Tonight I attended a talk at Messiah College by Fred Barnes, the Fox News commentator and executive editor of the conservative Weekly Standard. I do not read the Weekly Standard, but I used to enjoy watching Barnes on the McLaughlin Group and will occassionally tune him in on the “Beltway Boys” to see how conservatives are thinking about politics. (During the Democratic Convention, which I watched largely on MSNBC, I would often flip over to the Fox to see the conservative reaction to the major speeches).
I was also pleased to see that Messiah College invited Barnes. One of the things I appreciate about the college where I work is the political diversity among the faculty and students. Back in April we had Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on campus for the Compassion Forum on faith and values, so it was good to have a conservative voice to provide some balance.
Barnes talked off the top of his head (or from a skeleton outline) for about forty-five minutes. He blasted the “mainstream media” for their unnecessary probing into Sarah Palin’s personal faith, said that we cannot rule out McCain in November because he has always been a “lucky” politician, and addressed the impact of the economy on the race.
He was at his best during the Q&A session. While Messiah is a politically diverse place, it seems as if the conservatives, both from the college and the larger central PA community, were out in force. (Several local Republican politicians were acknowledged before Barnes took the podium). Every now and then Barnes would throw out a partisan line that prompted applause from the crowd.
One audience member asked Barnes to comment negatively on one of Fox’s token liberals, Juan Williams.” (The exact question went something like this: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how “annoying” is Juan Williams?”). Barnes responded by calling Williams one his best friends and pointed out to this questioner that Williams is seen as quite conservative in the African-American community. He called him a fellow “Christian believer.” (The guy who asked the question was obviously unaware that Williams was the Messiah College commencement speaker a few years ago).
Another person asked Barnes to predict who would be the presidential candidates in 2012. If Obama wins in 2008, he thought Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Jeb Bush or another popular governor might be the Republican nominee. If McCain wins in 2012, he put his money on Hillary.
Barnes was entertaining and informative. Though he did not say anything profound and he is not a particularly engaging speaker (except when he is telling hilarious jokes), it was an hour well-spent.