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Hardball With Chris Matthews

Chris Matthews hosts “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” a nightly hour of in-depth political analysis and fiery debate, Monday through Friday, 7-8 p.m. (ET) on MSNBC. Matthews also anchors MSNBC’s election coverage through 2006. “Hardball with Chris Matthews” premiered on MSNBC on November 8, 1999, following a successful launch on CNBC in 1997. It was telecast on both CNBC and MSNBC through July 2002. In addition to his work on MSNBC, Matthews anchors “The Chris Matthews Show,” a syndicated weekly news program produced by NBC News and distributed by NBC Enterprises. Mr. Matthews is also a frequent commentator on NBC’s “Today” and a regular substitute anchor on NBC’s “Weekend Today.” A television news anchor with remarkable depth and breadth of experience, Matthews has distinguished himself as a journalist, Washington bureau chief, Presidential speechwriter, congressional staffer and best-selling author. Matthews covered the opening of the Berlin Wall, the first all-races election in South Africa and the historic peace referendum in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. In 1997 and 1998, his digging in the National Archives produced a series of San Francisco Examiner scoops on the Nixon presidential tapes. He has twice received the Washington Post’s “Crystal Ball” award for his successful predictions of US presidential elections.

Matthews is the author of four best-selling books, including American: Beyond Our Grandest Notions (2002), a New York Times best seller. His first book, Hardball (1988) is required reading in many college-level political science courses. Kennedy & Nixon (1996) was named by The Readers Digest “Today’s Best Non-fiction” and served as the basis of a documentary on the History Channel. In addition, Matthews worked for 15 years as a print journalist, 13 of them as Washington Bureau Chief for The San Francisco Examiner (1987 – 2000), and two years as a national columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle, which was syndicated to 200 newspapers by United Media.

Matthews spent 15 years in politics and government, working in the White House for four years under President Jimmy Carter as a Presidential speechwriter and on the Government Reorganization Project, in the U.S. Senate for five years on the staffs of Senator Frank Moss (Utah) and Senator Edmund Muskie (Maine), and as the top aide for Speaker of the House Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, Jr. for six years.

Intense, experienced, straightforward, and outspoken, Chris Matthews brings a powerful and influential political commentary to "The Chris Matthews Show." "There are enduring human truths in the rules that politicians play by," says Matthews. With over 15 years of working in an environment where politics is the name of the game, Matthews is determined to present a unique brand of talk that will allow viewers to take away a new perspective on the latest news stories.

Matthews is an author, international journalist, and no-nonsense political commentator. A graduate of Holy Cross, Matthews completed graduate work in economics at the University of North Carolina and was a trade development advisor with the U.S. Peace Corps in Swaziland. He has received honorary doctoral degrees from St. Leo University, Loyola College (Maryland), Niagara University, Fontbonne College, Beaver College, the New England School of Law, Anna Maria College and Chestnut Hill College.

He is married to Kathleen Matthews, a news anchor for the ABC affiliate WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C. They live in Chevy Chase, MD with their three children.


Chris Matthews and his wife talk politics

An Emmy Award-winning news anchor hosted an outspoken cable political commentator at her IOP study group yesterday. It was a high-powered husband-and-wife duo: Kathleen Matthews, anchor of ABC-7 in Washington, and her husband Chris, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball.”
Dressed in the television-friendly uniform of a black suit, blue shirt and red tie, Mr. Matthews fielded questions about the 2004 election and what it heralded for U.S. politics.

“I was profoundly disappointed that young people didn’t vote in this election,” he told The Crimson in an interview following the event. “But concert tickets and t-shirts don’t count at the end of the day.”

As to why John Kerry lost the election, he suggested both the candidate’s lack of “neighborly presence” and the seeming contradictions in his stance on the Iraq war.

“John Kerry didn’t flip-flop on Iraq, he hedged on Iraq,” Mr. Matthews said, referring to Kerry’s vote to authorize military action in Iraq but against an $87 billion package to fund it.

