Charles Nailen/The Hoya Political commentator Chris Matthews hosts the “Hardball College Tour” in Gaston Hall Wednesday evening.

The MSNBC political talk show “Hardball with Chris atthews,” which broadcasts live from a different college each week as part of the “Hardball College Tour,” was filmed before a live audience of Georgetown students in Gaston Hall Wednesday evening. Joining Matthews, the program’s host, were former U.S. Army Generals Wayne Downing and Barry McCaffrey, as well as veteran war correspondent Peter Arnett and military analyst William Arkin.

“The first place I ever got an illegal drink was The Tombs,” Matthews joked as he came out to warm up his audience in the minutes leading up to the show. He later referred to Gaston Hall as “the most beautiful room I’ve ever been in my life.”

The focus of the show was the possible war between the United States and Iraq. For the first half hour, Matthews and the two former generals discussed various methods of fighting the war as well as possible outcomes.

Downing, who commanded a Joint Special Operations Task Force during Operation Desert Storm, made clear that he believes this upcoming war will be far different from the one fought in 1991.

“This is not going to be Desert Storm all over again,” Downing said. “We have a different objective here. This thing is about a regime change and the military will be only a small part of it.”

Downing also noted that the U.S. war plan was far from set, saying “This is a constant dialogue. It doesn’t always happen that you get to pull the trigger.”

McCaffrey, who commanded the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division during Operation Desert Storm, emphasized the very real threat that an unchecked Iraq poses to the rest of the world.

“In my judgment, left to its own devices, Iraq will achieve nuclear weapons status,” McCaffrey said.

One of the major debates surrounding a possible war is what level of casualties U.S. forces would sustain before ousting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power. McCaffrey, drawing on his previous experience in the Persian Gulf, feels the casualties will probably be light in this conflict.

“I doubt we will sustain serious casualties,” he said. “In 1991, I told the Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney that my division alone would sustain 500 to 2,000 casualties. We had eight killed and 36 wounded.”

While Matthews did not express any of his own opinions about the war on the program, he came out strongly against it in an interview with THE HOYA before the broadcast.

“People are considering this war as an option and they are wondering why we are taking this option,” Matthews said. “I don’t think we should have gotten into a war against the Arab world. It has nothing to do with Sept. 11. It is an ideological campaign by [Undersecretary of Defense] Paul Wolfowitz and others. I think we should go back to being a country that helps other countries.”

Midway though the program, Matthews asked for a show of applause from those who did and then from those who did not support a war with Iraq. After both positions received loud support from the audience, Matthews asked for people who would actively participate in the war. When only a handful of people stood up, he pointed out the difference between the number of people who supported the war and the number who would actually fight in it. General McCaffrey countered Matthews by saying that there are almost three million people serving in the U.S. Armed Forces and all of them are volunteers.

Arnett and Arkin joined Matthews and the two former generals for the second half of the program. The panel continued to discuss the war as well as the media’s relationship to the conflict. It also fielded questions from the audience about these matters.

The “Hardball College Tour” has been running since Sept. Its guests have included Senators John Kerry and John McCain, former Vice President Al Gore and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. One guest, however, stands out in Matthews’s mind as being the most entertaining and informative.

“The best guest was probably Hillary [Clinton],” he said. “She answered all my questions without hesitation. That’s the key to show. She answered the questions, whereas someone like Al Gore didn’t.”

Recently, “Hardball” has gained greater notoriety after being spoofed several times on “Saturday Night Live.” While the comedy show made fun of Matthews and his program, Matthews said he has enjoyed the way he was spoofed.

“It’s always respectful of me,” he said. “It uses me to make fun of other people. They know how my brain works. I love it when people like [Congressman] Dick Armey or [Congressman] Tom DeLay make complete asses of themselves.”

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