Friday, April 11, 2008

The New York Times Plays Hardball

Posted By on Fri, Apr 11, 2008 at 10:55 AM

click to enlarge chrismatthews2.jpg
Whether you love or hate Chris Matthews, the New York Times Sunday Magazine profile of the garrulous host of MSNBC's Hardball is a brilliant, hilarious read, offering an up close and personal look at the most amusing staple on cable television this side of Roadhouse. The Scene newsroom has long been hopelessly split on Matthews' appeal, with some seeing him as a self-centered, childlike, irritating loon while others view him more as a self-centered, childlike, endearing loon. You can count Liz and me in the latter category; our fearless editor even has a framed picture of Chris Matthews in her corner office, and I prefer watching Hardball to just about any show on television. And I don't think he's a simple blowhard like Bill O'Reilly or Lou Dobbs who can't stray beyond their own calibrated talking points and have little patience for those who do. In contrast, Matthews, though hyper-opinionated, loves having guests with a wide range of ideological and partisan loyalties, and when he interrupts them, it's not so much to win an argument but to inflame it. Anyhow, the Times piece is lengthy. If you don't have time to read it at your desk today, we have a few excerpts for you after the jump: Matthews, as you might have guessed, is rather obsessed with himself. In one of his interviews with writer Mark Leibovich, Matthews becomes “hypnotized' by a TV over the bar set to a rebroadcast of Hardball. “Hey, there I am—it's me. It's me.” Later on, he asks Leibovich, “Did you see me on the Today show? I quoted F. Scott Fitzgerald. I think I'm the only guy around who quotes F. Scott Fitzgerald on the Today show.” Interestingly, Matthews also has a complicated relationship with Meet The Press moderator Tim Russert, who he regards as a stern older brother figure: “Matthews has berated Russert to several people at NBC and has told friends and associates that Russert is like John. F. Kennedy while he is more like Richard Nixon. Kennedy was the golden boy while Nixon was the scrapper for whom nothing came easily.” Keith Olbermann acknowledges to Leibovich that his on-air marriage with Matthews has been “rocky.” The two co-anchor MSNBC's election coverage, and Matthews sometimes calls their joint appearances, Hardball, which often prompts Olbermann to respond, “No, this is not Hardball.” Another great passage in the story comes when Matthews says he wants to be “synonymous with this campaign.” “Imagine bullfighting without Hemmingway. I can't.” Is Matthews comparing himself to Hemmingway, the writer asks: “No way,” he says.”Don't you [expletive] do that.” Leibovich arrives at Matthews' house to interview his family. He pulls up just as Matthews is leaving. “I promised a bunch of Koreans I'd get my picture taken with them, so that's where I'm going. I'll be right back.” There are plenty more gems like that in the Times piece. So please, if you only read one publication this weekend, well, of course, read the Scene. But when you're finished, do check out that Matthews profile. Unreal.

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