He said he was uncertain whether another candidate would have fared better against Bush in the general election.

The choice of candidate in the Democratic primary “would have been easier,” he said, “if Dick Gephardt were exciting.”

In 1974 Mr. Matthews ran unsuccessfully in a Democratic congressional primary in Philadelphia and went on to write speeches for President Jimmy Carter, but he has tried to remain politically neutral in his current job. Unlike other cable political shows such as FOX News’s “Hannity and Colmes” or CNN’s “Crossfire,” “Hardball” features a single host who does not advocate his positions on the air.

The Matthewses have been married for 25 years, and they say political discussions animate their home life as well as their professional lives.

“We have our sparks that fly,” Mrs. Matthews said after the event.

Her study group, called “Tower of Babble: The Search for News and Truth in the New Millennium,” has hosted speakers such as ABC News anchor Sam Donaldson, former CNN CEO and Chairman Walter Isaacson, and blogger Jeff Jarvis.

Following the event Mrs. Matthews said that Harvard students had changed her perception of her job over the course of the semester.

“The students reconnect you with an idealism you had going into your career,” she said. “They have challenged me to believe that I’ve got to go back and do a better job of what I’m doing.”


Chris Matthews Plays Softball on His Sunday Show

What’s the worst thing you could say about TV talker Chris Matthews? What would make him sputter like guests on his nightly Hardball mud-wrestling match?

How about this: The new Chris Matthews show on Sunday morning is boring.

On his nightly cable show, Matthews unleashed is a spit-firing political hit man who takes great joy in slicing off the tongues of politicians or any spinmeisters who dare to talk in paragraphs.

On his Sunday show he’s the host of a journalists’ coffee klatch.

“Kind of like a festive brunch,” says Matthews.

The NBC public-relations machine is pumping Matthews’ weekend show—which mostly features NBC correspondents—as a major Sunday success. It rained down press releases when his half-hour Mother’s Day offering drew more viewers than CBS’s Face the Nation, This Week on ABC, and Fox News Sunday.

NBC’s press release called the other three “rival political shows.” But an ABC spokesman says: “We view our competition as Meet, Face, and Fox. We view Chris Matthews to be irrelevant.”

A CBS spokesman said much the same.

But it’s easy to conclude that NBC owns Sunday morning. Its Today show draws big numbers, followed by Matthews and his growing audience, finished off by Tim Russert on Meet the Press, the big dog in the Sunday talking game.

Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales is a Matthews fan and has been on the Sunday show, but he says, “You could do knitting in that time slot between those two shows and get something of a number.”

Matthews’ Hardball hour is broadcast by MSNBC on cable; the Sunday affair is produced by NBC News but syndicated by NBC Enterprises as opposed to being broadcast by the network. It airs midmorning in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Atlanta, and Washington.

Shales says Matthews is “like Tim Russert with sex appeal,” but he also frets that the maniacal Matthews has become “a bit subdued ever since Darrell Hammond started doing a send-up on Saturday Night Live. He’s a little less crazed, less fun.”


Matthews prefers to see his Sunday show as “more fact-based, reporting-based” in comparison to the other newsy talk shows.

Of John McLaughlin’s hour, he says: “It’s like a New England Jesuit classroom. I’m very familiar with that. I grew up in it.”

Of his colleague Russert’s show: “A courtroom drama.”

Then there’s his brunch gathering, often joined by NBC talents like Norah O’Donnell.
Is it hard for Chris Matthews to play softball on Sunday?

“I’m disciplined,” he says after taping this weekend’s show. “I gotta work at it. I do it without gritting my teeth,”

Can the world handle a sweet, smiling Matthews?

“It’s easy to fall into doing Darrell,” he says. “I like doing that, too.

“If people see me as Darrell Hammond, I’m very happy. He’s a man who has a sense of joy in the game but a sardonic response to the game. I think that’s me. He’s caught my soul.”

