“I’ve been following politics since I was about five,” said Mr. Matthews. “I’ve never seen anything like this. This is bigger than Kennedy. [Obama] comes along, and he seems to have the answers. This is the New Testament. This is surprising.”
— The inimitable Chris Matthews, Host of MSNBC’s talk show Hardball
Even though Chris Matthews had been a Democrat speechwriter and aide as well as a political journalist for decades, it was his inflamed skewering of Bill and Hillary Clinton during their scandal-ridden White House years that catapulted Matthews’ name to household-word status.
As Joan Walsh of Salon.com wrote of Matthews’ Clinton-bashing in 2003:
Nobody who watched Matthews’ shouting, spittle-spewing performance art night after night could question his sincerity: Here was a one-time Peace Corps volunteer from a blue-collar family — and a lifelong Democrat who had worked for House Speaker Tip O’Neill — and he clearly loathed Clinton for bringing shame to his office and his party.
Matthews has claimed that he voted for George Bush, but once the Iraq War began, Matthews quickly did an about-face and has effectively skewered W on his war policy much the same way he did the Clintons for their political and moral corruption.
Gosh, if I didn’t know better, I might conclude that “skewering” sells, while “nicey-nice” makes ratings plummet.
And it’s true. Conflict sells; unity doesn’t.
It’s very doubtful that Chris Matthews would enjoy the fame and fortune that he has if he did not put guests of all political stripes on the hot seat with his in-your-face, relentless challenges on just about every dotted “i” and crossed “t” of political trivia he could unearth.
But along comes Barack Obama, and Chris Matthews — accompanied by a host of other highfalutin media big wigs — has decided that rallying around the flag of an Obama presidency is just the ticket.
On that lovely note, Mr. Matthews has chimed in with an early response to the Obama transition leak that the infamous Eric Holder will become attorney general in the new administration. In what appears to be a sign of Matthews’ honeymoon softball with the president-elect, Matthews gave a one-sentence acknowledgment of the Holder appointment on his Tuesday show and then proceeded to announce his new segment, called Pardon Watch.
And what is Pardon Watch? It’s a nifty, two-bit entertainer’s look at the cast of folks who just might receive pardons from W in his last days in office. In other words, Pardon Watch is designed to remind viewers on a nightly basis of every Republican scandal of the past eight years, while deflecting attention from Obama’s parade of new appointments, many of which seem scandalous in and of themselves.
It is the intentional deflection aspect of Pardon Watch that speaks volumes about what we can expect from Chris Matthews in the coming four years.
We commoners could call it “honeymoon softball” or “unity on steroids.”