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Mixed Emotions

Mike Leibovich of the New York Times Magazine wrote a profile on Chris Matthews for this Sunday, titled, The Aria of Chris Matthews. The piece depicts an insecure man with the hyperactivity of a 4 year old on 10 bowls of Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs. It’s much as you might expect. Matthews doesn’t think he’s sexist, doesn’t think he’s ever acted disrespectfully towards women on his program and hates Hillary for reasons I still can’t understand but may be rooted in his intense desire for acceptance by his peers. (More on this later.) In the meantime, here are a few passages that made me go Hmmmmm.

For example:

Friends say Matthews is wary of another up-and-comer, David Gregory, who last month was given a show at 6 o’clock, between airings of “Hardball.” It is a common view around NBC that Gregory is trying out as a possible replacement for Matthews. Before the flight from Cleveland to Washington took off, an NBC staff member noted that Matthews, Russert and Andrea Mitchell were all on board, and if the plane were to crash, it would devastate the network’s talent pool. Matthews quipped that Gregory was outside the plane arranging for just that. (“I hadn’t heard that,” Gregory told me. “I’m quite sure he was joking.”)

Ok, I’m sure I could not feel glad about anyone losing their life in a plane crash but I question whether losing Matthews, Mitchell and Russert in such a manner would actually devastate NBC’s “talent pool”. What it might allow for is the promotion of other equally mediocre “journalists” to filter up from the bottom, sort of like scum rising to the top. In any case, the Jack Welch types that run the network are unlikely to see the devastation as anything other than a business opportunity, something I suspect Chris appreciates all too well. Still, it is a funny passage, gallows humor, dark comedy and all that.

Then there’s this:

The 2008 campaign has provided Matthews with much to wrestle with. He has been attacked, repeatedly, for his perceived pro-Obama/anti-Clinton perspective — a bias he disputes. He notes that he and the former first lady like to “kid around” when they see each other and that he did a memorably tough interview with an Obama surrogate, State Senator Kirk Watson of Texas, who failed — despite Matthews’s grilling — to identify a single legislative accomplishment by Obama. “That was an iconic moment,” Matthews said of the Watson interview…

Ha-ha-ha! Yes, Hillary and Chris dance to the Masochism Tango.

Take your cigarette from its holder,
And burn your initials in my shoulder.
Fracture my spine,
And swear that youre mine,
As we dance to the masochism tango.

O.M.G. He can’t possibly be this clueless. Here is a woman who is eminently qualified, *more* qualified than either of her opponents, to be president of the United States and Tweety calls her a “babe” who whines about being beaten up because of her gender. This after Russert set her up with a “no win” illegal immigrant question during an aggressive debate where her opponents were invited to each take a whack at her, and then Matthews followed up on the illegal immigrant driver’s license question with what had to be a pre-scripted critique with Andrea Mitchell and Howard Fineman piling on. THEN, to top it all off, he goes on Morning Joe and says that they only reason people in NY voted for her for Senator is because her husband messed around on her. Nice, Chris. Like there were no other reasons. Like she couldn’t answer questions about policy or relate to her constituents or learn anything from Pat Moynihan. Hey, maybe that’s how he really sees it. She is senator because her husband is famous. And Barack Obama is senator because his opponent was stupid enough to drag his wife into sex clubs to have sex in front of strangers.

Except a lot of women are familiar with this maneuver. It’s the “envious male must diminish successful woman’s brains, efforts and accomplishments” maneuver. As a male who was raised to think of white male Americans as sitting at the very pinnacle of the food pyramid, it must be very disconcerting for Chris to have lost his only run for Congress at age 28 to see a younger woman of enormous talent and intelligence get elected Senator on her first try. It *has* to be because of her husband. Otherwise, it just defies the laws of nature. Someone should tell Tweety that if Hillary pals around with him after all the $#@# he’s hurled, it’s because she’s humoring him, suffering the insufferable, gritting her teeth until her time in his presence is up. Much like a grown adult tolerates a 4 year old who has just eaten 10 bowls of Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs.

