updated 10/27/2007 12:00:38 AM ET 2007-10-27T04:00:38

Karl Rove and Max Cleland found themselves in a rare moment of agreement Friday — that America should bring democracy to the world.

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But Rove, a former top adviser to President Bush, and Cleland, a former senator from Georgia and triple amputee Vietnam veteran, disagreed strongly about the best method of doing that.

When Rove considered that question, he responded: “Obviously, my answer is yes.”

Cleland said his answer was “yes, by example, but not by force,” setting up a complicated and at times testy discussion between the two men dominated by the Iraq war.

The men spoke at a forum at Regent University, the Christian school founded by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson.

Cleland pointedly asked Rove: “Why didn’t the Bush White House go after Osama bin Laden? Why are we wasting time in Iraq?”

Rove fired back: “Senator, with all due respect, the U.S. military and U.S. intelligence agencies made every effort possible to get Osama bin Laden, and frankly I don’t think it reflects well on our military and intelligence services to suggest that they didn’t.”

Heated moments
Cleland lost his U.S. Senate seat to Republican Saxby Chambliss, who suggested Cleland was soft on terrorism, and Cleland supporters said Rove was behind that.

Cleland argued that assets have been pulled away from Afghanistan and sent to Iraq, and the two men heatedly spoke over each for a few seconds.

The president’s brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, said that if the United States does not spread democracy, what country will?

“God has given every person the zeal for freedom,” Bush said. “It is incumbent upon us to do our part to give people that want freedom the chance to pursue it.”

Rove said the country has helped spread democracy in Africa, Asia and Europe over the last 30 years.

But he acknowledged that “the spotlight is in Iraq, a difficult place to spread freedom and liberty.”

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