Which brings Matthews to a more carnal metaphor to describe his hardball and softball personas:

“It’s like sex—sometimes fast, sometimes slow.”


Exposed partisan Chris Matthews

Naturally, the Washington press corps is having conniptions over the sparks that flew between MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews and Democratic Senator Zell Miller after the latter’s bull’s-eye of a barn-burning keynote address at the Republican convention Wednesday night. The indignation, though, is as phony as the notion that what Matthews was engaged in was an “interview.”

The news here is not that the game is rigged; media bias is a shock to no one. The news is that there are now enough alternative media — the Internet, the blogosphere, the multiple cable-news outlets, talk radio, etc. — that people are empowered with choices and no longer have to shrug their shoulders and tacitly tolerate the old arrangement. In turn, the liberation of the viewing world perforce frees all the Zell Millers (would that there were more of them) from the once-chafing restraints of monopoly-media politesse. They needn’t worry that, upon exposing a Chris Matthews for what he is, they’ll never again see the sunshine.

Chris Matthews is a partisan. No one should have a problem with that. The people on our side are partisans too. Being a partisan is good. It means you believe in something. It should mean you’re willing to take that conviction into the arena and allow it to be challenged, its mettle tested. Indeed, given that we are a hyper-litigious society, it’s worth bearing in mind that the very dispute resolution system we increasingly prefer for all of life’s quarrels is premised on the single theory that partisanship leads to truth — that both sides, armed with their ablest communicators, should confront each other in what is unapologetically called an “adversarial” setting. The best arguments are made by each, dissected by the other, and the truth — what we are supposedly trying to get at — is revealed.

Neither is partisanship dishonorable. Far from it. An honest partisan gives ground when the other side has a point, not only because it is the right thing to do but because it is in his interest to do so. Aristotle held that the most significant aspect of rhetoric is the perceived authority of the speaker, an axiom immutable as ever in our information age. Continuing to argue one’s conviction, but giving ground when a position is no longer defensible, preserves — even enhances — one’s credibility, an incalculable asset for future battles.

Many of us, for that reason, admire Matthews as a partisan even if we routinely disagree with where he’s coming from. For what it’s worth, I like him a lot. He is no blind ideologue. He honestly appreciates the skill and occasionally even the wisdom of his opponents, and he was singular among what were mostly lemmings of the Left in harshly criticizing President Clinton’s baleful abuse of the public trust.

Matthews in the anchor chair of straight news coverage, however, is a different story. And that’s where NBC has consciously opted to ensconce him for the Republican convention. In the center seat, Matthews is not an objective raconteur: He is a partisan with a transparent interest in the outcome — in this instance, the outcome of the election.

It doesn’t matter what he says or believes about his ability to be dispassionate. We all probably think ourselves capable of switching off ideology and interest, of objectifying the task at hand. But anyone who has watched Matthews canoodle with Kerry while grilling the Bushies and go positively postal discussing the Swift vets cannot have the slightest doubt about his agenda.

It is fine for Matthews to have an agenda. But it is a charade for him to slide into the driver’s seat of MSNBC’s coverage. And it is worse than a charade for NBC News, fully aware of the circumstances, to give him the gig. Last night, they both got called on it.

Miller’s keynote aimed to dwell on something virtually unmentioned in 96 hours of Democratic conventioneering and the dutiful coverage thereof: Kerry’s relentless 20-year record of gutting national security.

Let’s not forget context here. For about six weeks we have been barraged with panegyrics about the 9/11 Commission Report — with NBC and its fellow mainstreamers at the front of the amen-corner. Well, what did that report tell us? Our intelligence was shriveled after the Cold War; we lacked military imagination and options; and we treated terrorism as if it were simply a law-enforcement problem rather than a declaration of war by an arch enemy. So here we have Senator Kerry, who claimed, about a nanosecond after the report’s release, to endorse it and its recommendations completely. Kerry, the primo-shriveler of the post-Cold War intelligence apparatus, has for two decades been against the weapons systems that provide the military with its most imaginative options, and has maintained in this campaign that what he called the “exaggerated” problem of terrorism is one best suited for law enforcement.

