Chris Matthews — RIP

Not really. But!

“His main motivation has always been ensuring that Chris Matthews is on television and taken seriously. He represents, perhaps, in some small way, the intersection of the elite media and the progressive media — his debate freak-out combined the Beltway obsession with the ephemeral and stylistic with a sort of progressive tendency to be operatically disappointed in the president — but that makes him even more of a sui generis figure,” Alex Pareene wrote in 2013 about Chris Matthews, whose departure got Steve Kornacki to choke up on air minutes ago.

Who will we miss when the nights get long? This Chris Matthews, interviewing Democratic National Committee chair and former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean in September 2007?:

MATTHEWS: Why do Democrats keep running these weird presidential candidates, who always seem — ever since Jack Kennedy and maybe, well, Bill Clinton, they always lose the personality question. They always seem geekier, nerdier than the Republican guy. Why is that the case?

DEAN: How do you really feel about that, Chris?

MATTHEWS: Well, it’s true. It’s an objective assessment. Look at Dukakis in the tank. That’s an objective reality. I mean, Mondale.

DEAN: Let me tell you — let me tell you what we have to do.

MATTHEWS: Jesus, a good guy, but unacceptable on television.

The Republicans, they get the charm school. They got Reagan. They have got this guy George W. Bush. You know, they seem to run charming people.

DEAN: What Democrats have to do is talk about their vales. People vote on values. They don’t vote on position papers.

MATTHEWS: No, they vote on personalities.

Speaking of personalities, here’s Chris Matthews on George W. Bush, the man he admitted he voted for:

“There are some things you can’t fake,” he explained breathlessly. “Either you can throw a strike from sixty feet or you can’t. Either you can rise to the occasion on the mound at Yankee Stadium with 56,000 people watching or you can’t. On Tuesday night, George W. Bush hit the strike zone in the House that Ruth Built…. This is about knowing what to do at the moment you have to do it–and then doing it. It’s about that ‘grace under pressure’ that Hemingway gave as his very definition of courage.”

There is a truism in American public life: the higher the number of sports analogies, the greater the fraudulence of the person making them. See: Mike Barnicle. Another truism: when a Beltway satrap cites a good American novelist, the chances are high that he has not read him — always a “him,” for in Chris Matthews’ life the “hers” stood for objects he shouted over or, feeling as generous as a Turkish pasha, hit on female journalists.

As damaging to the state of our political discourse is the groundless notion advanced by Matthews, former chief of staff to Tip O’Neill, that there is no compromise Democrats and Republicans couldn’t cut for the sake of eviscerating the middle class and the poor in which party leaders couldn’t find, to use a phrase he mumbled like Bernadette did the Hail Mary over rosary beads, common ground. In Matthews we see the propagation of the Tip ‘n’ Ronnie myth which gripped DC like malaria during the Obama years — if only Barack ‘n’ Mitch could’ve had a drink and settled problems (It provoked one of Obama’s more waspish rejoinders). He was a terrible writer, or, worse, couldn’t find decent amanuenses. On air he bullied guests. He made unlettered and ahistoric claims that set back the party he claimed to love on its heels. He will land a commentator role on FOX News by next month and earn many more millions; that’s how amoral I think he is.

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