Sen. John McCain visits ‘Nova



Jessica May

Political activity reached an all-time high at Villanova as Chris Matthews hosted his Hardball College Tour live from the Pavillion on Tuesday, featuring presumptive Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain.

According to Matthews, McCain was responsible for picking Villanova as the location for the interview.

“I had conversations with former Governor Tom Ridge and Charlie Black, who is the chairman of the [McCain] campaign, and it ended up that they wanted to do it at Villanova,” Matthews said. “I think I originally recommended it, but it was up to them.”

“Hardball” Senior and Executive producers Roland Woerner and John Reiss were also excited to be hosting the show at the University.

“It’s a great school to do [the show] in, and a great venue so we decided to do it here,” Reiss said. “We can fit 4,000 students in here,-and it’s all about the students.”

The set-up for the show was also student-oriented, with the VIP attendants and media outlets placed behind the student section on the ground floor of the Pavillion.

The show was broken up into different blocks by commercials–with students being given the opportunity to ask questions as the commercial break ended.

Matthews also commented on the importance of the show in educating college students on key political issues.

“We are the only people who bring the show to the colleges,” Matthews said. “I think that we are usually able to get most of the politicians on the show.”

Now that Sen. Barack Obama and McCain have accepted Matthews’ invitation to join the Hardball College Tour, many are left wondering if Sen. Hillary Clinton is scheduled to make an appearance.

“We hope we have until next Monday night to get [Hillary Clinton] somewhere,” Matthews said. “She’s been hard to get so far. I have negotiated two out of three [candidates]. I think she would be smart to do it, but it is up to her.”

When asked what separated him from other influential journalists among college students, such as Stephen Colbert and John Stewart, Matthews outlined his disdain for their tendency to ridicule democracy and politics itself.

“You can make fun of individual politicians, but all we have is democracy,” Matthews said. “I look up to politicians. That’s what separates me from these guys. They are much tougher than I am. I am tougher on individuals but not on politics itself.”

Many would argue that Matthews’ quick wit and strong personality can be difficult for interviewees.

However, McCain welcomed the challenge with a smile as he addressed local and national media outlets during a short press conference that took place prior to the event.

“I am pleased to be at Villanova, and I am looking forward to another appearance on ‘Hardball,'” McCain said. “I enjoy being back with Chris [Matthews], who is one of the preeminent media persons today.”

McCain also said that his favorite part of the college tour is when students are given the opportunity to ask questions.

A total of four Villanova students were given the opportunity to ask the senator questions, and the topics ranged from the national security and climate-control issues to recent footage of Clinton taking shots of alcohol.

Matthews held true to his agenda as he questioned McCain on the wars in Iraq and Iran, and the stances he would take if elected president of the United States.

“The war was mishandled terribly from the early four years by Donald Rumsfield and his administration,” McCain said. “I fought against it, I argued against it, and I argued for the new strategy, which is succeeding.”

McCain also commented on the recent passing of the 4,000th American soldier to this conflict.

“I believe there is a strategy to succeeding,” McCain said. “I believe the benefits of success are enormous, and I believe the consequences of faith are also enormous. So there is a lot at stake here.”

McCain also discussed the importance of addressing climate change.

Quoting a proposition made by Prime Minister Tony Blair, McCain noted that if there was no such thing as climate change, then making the environment a cleaner place to live only benefits the greater good of the people living on this planet.

Matthews also brought up the subject of torture.

“For the future of this country, we have to make sure we remain a nation that does not do things that our enemies do,” McCain said. “I promise you, my friends, I will close Guantanamo Bay, and we will never torture another person.”

No stranger to torture himself, McCain was captured during the Vietnam War in 1967 by the Northern Vietnamese and spent over five years as a Prisoner of War.

Frank Keating, former governor of Oklahoma and co-chair of National Catholics for McCain, commented in a recent phone interview with The Villanovan about the importance of Christian values in McCain’s campaign and political history.

“I don’t know how many people know this, but when [McCain] was in Vietnam, he was tortured and treated horribly until they found out he was the son of a four-star admiral of the war,” Keating said. “But when offered to be released, he said, ‘Not until everyone else goes before me.’ This is an example of the greatest Christian virtue.”

As a graduate of an Augustinian high school, Cascia Hall Preparatory School, and a brother of a Villanova attendee, Keating found McCain’s visit to Villanova to be a true “compliment to the University.”

Keating also stressed the importance for college students to maintain an open mind when approaching a decision to endorse a candidate.

“The best advice that I can give – and everybody has to take a side for themselves – is to think with your head and not with your heart,” Keating said. “It is important to be motivated and stimulated. I’m more motivated by a candidates value system rather than his rhetoric”

As for Keating, he believes that McCain has always held true to Catholic values.

McCain also said he finds forums such as “Hardball” important to educating college students on the primary issues that will help sway their votes.

“The American people will make their choice of presidency based not only on their record but how they articulate a vision for the future,” McCain said. “I can communicate directly not only with the people of this country, but the young people of this nation.”

While many of their votes may be undecided, Villanova students have now had the opportunity to hear from the campaigns of all three presidential candidates within the past few weeks.

With the Pennsylvania primaries set for April 22, the list of candidates will soon narrow and the race will tighten as the race for the next president of the United States continues.