So what did Miller do? He had the temerity to discuss this record and these facts, and to do it with style and soul.

Particularly upsetting to Matthews was Miller’s metaphorical suggestion that — having opposed the B-1 and B-2 bombers, the Tomcat, the Apache helicopter, the Patriot missile, the Aegis air-defense cruiser, the F-15 Eagle aircraft, the Trident missile, and, for that matter, the entire strategic-defense initiative — Kerry’s idea of the “armed forces” of which he’d be commander-in-chief must be forces armed with “spitballs.” It was a great line because it was deadly accurate in what it rhetorically intimated: that Kerry’s instinctive wariness of strength would be perilous for a moment in history when strength is most sorely needed.

Matthews is a smart enough guy to know it was effective. And he is a partisan, not an anchor, so he went confrontational, not exploratory. Did Miller really mean spitballs? Did Miller really think Kerry and fellow Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy do not believe America should be defended? Wasn’t Miller really guilty of the same sort demagoguery about which Republicans moan, concerning Democratic tropes about cutting social-welfare programs? Hadn’t Miller really gone off the deep end here?

Now mind you, Matthews is not a babe in the woods. He was a speechwriter for some very formidable, articulate Democrats. He is an accomplished writer. He has heard of metaphor and simile and allegory and all those flourishes of language so familiar to solid practitioners of the craft. In fact, his cable program is not called “Occasionally Aggressive Interviews By Chris Matthews”; it’s called Hardball. The expression is meant to be metaphorical, evocative. Matthews doesn’t think you expect to tune in and find him toting cleats and a 32-ounce club any more than he actually thinks Miller meant Kerry and Kennedy were at a parapet on Boston Harbor readying saliva chunks for al Qaeda.

Matthews’s attack-dog line of questioning was entirely reasonable . . . for a partisan. If this had truly been an objective news program, however, Matthews would have been sitting in a debater’s seat with a different, neutral anchor between him and Miller. Then, it would have been fine for him to press Miller — who was more than up to responding — because Matthews would have then been reciprocally grilled on his own baggage, not fraudulently portrayed as if he didn’t have any. But Matthews, in the shameless mainstream network practice, was slated as both partisan and anchor, prosecutor and judge. When he didn’t like Miller’s answers, he stepped on them. He snidely suggested that Miller had attacked Kerry’s love of country, though Miller had insisted — and the rhetoric bears out — that he was challenging Kerry’s judgment, not his patriotism.

And Miller didn’t stand for it. At 72, he has been around the block and seen more than his share of this blustering routine before — the nightly delusion where the partisan pretends he is just a detached truth-seeker with no axe to grind and the rest of us are expected to play along as if it were all on the up-and-up. Miller declined to be bullied, and, better yet, declined to pretend that Matthews wasn’t fully aware his interrogation tactics were disingenuous rather than disinterested.

Miller gave back with both barrels: Don’t try the bully routine with me, he warned. Matthews, Miller asserted, knew precisely what Miller had meant. No, the “spitball” critique was not comparable to the slanders that cause Republicans to complain about being accused of starving children and the elderly. It was the metaphorical copestone of an argument whose building blocks were not distortions of a single vote or two by Kerry but an unremitting 20-year record of aversion to American might — the might that, it turns out, is not passé as one-worlders like Kerry have supposed, but the last line of defense between civilized society and barbarism.

Matthews, plainly aware he’s been shellacked, is spinning. This is a post from his blog made early this morning:

I questioned [Miller] about some of his remarks. Knowing what I know about how they vote on Capitol Hill, I tried to get him to talk about how senators all the time, for legislative reasons, vote "No" as a legislative tactic because too much money is being spent, when they couldn't have backed the bill otherwise. This goes for conservatives voting against social programs just as it does for liberals voting against weapons systems.
Senator Miller didn't buy what I was saying. I can't tell you why. And I was pretty surprised with his reaction. . . .