But what about his neighbors?

Chris gave directions to his white-frame Victorian house in Chevy Chase, Md., built in 1885. “Right across from Tommy Boggs’s house,” he said, referring to the Washington lobbyist, son of the former House majority leader. The Matthews house is sun-lit, art-filled and cozy, with three Mercedes of various sizes and degrees of wear in the driveway. I arrived at 11 a.m., just as Matthews was leaving….

Ahh, well this explains a lot. Tommy Boggs is brother to Corinne Boggs, now known as Cokie Roberts. So, what we have here is a DC version of Knots Landing where everyone knows everyone else and all their little secrets. Who’s had an affair with who, whose kid just got busted for DUI, who’s in, who’s out, who misbehaved at the cocktail party, which senator likes to he “pampered” by the local house of ill repute. And Tweety wants to be liked soooo badly by these people, the in-crowd, that he’ll do and say anything to get their approval just to bask in their reflected glory. It kind of reminds me of Brian finding the PFJ and asking to join their cause but he can’t unless he can show that he “really hates the Romans”. So they give him a little task of writing “Romans Go Home” at the Forum, a task he carries out with a little too much enthusiasm. “That’s our Chris”, they say as they tune in at 5pm while sipping their dirty martinis, “One too many bowls of chocolate frosted sugar bombs.”

But what’s this? A traitor in his midst? His wife Kathleen is sleeping with the enemy?

So Kathleen made lattes in the kitchen while Caroline — home on a break from Penn — sat at an island-table spread with Sunday newspapers. She is finishing her freshman year and active in the Obama campaign. Kathleen, meanwhile, contributed $2,200 to the Clinton campaign.

Yo, Kathleen, way to go! Hey, maybe he’s a good family man. That can make up for a multitude of sins. Just remember to skip the cereal aisle next time and get him some yogurt for breakfast.

14 Responses

  1. Chris epitomizes Irish Catholic men born in a certain era. He went to Catholic schools and was educated under the nuns who did not tolerate any funny business. They would not hesitate to bang you over the head and humiliate you in front of the class. Thus his sexism came into play.

    He was one of 5 sons whose mother did not sit down to eat until all her “men” were served. Mom’s contribution was to keep her boys well fed and pressed but she was not taken seriously. It is almost certain that he was an altar boy easily influenced by the priest and the standing he held in these Catholic homes. Thus his reverence for men of power and his “man crushes” developed from there.

    His family is well connected to Republican politics in PA so to view him as a liberal would be incorrect. His support of Obama is predicated more on his hatred of Hillary but his real support lies with McCain which will surely play out when the Dem nominee becomes official.

    What you see with Matthews is a product of his times and upbringing. Women are a threat starting with the nuns. Women have their place starting with Mom. He has had drinking problems in the past which illustrates the conflicts in his life. But the essence of Chris is that kid in school who wants so badly to join the in crowd that he is willing to play along with whatever is required.

    I can address this with some degree of familiarity as I too am a product of this upbringing and environment. The loud mouth in the tavern who has an opinion on everything sums up Chris. And never let the facts get in the way.

  2. I think bostonboomer should give us her summary of Chris Matthews because this guy seriously needs help. There are many many issues here:

    – High level of insecurity

    – Compulsive search for validation

    – Blithering idiocy

    – Scary lack of self-awareness

    – Disturbed sexuality

    – Incredible creepiness

    – Delusions of grandeur

    Have I just mentioned the same thing 7 times?

  3. riverdaughter:

    I noticed you keep referring to Jack Welch on NBC matters, but I think you mean Jeffrey Immelt who replaced Jack Welch as Chairman and CEO of GE.

  4. MABlue: you may be right but the Welchian culture of “rank and yank” is still the glaringly obvious SOP at MSNBC. If you are not making a profit for the network, you are deadweight and must be purged. It is extremely effective for selling a product. But quality journalism may not reach the survival threshold in such an environment, as we have seen with Keith Olbermann.

