I love Chris Matthews and his style of political punditry on his MSNBC show “Hardball”. But more importantly I respect where he came from, and the bedrock notions about America and politics that he is not embarrassed to stand by and affirm. He is, I believe, one of the most sincere faces on any political show today. After harsh rhetoric and demonzing from each political party, it is Chris Matthews who can cut through to the core issues and speak to the broad middle of America. The place he grew up in.
A few excerpts.
There is a level of ubiquity about Chris Matthews today that can be exhausting, occasionally edifying and, for better or worse, central to what has become a very loud national conversation about politics. His soothing-like-a-blender voice feels unnervingly constant in a presidential cam-paign that has drawn big interest, ratings and voter turnout. He gets in trouble sometimes and has to apologize — as he did after suggesting that Hillary Clinton owed her election to the Senate to the fact that her husband “messed around.” He is also something of a YouTube sensation: see Chris getting challenged to a duel by the former Georgia governor, Zell Miller; describing the “thrill going up my leg” after an Obama speech; dancing with (and accidentally groping) Ellen DeGeneres on her show; shouting down the conservative commentator Michelle Malkin; ogling CNBC’s Erin Burnett. And he has provided a running bounty of material for Media Matters for America, a liberal media watchdog, which has devoted an entire section of its Web site (“The Matthews Monitor”) to cataloging Matthews’s alleged offenses, especially against Hillary Clinton and women generally.
Yet for as basic as he has become to the political and media furniture, Matthews is anything but secure. He is of the moment, but, at 62, also something of a throwback — to an era of politics set in the ethnic Democratic wards of the ’60s and the O’Neill-Reagan battles of the ’80s. And he is a product of an aging era of cable news, the late-’90s, when “Hardball” started and Matthews made his name as a battering critic of Bill Clinton during the Monica saga.
Cable political coverage has changed, however, and so has the sensibility that viewers — particularly young ones — expect from it. Mat-thews’s bombast is radically at odds with the wry, antipolitical style fashioned by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert or the cutting and finely tuned cynicism of Matthews’s MSNBC co-worker Keith Olbermann. These hosts betray none of the reverence for politics or the rituals of Washington that Matthews does. On the contrary, they appeal to the eye-rolling tendencies of a cooler, highly educated urban cohort of the electorate that mostly dismisses an exuberant political animal like Matthews as annoyingly antiquated, like the ranting uncle at the Thanksgiving table whom the kids have learned to tune out.
“I like the fact that people don’t think of me as famous, but that they know me,” Matthews said. “They come up to me and say, ‘Chris, what do you think?’ There’s no aura. It’s a different kind of celebrity. People assume they have a right to talk to me. They want to know my take.”