Rove Visit To U. Iowa Sparks Protest

This story was written by Shawn Gude, The Daily Iowan
It was Feb. 7, and UI Antiwar Committee member David Goodner had just been informed that President Bush's former deputy chief of staff and aide, Karl Rove, was coming to Iowa City for a Feb. 17 talk.

And he was infuriated.

"I can't remember the last time I was that angry," he said. "I was, like, just seeing red. It wasn't even that he was coming here, it was that he was being paid $40,000 to come here."

UI Lecture Committee Chairwoman Sharon Benzoni said the tab for Rove was a "bargain" compared with the $50,000 the committee spent on bringing former President Clinton a few years ago.

Fellow Antiwar Committee member Megan Felt's thoughts are similar to Goodner's.

"He definitely has a right come and speak," she said. "But I really don't think it's OK to pay a war criminal."

Goodner and Felt assert it's not Rove's conservatism that irks them, its Rove's actions - which the student group argues has established the man as a war criminal and traitor. Goodner pointed to Rove's involvement in the exposing of CIA covert agent Valerie Plame, the lead-up to the Iraq war, and the politically motivated firing of U.S. attorneys as evidence.

Benzoni said that although she respects the group's viewpoint, the event could actually be a good opportunity to question Rove's ideals.

"You don't necessarily always want to celebrate [the lecturers'] achievements - although that is sometimes the case," Benzoni said. "But sometimes we're, in a sense, calling on them to explain themselves and to answer to us as citizens."

This isn't the first time Rove has been met with opposition. When officials announced he would speak at a Connecticut prep school's commencement, some students complained. The graduating speech was dropped; Rove spoke Monday at the school instead.

The Antiwar Committee began planning the protest last week after members voiced unanimous disgust over Rove's visit.

At the meetings, they had internal debate on the extent of the protest. Some argued the group should disrupt Rove, while others argued a show of opposition without conflicting with the event was more appropriate.

Monday night, the group - which has around 45 to 50 active members - decided not to disrupt the event, instead opting for a street protest, Goodner said.

"We ended up deciding that we wanted to respect the Lecture Committee and what it's doing, but also facilitate a space where people opposed to Karl Rove can express their First Amendment rights and express their freedom of speech and show their dissent and opposition," Goodner said.

That space will be inside the IMU, where Rove is speaking, but Goodner said other details are yet to be determined. Among them: if signs will be permitted in the section.

Felt estimated that a little fewer than 100 people will participate in the protest.

"We've done a lot of research to back [our opinion] up," Goodner said, whose sources include the Washington Post, New York Times, and, among others. "Whether you agree or disagree, we have a very legitimate point of view."

Benzoni said she just wants the event to go off undeterred.

"Karl Rove being a 'war criminal,' in their words, is not necessarily something that came up when we discussed this," Benzoni said. "There was some discussion on the controversy surrounding his name, but I think what we were really interested in was ... how influential he has been and how timely this lecture will be."

E-mail DI reporter Shawn Gude

The Event What: Karl Rove in an onstage interview with Frank Durham, UI associate professor of journalism When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 17 Where: IMU Main Lounge

The Protest What: The UI AntiwarCommittee will protest Rove and the decision to bring him here the night of the event. Other groups have also said they will participate, including the Des Moines Catholic Worker Community, Des Moines IndyMedia, and the Johnson County Green Party, as well as other Iowa City citizens. When: 5:30 p.m. Feb. 17 outside; inside the event at 7:30 p.m. Where: IMU
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