Dean, Rove DePauw Debate Heated, Humorous

Political Heavyweights Debate Health Care, National Security

From the hot button topics of health care and national security to the question of political civility, Howard Dean and Karl Rove covered a wide-range of issues on the stage at DePauw University Friday night.

More than 1,000 people came out for the much-anticipated debate between former Vermont governor and Democratic National Committee chairman Dean, and Bush administration adviser and GOP heavyweight Rove.

The candid and, at times, comical debate, covered a variety of topics, including health care and the current reform plan.

While both men agreed that the current system is broken, Rove said he was against a public option or any kind of mandate for coverage, while Dean argued for universal coverage.

"I think the American people deserve a choice," Dean said.

Rove said he favors the free-market idea of tax credits, which would allow people to buy health insurance across state lines, and cut down on what he called "junk and frivolous lawsuits."

Many college students on hand told 6News' Sarah Cornell before the debate that they were looking for clarification on President Barack Obama's plan.

"If we go public option and we opted out of our insurance plan, would our employee being paying some of it, or what would be the deal with that?" asked Brian Cooper, a student at Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis.

Others already had their opinions, but said they wanted to hear Dean and Rove argue for each side.

"I'm an econ major and I just don't think it makes sense, money wise," said DePauw student Caroline Baker. "It just can't pay for itself and I think we've already spent so much money that it just doesn't make sense."

There were 18 people, mostly students, who were picked by a lottery to ask questions as part of the debate.

The mood took a tense turn when one of the questioners asked about national security eight years after Sept. 11.

Rove said he's concerned about attempts to prosecute members of the CIA for allegedly torturing prisons following the attacks.

"We did not torture," he said, to some boos from the audience. "For us to look back is going to have a chilling impact."

While Dean praised former President George W. Bush for tightening border and airport security in the wake of the attacks, he said to torture was unacceptable.

"To be the great nation we are means setting a higher standard. I don’t believe that Americans should be engaged in torture," he said. "We don’t want to lose that moral authority."

Despite the politically-charged atmosphere, both men said they had agreed to discuss the night's topics with civility.

For some audience members, the lively discussion renewed their faith in the longevity and potency of the political process.

"This has certainly been a much more interesting political era and really exciting, where some of them have been much less explosive," said Michelle O'Neill, the mother of a student. "It's much more interesting than it has been for me."

DePauw set up televisions in another auditorium to accommodate the overflowing crowd. Dean and Rove will debate again on the campus of Penn State University next month.