The Panetta Institute for Public Policy at CSUMB is doing just what it should be doing – helping “our communities and our county meet the challenges of the 21st century,” as it says in the mission statement on its website.

Just this week, on Monday, April 13, listeners heard Alice Rivlin, former director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Jim Nussle, a former Congressman who has also headed OMB, discuss “The Challenges Facing the New Administration – Can the Economy Recover From This Recession?” at a panel moderated by Judy Woodruff of PBS’ NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

THIS IS THE GUY WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE RISE OF GEORGE W. BUSH.

This year’s series, under the estimable leadership of Sylvia Panetta now that her husband has been dragooned into Washington to serve as the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, led off with an equally stimulating panel on health-care reform, including the likes of former U.S. Senate majority leader (and one-time putative Obama health czar) Tom Daschle as well as Michael Leavitt, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Well and good. But there’s such a thing as being too public-spirited, and I fear the Institute has now officially reached that point.

I’m referring, of course, to the main course in this year’s lecture series – the others have clearly just been appetizers: A May 4 panel with the fetching title, “Can the Partisan Divide Ever End?” that will feature David Plouffe, former campaign manager for Barack Obama, and none other than Karl Rove, former deputy chief of staff and senior adviser to some other guy who lived in the White House for eight years, at least the first four under extremely fishy circumstances.

Now, normally, I’m all for the First Amendment – after all, this is how the Weekly makes its living. And in a certain way, of course, bagging Mr. Rove’s attendance – I’m assuming Dick Cheney wasn’t available – is something of a coup. At least the good people at Panetta are aiming high in their efforts as celebrity-politico wrangling.

But… Karl Rove? The mind reels.

To reprise, this is the guy who was responsible more than anyone else for the rise of George W. Bush from an amiable, unsuccessful oil field operator and dabbler in baseball teams to the governorship of Texas and then the presidency of the United States. Twice.

In Bush’s 1994 governor’s campaign against the late, great Ann Richards, Rove was linked to tactics including “push polls” in which Bush supporters would call voters to ask questions like whether “people would be more or less likely to vote for Governor Richard if they knew her staff was dominated by lesbians.” Rove denied involvement. Of course. And Bush won. Of course.

In the same spirit that would have made Tricky Dicky Nixon and Tailgunner Joe McCarthy proud, Rove earned his reputation as “The Architect” of hard-right Republican victories; the 2000 Bush presidential campaign was allegedly responsible for spreading rumors that John McCain had fathered an illegitimate black child. Repeat after me: Rove denied it.

Just getting warmed up: In July 2005, in the midst of the murky story surrounding the outing of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA agent, Rove’s role was revealed as speaking to a Time magazine reporter about the case “on double super secret background.” Although it later turned out that Richard Armitage, former aide to Colin Powell, was the primary source for the stories that led to the grand jury investigation of the Plame leak, and the subsequent indictment and conviction of Scooter Libby, Rove’s fingerprints were all over the place.

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So there we have it. Just a few of the many reasons I don’t like Karl Rove.

And I haven’t even gotten started yet about the book he has a contract to write about his life in politics, a book, no doubt, he hopes his appearance at the Panetta Institute will help sell.

Or the time he appeared as a rapper at a White House Correspondents Dinner, bringing shame on fat, racist white guys from Texas everywhere (you can see the grim results on YouTube). I mean, of course, that the policies Rove supported were racist – remember Hurricane Katrina. I have no idea what’s in his heart, assuming he has one.

Most recently, Rove has engaged in a verbal throwdown with Joe Biden, calling the vice president a liar for saying he challenged Bush’s policies. “I hate to say it, but he’s a serial exaggerator,” Rove told the Associated Press. “If I was being unkind, I’d say he’s a liar.”

I defend Karl Rove’s right to speak at the Panetta Institute this May, and the Institute’s right to invite him.

But as a civil libertarian, I also defend the right of CSU-Monterey Bay students and other interested observers to come to the event and let Mr. Rove know how they feel about what he did to our country.

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