“Live from West Chester University outside Philadelphia, the ‘Hardball College Tour,’ with our special guest, Senator Barack Obama.”After Chris Matthews’ introduction of Barack Obama, the crowd of roughly 2,200 students, faculty and alumni, in Hollinger Field House, erupted into cheers for the Illinois senator after waiting nearly a week to see the MSNBC event on Wednesday, April 2.
Last week, it was announced that Matthews, a Philadelphia native, would interview Obama roughly 40 miles from where he grew up.
“I love it,” Matthews said prior to the event, describing the importance of the election in the state he was raised. Matthews grew up in the Somerton neighborhood of Philadelphia and took pride that the Democratic presidential nominee could be decided in Pennsylvania.
The crowd was composed of a majority of students, some who waited over four hours to get their tickets on Monday.
“It’s a game changer, the fact that kids are voting,” Matthews said. “It’s the first time in history.”
The show started off with Matthews poking fun at Obama’s bowling a 37 earlier in the week.
“One of the perks, Senator, of being president of the United States is that you have your own bowling alley,” Matthews jested at Obama. “Are you ready to bowl from day one?”
“Obviously, I am not,” Obama replied.
Matthews then transitioned into Hardball, asking Obama whether he is “tough enough” to run the country amid public scrutiny, but referencing Dick Cheney’s ability to ignore public opinion.
“You don’t ignore public opinion; you try to shape public opinion,” Obama said “You try to shape it with the truth- not with false facts, not by shading intelligence reports.”
Obama continued that growing up in Chicago has helped to make him tough enough to stand up to the Clintons and the ‘Right.’
Matthews then asked Obama how he is different from the other Democratic presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton, in his approach to the War in Iraq.
Obama prefaced, as he has on one of his political platforms, that Clinton voted for the War in Iraq, and he is the only candidate who has not endorsed the war at any time.
Obama noted that Clinton has called for a removal of troops but to potentially stay in the region to deal with a situation with Iran.
“I think that’s a mistake,” Obama said. “We should not be maintaining permanent bases in Iraq. We should have no combat operations.”
Obama went into further explication that some military forces should remain to protect the American embassy and support humanitarian aid within the country.
The Illinois senator mentioned that the 10-12 billions of dollars spent in Iraq per month could go to domestic causes, like infrastructure and the economy.
Pennsylvania, which Matthews noted lost 200,000 jobs during the Bush presidency, would, under Obama’s economic plan, receive “good jobs that pay good wages and good benefits.”
“First of all, we’ve got to stabilize the housing market because right now, even businesses with good track records, good credit are having trouble getting financing to expand and invest because the financial markets are all screwed up,” Obama stated. “That’s been a disaster, something this administration has not done.”
Following Matthews’ initial questions, students posed their questions to the presidential hopeful.
The first question asked Obama his thoughts on student aid.
Obama responded stating his plan to restore financial aid that has been taken away, expanding Pell grants and creating a tuition credit system.
“But young people will not be able to get it for free- you guys are going to have to participate in community service, work in a homeless shelter, work in a veterans’ home, join the Peace Corps,” Obama proposed. “We’ll invest in you, you invest in America and together, the country will get stronger, and you guys won’t be loaded up with so much debt when you leave college.”
After Matthews asked Obama about the Rev. Wright controversy, Obama noted how his faith in God has helped him move past the issue despite a large focus from the press.
Obama decribed his thoughts about increasing teacher salaries, but stated he is against merit pay in terms of special education.
He also noted his support of stem cell research and said as president he would approve the bill, which has been vetoed by George W. Bush.
Furthermore, Matthews asked Obama, “What’s it like to be a black kid with a white mom?”
“It is part of what America is about,” Obama said. “We’re a melting pot.”
Before closing the show, Obama answered questions on civil unions for gay couples and inner city school improvement.
Obama repeated the statement that he is not in favor of gay marriage but believes in a “strong civil union.”
In inner cities, Obama hopes to increase the availability of basic needs and reading materials for low-income families.
On the final topic of the night, Matthews posed the question of Obama receiving the majority of delegates and the nomination going to Senator Clinton.
“I’m not going to worry about that right now because what I want to do is to make sure that I’ve won as many contests as possible, won as many delegates as possible,” Obama said. “We have won every kind of state all across the country. In that circumstance, I will be the strongest nominee to go up against John McCain and serve as a sharp break and contrast from the failed policies of the last seven years.”
Frank Stern is a fourth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at FS628548@wcupa.edu.