KANE: The big show



Jonas Kane

So, it seems, the show will indeed roll into our area – just not quite the one we were expecting.

I planned to write what was sure to be a brilliant piece of satire rife with Amish jokes and Philly cheesesteak references in line with analysis of the upcoming Pennsylvania Democratic primary.

But former Villanova commencement speaker Chris Matthews has bestowed upon us the honor of bringing his TV show “Hardball” to our campus. He will arrive hand-in-hand with none other than presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain.

“Hardball” is certainly an entertaining TV spectacle. It features the often bellicose host cross-examining guests and illuminating the presidential race with the insight of politicians and political commentators, who normally provide remarks on poll numbers and the daily controversies embroiling the campaigns.

The result is an entertaining piece of eye candy that equates to going to the movies and watching a summer blockbuster such as “Transformers” (substituting, of course, Matthews’ totally epic shouting for totally epic explosions).

Politics become easy to follow when the mainstream media’s coverage devolves into the thrill of the spectacle and the picking of a president becomes simplified into a sporting event – a horserace driven by poll numbers and the perception of how a candidate’s message might appeal to voters over a rational conversation about actual policy – a conversation that maybe lacks the discordant drama the press tends to love (and which we surreptitiously enjoy).

On the surface, it appears that Tuesday’s event will be merely an interesting sideshow featuring the thrill of the spotlight shining down on our campus. But the possibility of sneaking some slight substance into the show exists.

Perhaps when McCain’s Straight-Talk Express pulls into Villanova for the “Hardball” College Tour, someone will ask the vehicle’s namesake a thoughtful question that goes beyond the surface that the media tends to dwell on.

After you hear the man who has mocked the platitude of hope offer his own platitudes of victory and no surrender, consider asking him to delve a little deeper, to expand on his simplifications.

Ask him, for instance, to explain exactly who we are attempting to defeat in Iraq, considering that Baghdad was recently placed on lockdown due to the infighting between rival Shi’ite sects. Ask him why he conflates the fight in Iraq to the fight against al-Qaeda when, by all accounts, it was not in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion and even now makes up only an infinitesimal portion of the warring sects.

Or ask him for details on how a candidate with self-proclaimed economic ignorance can effectively lead a country that has slipped into a recession. Ask anything, really, that allows a candidate opposed to platitudes to give some nuance.

Certain questions don’t provide a candidate with sound bites, but they do give us a chance to see the actual merit of his platform, to see if he is actually willing to thoughtfully expound upon an issue as complex as the war, or if he instead tries to evade it – in this case with errant claims linking al-Qaeda, whose strongholds remain in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the struggle in Iraq.

Matthews and the mainstream media can continue to fawn over the show and the entailing superfluities that don’t really affect the future of our country. And yes, I agree, it’s all very entertaining. But some issues transcend entertainment.

Villanova is still at heart a liberal arts university and as such seeks to teach us different ways of thinking and cultivating knowledge and, maybe, how to build a worldview that extends beyond ourselves. So when Matthews and McCain stroll into town with the cameras rolling and the lights shining, let them know that, even though we love entertainment, sometimes we want something more.


Jonas Kane is a sophomore English major from Harrisburg, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]