Chris Matthews and Going Home To Mama

I used to watch Chris Matthews compulsively. His CNBC and later MSNBC shows were some of the meatiest political programs available, particularly in the days before Fox News started up. Matthews’ encyclopedic political knowlege, deep guest list, and offended-Catholic outrage over Bill Clinton’s escapades gave his show an edge during 1996-98 that was unmatched by anybody else on television. It was more than good enough to make you overlook Matthews’ filibustering (which, let’s be honest, is often entertaining as hell) and schoolboy infatuation with all things Kennedy (or later, John McCain).

But eventually, Matthews’ previous life as a Democratic Party pol caught up with him. When push really comes to shove, when it’s possible for somebody other than a Democrat (or more conservative than, say, McCain) to actually win power, Matthews infailingly “goes home to Mama.” By mid-2000, he was openly campaigning for Al Gore, and his shows were duller than a Moyers agree-fest on PBS, but only slightly less annoying.

I stopped watching Matthews completely about the time of the conventions, and with the exception of election night of that year (when he, like almost everybody else on television, was commenting on that historic night in respectful awe), I haven’t tuned him in since.

Based on this and other accounts of last night’s “Hardball” interview with John Kerry, it looks like I haven’t missed much.

Pity. There was a time when the guy had the best chops in the business. I’m genuinely sorry to see that he’s become a full-on self-parody.