NARDI: “Want to down a shot, Senator?”

 

 

Tom Nardi

We got shafted Tuesday. And MSNBC was to blame.

Villanova University was put in a fantastic place in the presidential race as we played host to the Hardball College Tour, and students were given the chance to ask Sen. John McCain direct questions. But I have a big issue with the order in which MSNBC staffers chose to put student questions.

Viewers and audience members wouldn’t know, but those four questions weren’t the only ones that students wanted to ask. I would know; I was question No. 6. Staffers pre-screened 12 questions that afternoon from students and placed them in the order that students would be able to ask. But the first two questions we got to were set up to be softballs.

Senior Matt Brady asked if McCain considered himself a “typical white person,” in the words of Sen. Obama. I applauded when McCain gracefully reminded us what the appropriate tone of a presidential race should be when he said, “All Americans want a respectful campaign.”

Junior Peter Doocy asked McCain if he, like Sen. Clinton, wanted to down a shot.

My problem lies not in the questions of these two students. It’s a free country, and people can ask whatever they want, regardless of whether I would.

My problem is that it gives our University a bad reputation.

At the end of the first segment, Matthews quipped that, “I’m so proud of Villanova because we came here hoping for the best, and we got two of the most wise-ass questions in the world. I think it’s just a tribute to the academic rigor of this university.”

Now, I don’t like anyone taking shots at Villanova. To me, the University is like a sibling; only I can make fun of her, no one else. But I take exceptional offense because, whether or not Matthews knew it, his staff selected those to go first.

It wasn’t a first-come, first-serve basis. A young woman who came late to the question section got hers bumped up to No. 3 of 12. And we didn’t get to see the rigor of the final eight questions. Excluding my own, there were incredibly substantive questions.

Students wanted to ask questions about how McCain would differ from Bush in terms of listening to opposing views. Students wanted to ask about Supreme Court nominees and constitutional philosophy. Students wanted to ask about Iran policy and the Patriot Act. But instead, our University will be known as the one where McCain was asked to go drinking.

And that’s not the University’s fault; it’s MSNBC’s.

Staffers knew there wouldn’t be time to get to 12 questions. And I understand why they overbooked. It’s TV, and you have to prepare for the unprepared.

But they set us up to look like the stereotypical university, where students ask softball questions not related to policy. There’s a place for the drinking question. It might be appropriate as one of 12 questions. It’s not appropriate as one of four questions.

And that does a real disservice to Villanova in particular. Matthews mentioned during one of the commercial breaks that we’ve become a “national” college. And that’s true. Since my freshman year, even, we’ve morphed into a different place.

Back in 2004, we could only get Alexandra Kerry on campus, and she only spoke in the Radnor Room.

Back in 2004, I canvassed St. Monica Hall, where no one wanted to talk to me about the election. Back in 2004, you didn’t hear people talking about the election on the way to class, or in line at the Corner Grille.

But now, that’s different. Michelle Obama packed Jake Nevin. Chelsea Clinton filled the Belle Air Terrace for an hour and a half. And McCain himself showed up to answer our questions.

Too bad MSNBC chose not to recognize our maturity as an institute of higher learning.

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Tom Nardi is a senior political science major from Philadelphia, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]