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Rove Visits Duke

Some students in shock, others in awe.

11:00 PM, Dec 6, 2007 • By STEPHEN MILLER
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WHEN I HEARD KARL Rove was visiting Duke--where I'd spent the last four years as a student battling the hard left--it was only a matter of seconds before I was browsing expedia for a flight.

But as expected, not everyone was so happy to see the political mastermind on campus.

Outside the packed auditorium this Monday were a couple dozen protesters--at least one Duke professor among them--dressed in orange jumpsuits and accusing Rove of everything short of genocide. While they failed to make their case that Rove was an international criminal, I think they did succeed in convincing almost everyone in attendance that going too long without a haircut is a severe fashion crime.

The protesters, evidently aware that their little Gitmo demonstration outside would not derail Bush's foreign policy, decided to bring the protest inside as well. Their strategy--as best I can understand it--was to shout vile accusations until Karl Rove gave in, placed a call to the oval office, and talked Bush out of fighting Islamic terrorism.

Unfortunately, that plan failed as well.

Their colorful outfits and cardboard signs simply proved no match for the Architect. The protesters were undoubtedly stunned to discover that Rove would counter them with one of the many dirty tricks he's picked up during his years in politics--using facts and intellectual argument to sway people in his favor.

And the format of his talk--a probing interview led by Peter Feaver, Duke professor and former member of Clinton and Bush's National Security Council--put Rove's wit and humor on full display.

But no one was laughing when two protestors rushed toward the stage with a banner which read "Arrest Him." Given Rove's very high profile and the increasingly bold attacks on conservative speakers, I foolishly expected Duke's police officers to intervene.

I waited and waited, but no officer even twitched. The two radicals eventually reached the front row where I was seated, only feet from a campus officer, who simply stood there pondering.

Thankfully, the two insurgent protestors went no further and began retreating from the auditorium. I tried to cajole the police officer into following them--if nothing else, to get their names.

No dice.

So I and the new head of Duke's Conservative Union followed after them ourselves to find out who they were, but they had scurried away too fast. The officer explained the school's policy of non-interventionism on constitutional grounds. I hadn't realized that our event guidelines had been written by Ron Paul. Regardless, it's good to know a student's right to interrupt scheduled proceedings on private property--like say a meeting of Duke's board of trustees--will be protected.

But again, Rove didn't skip a beat. And during the Q&A session he got the chance to dish out some justice when he verbally body-slammed a few vicious radicals who made their way to the mikes.

One girl, fixated on the Plame affair, wanted to know when Rove would be put on trial for treason. In response, Rove condemned the defamation and--to the cheers and delight of many in the audience--began cutting her argument to shreds.

These exciting moments of high drama provided the exclamation points for a deep and thoughtful conversation. Rove spoke passionately and pursuasively about the threat of global Jihadism, the stakes in Iraq, Bush's achievements at home and overseas--all the while painting a picture of Bush as a man of intellect who invites diversity and pluralism into the Oval Office.

While protestors may be shocked at the mere suggestion that radical Islam, not Karl Rove, is the actual threat to human rights around the world, the real story of the night is that a number of students left with a more favorable view of Rove and the Bush administration than the one they had coming in.

And anytime that can be done on a modern college campus, it deserves a little awe.

Stephen Miller graduated in May from Duke University where he was executive director of the Duke Conservative Union and a columnist for the Duke Chronicle.