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Former White House adviser Karl Rove addresses an overflow audience Tuesday night at Concordia College. (Dave Wallis /The Forum)

Controversial presidential adviser Karl Rove speaks to full house at Concordia

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MOORHEAD -- Karl Rove criticized President Barack Obama's health care plan Tuesday in front of a full crowd at Concordia College that was primarily supportive but included a few outspoken detractors.

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The former White House adviser attracted more than 1,000 people, including about 700 community members and students who filled the Knutson Center Centrum. The rest viewed the speech on TVs from overflow rooms.

Rove spoke for 30 minutes on how free market and free enterprise affect health care, arguing that government should not take control of health care.

He took questions from students for another 30 minutes, with questions on the Valerie Plame affair and the war in Iraq eliciting the most heated interactions between Rove and the audience.

Although a small area outside the building was designated for protesters, no one used it.

The only incident came after the speech when one young man shouting "9/11 was an inside job!" was escorted out by security because he was handing out literature without permission.

Earlier Tuesday evening, a group marched and carried signs with the "Take Back the Night" rally, but that was unrelated to the Rove event.

Most members of the crowd stood and cheered for Rove during the speech, while a few remained in their seats and didn't clap.

As Rove took the stage, one man yelled "You're a great American, Karl."

Rove took at shot at Obama's health care plan, calling the current health care system the envy of the world.

"We ought to be careful about extending the role of government, particularly when there are better things we could do by relying on the market," Rove said.

Among the suggestions he made to improve health care, Rove said health insurance should be more like auto insurance - allow people to buy insurance across state lines to encourage competition.

During the event, Rove joked often with the audience, including some references to his Scandinavian roots. He is being inducted into the Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame today in Minot.

He made students the priority during the Q&A session, encouraging them to ask tough questions.

One student asked: "After you outed Valerie Plame as a CIA agent, which is treason, as we all know, I'm wondering why you're not in jail."

"There's a simple answer for that, I didn't do what you said I did," said Rove, who then challenged the student on his facts.

After the exchange was over, Rove plugged his upcoming book: "Incidentally, there's a great back story to what we just talked about here, it's in my book, available for $29.95."

The event closed with a student's question about the war in Iraq, which she said Rove led the U.S. into under false pretenses.

"You made the American people think that we were going to war because of 9/11," the student said.

Rove quickly attacked the student's comments and justified the war and the threat posed by then-Iraq President Saddam Hussein.

"It was the right thing to do and the world is a safer place for having that bastard gone," Rove said, concluding the speech and prompting a standing ovation.

After the event, junior Jen Pagh said she was happy with the way students handled themselves and asked good questions

"I thought Karl Rove handled them in a very Karl Rove manner," Pagh said.

Luke Tervola, a senior, said he questioned some of the figures Rove "sprayed" the audience with regarding health care.

Junior Kelsey Raasch said she wanted to hear what Rove had to say even though she's a liberal.

"I think it was a good experience for me to be here on educational grounds," Raasch said.

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