LCSN: Rove, Lockhart debate at NMSU

September 2, 2010. Retrieved online September 3, 2010 from Diana M. Alba, Las Cruces Sun-News

Karl Rove, left, former deputy chief of staff for former President George W. Bush and a FOX news contributor, Joe Lockhart, political commentator and former press secretary for former President Bill Clinton, banter back and forth Thursday in Corbett Center at New Mexico State University. Former ABC news anchor Sam Donaldson, right, moderated them as they debated during the Domenici Public Policy Conference. Norm Dettlaff/Sun-News photo

LAS CRUCES – It was certainly an unusual event: Republican Karl Rove, the contentious adviser to President George W. Bush; Democrat Joe Lockhart, former White House press secretary for President Bill Clinton; and former ABC news anchor Sam Donaldson all shared a stage Thursday in front of an audience of more than 500 at New Mexico State University.

There was potential for unruliness. Three New Mexico State University police officers and the deputy chief stood guard at the rear of the Corbett Center Student Union ballroom, where the event was held, but they weren’t needed.

In the end, the only punches thrown were verbal, as Rove and Lockhart debated point to point, often sidestepping Donaldson’s attempts at steering them.

Topics ranged from voters’ mindsets going into the midterm elections and federal government spending to federal health-care reform and the tumult being experienced by the news media industry.

Donaldson launched the discussion by asking Rove and Lockhart what they thought was fueling voter angst this year.

Rove said it’s partly due to “hopes raised” by the federal economic stimulus bill and promises of job creation that haven’t materialized. Plus, he said the “dramatic increase” in government spending as a result of health-care reform is behind it.

“People got concerned … last year about the huge back-to-back-to-back deficits of above a trillion dollars and the fact they saw the government being unresponsive to them,” he said.

Lockhart said stirring voter discontent are a slow-moving economy, job loss and the fact people have “lost trust in some of the big institutions, particularly Wall Street, where it seems like all the people who made the money and bankrupted everyone else got bailed out.”

“I think people are economically insecure right now … and they don’t see light at the end of the tunnel and that makes them mad,” he said.

Lockhart acknowledged that, because Democrats are in power now, “it makes it very challenging to go to the voters and say, ‘we want to get rehired now.'” But he noted that Clinton left office with a balanced budget, and said the permanent deficits began under Bush’s tenure.

Rove charged that President Barack Obama didn’t do enough to involve Republicans in drafting a 2,600-page health-care bill.

“Unlike Reagan, Clinton, (Bush) 41, (Bush) 43, he doesn’t get personally engaged,” Rove said.

…[Garrey] Carruthers said 650 people, including students, registered to attend the conference. But, because attendance varied throughout the day, the maximum number of people in the room at a given time was about 540.

Read the Las Cruces Sun-News article.

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