It comes with a heavy heart that news of Chris Mathews retiring from Hardball was made known this evening. His insight and desire to get to the heart of the story ranks among the top of any such personality on television. But what made him essential in this troubling time in our politics is the decades of institutional memory that he demonstrated night after night.
To post about this news tonight requires one example as to show who he is, and what we all have lost. Even for those too young to grasp how important any of this matters.
This story comes from 2012 and is a perfect ending for Matthews.
Earlier today I was musing about the excitement generated by the Republican Primary in Michigan. I mentioned Teddy White, who seems to always be on my mind on Elections Day, and hoped somewhere tonight he was able to look down and watch the action.
With that in mind as I watched MSNBC’s coverage (flipping along the various news channel options for this and that interview, etc.) I landed on Chris Matthews talking with longtime newsman and political watcher Tom Brokaw. As they discussed the political landscape of Michigan, and the various components of the contentious nominating process this year, it was Matthews who invoked the name of White, and how much he would have enjoyed this night. Matthews added that it was White who talked about “the primitives” in the GOP during the 1964 Goldwater election.
I was sitting in the living room, and just smiled.
Yeah, I know there is a huge segment of the younger viewers that have no idea who Matthews was referring to, and no idea what the “Making of the President” series is all about.
But for the segment of the audience who recalls the curious and informative man who loved politics, and had forgotten more than anyone around him ever knew about elections and campaigns–it was a great moment.