This spin is telling, no doubt more than Matthews the “anchor” would like it to be. “Knowing what [he knows] about how they vote on Capitol Hill,” Matthews is well aware that a multi-term senator’s record is a trajectory, not a series of isolated episodes. Yes, legislation is an exercise in compromise, meaning that lawmakers occasionally vote in favor of what they generally oppose or against what they generally favor, guided by what they perceive as a higher purpose. Nonetheless, over time, a senator’s higher purpose becomes manifest. As Matthews knows, it was that higher purpose Miller targeted. In Kerry’s case, the higher purpose is an overall suspicion of American power.

There is no affront in Kerry’s having such a higher purpose — it is an ideology of which he is hardly the lone adherent, a vestige of the era in which he came of age. There is great affront, though, in masquerading Kerry’s higher purpose as if it were merely a lawmaker’s occupational hazard — a disconnected series of circumstances in which Kerry happens to have voted against the military, and the intelligence services, and national security. Matthews knows that. So why would he, as anchor, be “tr[ying] to get [Miller] to talk about” how legislators occasionally vote at odds with their core positions?

Because he’s shilling for Kerry. With America under siege, the Kerry camp doesn’t think the record is defensible. So the strategy is either to suppress mention of it (the Democratic convention approach) or, should it inconveniently come up, to argue absurdly that it may not mean what it appears to mean (the, ahem, Hardball approach).

“Senator Miller didn't buy what I was saying. I can't tell you why. And I was pretty surprised with his reaction.” Memo to Chris: He didn’t buy what you were saying because even you don’t buy what you were saying. And what galls you is that he knows that . . . and most everyone watching knows that now, too.

Matthews and NBC, of course, are not alone. All the mainstream outlets do the same thing. Highly opinionated, highly motivated liberals are broadly licensed to wear the pretend hat of unbiased reporter — to steer the coverage where they want it to go, to decide unilaterally who gets the hot-seat and who gets the puff-piece, to editorialize on what’s purported to be the straight-news page, and to construct the world and then try to sell us on the notion that it’s something more authentic than a concoction. They’re all “pretty surprised” now that we’re turning the page and changing the channel.

I’d watch Chris Matthews the honest partisan anytime. But Chris Matthews the anchor?


For the first time someone was able to shut up Chris Matthews

The most heartening language trend of 2004 was the revival of the old-fashioned insult. When MSNBC's Chris Matthews, sitting in the safety of his studio, had some tough questions for U.S. Sen. Zell Miller, D-Ga., after Miller's over-the-top keynote address at the Republican National Convention, Miller went all Aaron Burr on him: "I wish I was over there, where I could get a little closer into your face. . . . I wish we lived in the day where you could challenge a person to a duel."

Miller was giving away about 20 years and 90 pounds to Matthews. But Miller's crazed stare - he looked like Granny Clampett training her shotgun on a stray varmint - was enough to cause even the overbearing Matthews to back off.
The performance won Miller, who is retiring from the Senate, a job at the Fox News Channel, which apparently had not yet reached its quota of scary gasbags.

Chris Matthews is openly opposing the war in Iraq

He made his name bashing Clinton. But the "Hardball" host has broken from the cable TV pack over war with Iraq. And he has even warmed up to Clinton -- Hillary, that is. Chris Matthews barreled into American living rooms during the Clinton impeachment saga, when his CNBC show "Hardball" became the official cable clubhouse for Clinton haters. "Hardball" lost some of its edge in the early days of the Bush administration. Matthews needs an enemy, or at least a cause, to keep him charged. But the show has become must-viewing again for anyone tuned into the nation's latest political drama: Who wants to bury a dictator? This time around, though, Matthews is bucking the right. He's the only mainstream cable host who's openly opposing the administration's rush to war, and almost every night he battles bloodthirsty Iraq hawks and rails against spineless Democrats who won't muster the power to stop them.

