Nashville, TN – About 40 minutes into Tuesday night’s debate between presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and John McCain at Belmont University, Senator McCain wandered off the stage and exited the auditorium. He wound up in a physics classroom, located in the same building, where he sat in on part of a lecture being given to undergraduate students before being returned to the debate by members of his staff.
“It happened before we realized it,” said a McCain staffer who wished to remain nameless. “Senator Obama was speaking, and I guess we were all watching him. And Senator McCain — he can be a stealthy little guy when he wants to be. He sort of drifted off the stage and somehow exited the auditorium. And then he must have walked down the hall and around the corner, and he ended up in the physics classroom. When we finally found him, he looked up at us and said, ‘The particles, my friends. It’s all about the particles.’ We took him back to the auditorium.”
Professor Arnold Kamsky, who was giving the lecture at the time Senator McCain wandered into the classroom, said the class was a make-up for one that had to be canceled in September. Professor Kansky said he didn’t know what to think when he saw Mr. McCain take a seat in the fifth row of the lecture hall.
“He was smiling, and he seemed very pleased to be there,” Mr. Kamsky said. “He listened attentively. I didn’t know if it was some kind of political thing or if he actually wanted to come see the lecture. But at one point he raised his hand and asked if the material would be on the exam.”
Steve Schmidt, the McCain campaign’s chief strategist, told reporters that the incident was not a case of Senator McCain losing his bearings or forgetting where he was. “He was tired, frankly, of listening to the same old empty rhetoric from Senator Obama,” Schmidt said. “So, being the maverick that he is, he went to the physics lecture and absorbed information that he thought would be helpful to the American people. Senator Obama talked a lot earlier in this campaign about how the president will have to be able to multitask. How about this for multitasking? John McCain can participate in a presidential debate and learn about physics at the same time. I don’t see Senator Obama doing that kind of thing.”
Senator McCain was asked what he learned in his short time in the classroom. He said, “Classroom? My friend, I don’t know if you noticed, but there was a debate going on tonight. A Senator Obama and an older gentlemen were debating in front of a crowd here. It was very exciting.”