morosin said. “It’s the same thing here.”
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