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‘Hardball’s’ Chris Matthews Talks Politics and the Pope at USF


Chris Matthews, from "Hardball," talks politics at USF on March 18 with Mgsr. Bob McElroy, auxiliary bishop for the San Francisco Archdiocese.

Political talk show host and USF Distinguished Visiting Professor Chris Matthews predicted a drubbing for Democrats in the November elections and suggested Hillary Clinton is the party’s best presidential candidate for 2016 at the moment, in a wide-ranging public discussion on campus March 18.

Teaching politics and democracy

More than 500 people attended the event, which was the centerpiece of a weeklong stint of classes Matthews is teaching on politics and democracy to students at the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good from March 17-21.

The Most Rev. Bob McElroy, auxiliary bishop for the San Francisco Archdiocese, moderated the conversation, which included questions from audience members. Matthews, the host of MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” drew applause when he criticized the Iraq war and joked about some politicians’ belief that God helped elect them.

'Which one is God?'

Of course, there’s trouble when they aren’t re-elected, Matthews said. “They realize they won the first election but lost the second—which one is God?”

Turning to the mid-term elections, Matthews said the party in power historically loses seats in congress. “This next election, look out if you’re a Democrat. It’s going to be a tough year,” Matthews said.

He predicted that Democrats and centrists, who are disillusioned after the botched Affordable Care Act roll out, won’t show up at the polls. Meanwhile, he said, Republicans are angry and will vote in droves.

Hillary Clinton in 2016

Does that mean Hillary Clinton won’t have a chance in 2016? Matthews acknowledged that anything can happen in politics, but she’s the best “likely candidate” in either party at the moment. Her challenge will be regaining her political mojo after sitting on the sidelines. “Politics is a constant process of self education. You have to be constantly learning all the time, keeping up with it. You get stale so quickly,” Matthews said.

Turning to foreign affairs, Matthews said that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea, Ukraine will help him rebuild pride among Russians. “His opportunity was there laying on the table, and he took it. It would have been odd if he hadn’t,” Matthews said.

People love the new pope

And the idea that we have to act “tough” and intervene is absurd, he said. “I went through the Cold War. I hid under my desk in school (sheltering from a nuclear attack). I don’t ever want it to come back again,” Matthews said.

He praised Pope Francis, the Catholic Church’s first Jesuit pope, for making the church more welcoming and for taking on the issue of poverty and inequality. “People come up to me and tell me, ‘I love this new pope,’” Matthews said. 

Msgr. McElroy agreed with Matthews and said the pope’s inclusive message is being passed down to bishops.

A Catholic Church to treat the wounded

“The Church is a field hospital. That’s (the Pope’s) image of the Church,” McElroy said. “I think his assertion is that everyone is wounded, deeply, and the Church’s role, first and foremost, is to tend to that … and that’s the starting point.”

After the event, Matthews signed copies of several of his books that were on sale in the lobby and took pictures with audience members.  

by Ed Carpenter | Office of Communications and Marketing »email usfnews@usfca.edu | Twitter @usfcanews