In the Boston Globe, Chris Matthews of MSNBC’s Hardball waxed poetic on the “civilized” politics of yesteryear, particularly praising the relationship between President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Tip O’Neill. “We’re all friends after six” Reagan would say, and the two worked together in a civilized fashion. Matthews is correct that our current debate is grotesque, catering to the most aggressive in each party, and not the best representatives of either. The irony of his complaints about a lack of civility in the current herd mentality of party politics is that he has long been at the forefront of the ugly chatter he decries.
There is no forgetting his calling Hillary Clinton “Nurse Ratched,” “Madame DeFarge,” “Domineering Mother,” and “She Devil” in 2008 or stating that the only reason people voted for her was because they felt sorry for her since her husband messed around. Matthews admitted to having had a “tingle up his leg” about then-candidate Obama and dutifully rode roughshod over anyone in the man’s way, even resorting to playing the race card on those who would not bend to his tingle. Matthews all but inferred the entire state of New Hampshire was racist when Hillary unexpectedly won their primary. He later did the same with West Virginia, declaring the state irrelevant.
While Matthews tingle has continued unabated, in 2010, it was peculiar that after the President’s first State of the Union address, Matthews actually opined that “For an hour, I forgot Obama was black.” Um, why were you thinking about it, Chris? I wasn’t and I’m not. Most people are not. They were and are concerned with someone who can set this country on the right path. Perhaps a friend of mine had a point when he said, “Guilty dog barks first.”
Matthews remains unconscious of his own bias. His paycheck depends upon it. This was evidenced by Matthews’ interview with Larry King this week, wherein he confessed that his show is the equivalent of an “op-ed.” People have an attitude, he said, and when they come home and turn on the TV, they want to hear that attitude played back to them.
That explains a lot.
He hinted there was a great deal of pressure to be a flame-thrower and that this is common practice. He may cast blame on his bosses but he enjoys vitriol and foaming at the mouth as much as Sean Hannity or anyone.
Matthews’ ever falling ratings are the one positive takeaway here. Less Americans are buying what he’s selling and want politicians to find the “friends after six” attitude in the Halls of Congress as they work to forge compromise. The current crop of cable crazies matches the rabble-rousing actors in government who put up smoke and mirrors to distract us from critical issues while they play kick the can at our expense.
To say that integrity is a thing of the past via Matthews virulent and often contradictory pronouncements, or those of his colleagues, is obvious. But it is worth noting that he and his brethren have gotten paid a great deal of dough to foment discord and widen the divide in this country.
By Matthews hosting panels of only those is his echo chamber, he does more than reflect the opinions of people who want someone to agree with them – he dumbs down his listeners because they never get another point of view. They are brainwashed into believing that anything “the other side” says must be a lie. The more you “absolutely hate” the other guy or gal, the better they like it. If you hate them enough to never listen to them, so much the better. This is more than delivering opinion masquerading as fact – it is electioneering.
The recent NBC News/Esquire poll referenced in several articles last week found that the American people stand united on a number of issues, regardless of party affiliation. But an agreeable American public doesn’t sell copy, so the rants of Matthews, Hannity and their Congressional counterparts serve as an effective way to fill coffers and boost ratings.
Chuck Todd of MSNBC may have reported on the raw numbers of the NBC/Esquire study, but not their significance: we are at odds with a number of those who talk at us as well as those who govern us.
Congressional tantrums resulting in the government shutdown cost a lot of money and accomplished nothing. Whether one approves the Affordable Care Act or not, the ninety seventh (or whatever) symbolic vote to defund it neither embraces reality nor gets us any closer to a law that works well.
Further, per Matt Viser’s piece in The Boston Globe, President Obama’s first meeting with House Speaker John Boehner did not come until 18 months after his first State of the Union address and he has only met with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell twice in five years. Whether he wished to negotiate or knock heads together, his greater involvement is required – lest we get what we’re getting: complaints of intransigence and both sides hurling insults, much like Arnold Schwarzenegger who was elected Governor of California only to refer to his legislature as “Girlie Men” – how’d that work out?
As long as we have leadership on both sides content to posture, berate and grandstand knowing their “gestures” will lead to no effective changes in legislation, we are watching a dumb-show unfold that is not so much reported by the news as it is an echo of the same useless screeching.
We need educated analysis and productive action from Congress. Following the money, though, tells us the party powerful and corporate leaders with whom they are cozy want compliant masses, making the echo chamber we get understandable if not desirable.
And if any of this bothered Matthews’ deeply held principles, he’d quit, rather than helping to create the very situation he bemoans.
Anita Finlay is the author of Dirty Words on Clean Skin, a shocking exposé deconstructing the biased media narrative plaguing women who dare to lead. Available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon. #1 on Women in Politics books for 16 weeks.
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