  5. isn’t his wife somebody well-known? I can’t remember who she is….

  6. His family is well connected to Republican politics in PA so to view him as a liberal would be incorrect.

    Yes, but Pat, didn’t he work for Tip O’Neil on the Hill at one time? If Chris’ conservative cred was that great how in the world did he handle working for Tip?

  7. Hey Pat– I really have no inside information on Chris’ upbringing or the reasons that he is who he is. But, I take offense to your description of Irish Catholic family life. My Irish Catholic family is nothing like what you describe. The men, while men, seem to be no better or worse than those of other ethnic groups. Some of my warmest memories are those of my extended family getting together, in fact a family wedding this weekend is a prime example. We all had so much fun it was hard to leave, and the women ate dinner with the men!!!

  8. Honora: I have to agree with you there. My grandparents were Irish Catholics and I can’t recall that type of behavior with them. That’s not to say that the nuns and priests didn’t enforce different standards of behavior at school, that I can readily believe. But at home, it didn’t have to be that way.

  9. Honora, Riverdaughter:

    What I was attempting to illustrate is that Chris and I come from the same generation where the nuns still wore habits, having the priest to dinner was considered an honor, and most Moms did not work. Today there are fewer nuns and the priest does not enjoy the same cache as he once did. You have to take into account that back then, the 50s and early 60s, eating meat on Friday was considered a mortal sin. This is what shaped us back then. That residue to a certain extent still clings to our psyches.

    That dogmatic approach is no longer accepted by the more enlightened youth of today. It was by no means that I was attempting to put down the Irish by any stretch of the imagination. I am one of them! But I come from that era where total acceptance and obedience was the norm and the pope’s words were considered infallible. I think that this is what you see with Chris. It is, as they say, a generational thing.

  10. Pat: Heck, when I was a little girl, I used to wear a doilie on my head and white gloves to mass and we fasted before communion and ate fish on Fridays and all that. My Grandparents didn’t go to Saturday evening mass for the longest time. It was for people who liked to take shortcuts. My one semester at St. Joe’s catholic school still haunts me to this day. Sister Seraphia was a menace in black.
    Yeah, I hear you all too well. Maureen Dowd is also of this generation. But I suspect that the waiting to eat part was largely left in the old world. Even my godmother who was 1st generation American didn’t let her Irish mother run things in her house except the old Irish mother wouldn’t let us put salt on our boiled potatoes. I think it was a cardinal sin to have food actually taste good. Like sex, it can only be functional, not fun.

  11. I’m from the DC area and always liked Katthleen Matthews; she used to lead the local ABC News and a Sunday morning talk show. She almost grew up on Channel 7, beginning in her early or mid-20s. .

    She’s classy, measured journalist who never showed any biases (if she had any) during her Sunday interviews. In fact, I always wondered how she managed to get along with Tweety and his ego.

    In other words, I’m not one little bit surprised that Kathleen supports Hillary. Most classy, smart women do..

  12. What struck me about the article was that it was written by someone who appears to like Matthews — and yet the article was nonetheless unflattering.

    I’ll never forget Tweety’s faux “apology” for saying that Clinton was elected to the Senate because Bill messed around. He claimed, among other things, that he can’t always control what he says because he runs a fast-paced news show and he has to keep talking without stopping.

    Of course, he made that statement on Morning Joe, on which he was a guest, not the host.

    I hated Tweety before that, but after that — well, let’s just say when I see him I get a feelingin my leg too, but it’s a feeling that says “run away, run away!”

  13. The only thing I have against Matthews is that he doesn’t have any talent for his job. He’s no more knowledgeable about politics (or the issues underlying politics) than the average literate person, and he has an annoying style of presentation. His triumph is the triumph of dumb luck and bulldog persistence in pursuit of one’s long-held ambition….you know, that sounds like someone else we talk about here.

  14. Rich in PA:

    You mean, because he’s all about personality instead of issues?

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