In a wide-ranging conversation conducted earlier this week, on the day that ratings-challenged MSNBC announced it had added ultra-right attack dog Michael Savage to its lineup, Matthews attacked pro-war hawks who put Israel's perceived interests ahead of their own country's, slapped Bush for sitting "on Sharon's lap," confessed that he was warming up to Clinton (Hillary, that is), laid out what's wrong and right with Fox News, and worried about whether his antiwar stand is hurting his ratings.

''Hardball'' is the highest rated news program

One of the hottest items for the holiday season is the flat-screen television set. Take your choice of plasma, liquid crystal or tutti frutti. How ironic that the electronics industry is peddling these high-tech and high-finance items when there is so little to watch this month.
The November sweeps are over and so are the specials from the networks. Now, we are left with re-runs, tired holiday specials and re-runs of even more tired holiday specials.

The election is long gone so all the political talk shows are left with debates about who will replace Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge or Treasury Secretary John Snow. Hardly enough to make Chris Matthews scream and get red in the face.

"Hardball" is MSNBC’s highest rated news program, but it barely shows up compared to Bill O’Reilly on Fox. The "Fair and Balanced" network is ahead in the cable news ratings for all 10 out of the top 10 programs. "Larry King" on CNN comes in at number 11.

On the broadcast network level, CBS once again came out on top of the ratings race. For the last week of sweeps, though, "Desperate Housewives" on ABC won first place, followed by CBS shows "CSI," "CSI Miami," "Without a Trace," "Two and a Half Men," and "Everybody Loves Raymond." Rounding out the top 10 are "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" on ABC, "60 Minutes," "Cold Case" and "Survivor: Vanautu" on CBS. NBC did not place one show in the top 10. Surprisingly, "The Seinfeld Story" only came in 14th.

Even though cable continues to chip into the audience of the broadcast networks, there is still a major difference in the numbers. According to Nielson, The top-rated program currently broadcast, "Desperate Housewives," reached an estimated 27 million viewers while the top cable program, ESPN’s Sunday night NFL game, reached 6.8 million.

When it comes to news programming, the broadcast networks still pull high numbers for their half-hour evening wrap-ups. How the departure of Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather will affect things remains to be seen, but already the cable channels can claim dominance among those who want their news at any time of the day. When news breaks, CNN, Fox and MSNBC will have it while there may be a soap opera or talk show on NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox.

Finally, now that the election is behind us, isn’t it time to take another stab at fixing the campaign finance mess. It’s estimated that $1.6 billion was spent on advertising in the campaign, most of it on television in the swing states. That’s nearly double what was spent in the 2000 election.

There is a simple solution to this growing problem. Ban all broadcast advertising and have television set aside free time for candidates debates. That’s how they do it in Great Britain, and they seem to muddle through. Surely the nation’s television stations which are licensed to use the public airwaves and to serve our interests would not object.

Chris Matthews talks about Iraqis modern ''Minute Men''

Similarly, in an Oct. 18 interview on MSNBC's "Hardball," the Media Research Center noted, host Chris Matthews painted the Iraqi insurgents as modern Minute Men in his discussion with former President Jimmy Carter, author of a novel set during the Revolutionary War.

Matthews asked Carter whether in the Founding Fathers' "insurgency against a powerful British force, do you see any parallels between the, the fighting that we did on our side and the fighting that is going on in Iraq today?"

Carter replied, "Well, one parallel is that the Revolutionary War, more than any other war up until recently, has been the most bloody war we've fought. I think another parallel is that in some ways the Revolutionary War could have been avoided. It was an unnecessary war. Had the British Parliament been a little more sensitive to the colonial's really legitimate complaints and requests the war could have been avoided completely, and of course now we would have been a free country now as is Canada and India and Australia, having gotten our independence in a nonviolent way. I think in many ways the British were very misled in going to war against America and in trying to enforce their will on people who were quite different from them at the time."

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