I recently labeled a couple of items “Strike One” (an apologia for Obama’s playing Inaugural footsie with Rick Warren) and “Strike Two” (a kind-of endorsement of Caroline Kennedy for senator from New York). “Strike Three” was going to be another senatorial endorsement: Chris Matthews for senator from Pennsylvania. He’s been a dear friend of mine for thirty years, and, as someone who knows him now and knew him when, I was going to vouch for him. He’d have made a great senator—brave, imaginative, funny, fiery, and inquisitive. And, yes, liberal.
Speaking of which, a few liberal bloggers have lumped Chris in with thugs like O’Reilly, Hannity, and Beck, which is absurd. Most of the hostility, I’m convinced, is left over from the Lewinsky era, when even I thought that Chris had temporarily misplaced his bearings. Some of it is owing to his less than totally efficient internal censor, and some to his puppyish habit of saying things like “You’re a great American!” to people like Tom DeLay. C’mon, people, he says that stuff to everybody. Media Matters, one of the most useful sites on the Web, has been weirdly, mercilessly one-sided when it comes to monitoring Matthews. Chris talks almost nonstop on TV for five and a half hours a week. He sprays first-draft opinions like a dropped firehose. It’s easy to cherry-pick silly or ill-considered or factually flawed things he’s said.
But no one on television has been a tougher critic of the Iraq war or a tougher questioner of the war’s backers. No one made more finely minced mincemeat of Republican spinners during the Presidential campaign. The new, watchable, liberal MSNBC lineup, with Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, was built around Chris. He was there first. He’s the leadoff man.
Over the holidays, Chris decided he’s sticking to television. Bad news for those who, like me, think he’d be a tonic for the Senate. But good news for those who, also like me, can’t get enough of “Hardball.” It’s comfort food for the politically ravenous.
Hertzberg On Chris Matthews
Speech writers gotta stick together, I guess. I think Rick is basically right here; Matthews is no right-wingnut, and to lump him in with them is wrong. I liked Matthews when he was writing for the Chronicle, and I liked Hardball, until Olbermann and Maddow came along. I find myself liking Matthews again, especially after his evisceration of Bush's farewell.