Chris Matthews and Going Home To Mama

I used to watch Chris Matthews compulsively. His CNBC and later MSNBC shows were some of the meatiest political programs available, particularly in the days before Fox News started up. Matthews’ encyclopedic political knowlege, deep guest list, and offended-Catholic outrage over Bill Clinton’s escapades gave his show an edge during 1996-98 that was unmatched by anybody else on television. It was more than good enough to make you overlook Matthews’ filibustering (which, let’s be honest, is often entertaining as hell) and schoolboy infatuation with all things Kennedy (or later, John McCain).

But eventually, Matthews’ previous life as a Democratic Party pol caught up with him. When push really comes to shove, when it’s possible for somebody other than a Democrat (or more conservative than, say, McCain) to actually win power, Matthews infailingly “goes home to Mama.” By mid-2000, he was openly campaigning for Al Gore, and his shows were duller than a Moyers agree-fest on PBS, but only slightly less annoying.

I stopped watching Matthews completely about the time of the conventions, and with the exception of election night of that year (when he, like almost everybody else on television, was commenting on that historic night in respectful awe), I haven’t tuned him in since.

Based on this and other accounts of last night’s “Hardball” interview with John Kerry, it looks like I haven’t missed much.

Pity. There was a time when the guy had the best chops in the business. I’m genuinely sorry to see that he’s become a full-on self-parody.


48 Responses to “Chris Matthews and Going Home To Mama”

  1. David Pinto Says:

    I agree 100%. The only time I watch Matthews now is on election nights.

  2. Linda Says:

    It’s funny, there have been a number of times in the past 4 years when I’ve wondered why I didn’t watch Hardball anymore. It was must see tv for me for about the same dates you gave, I know because we lived in a diferent house 96-99 and Hardball was a staple in that living room but I can scarcely remember seeing it since we moved. I thought perhaps my tastes had changed but now I have some evidence that it was Matthews and the show that did the changing. Thanks for the insight, I feel more stable already!

  3. Kevin Murphy Says:

    I agree except his filibustering (I’d call it incessant interrupting) wasn’t entertaining if you were interested in what the guest had to say.

  4. Mike M Says:

    I try to catch him on SNL where the parody is usually more entertaining and informative than the original. I also get my fill of blabbermouth political talk on the radio.

    In fact, I get very little news from TV these days aside from sports and local. Local news is almost as good for the big events anyways since they don’t bother with the spin and just say what happened.

  5. jj shaka Says:

    I had to give Matthews program up when he refused to entertain any argument for the Iraq war- he had a position and that was that.
    You know when you stop reporting you can change – Matthews was a very good columnist for years because he had to actually go out and do stuff in order to write about it. The whole production now looks like a soapbox for Chris and his issues( and it looks like he has a lot). I just keep flipping by now -pity.

  6. Scott H Says:

    I watched him during the 2002 election campaign, and he was very good. When commenting on politics as sport, he is the Al Michaels of political commentary. But his virulent anti-war position on Iraq has been extremely annoying and I too stopped watching.

  7. Jediflyer Says:

    I used to watch both Chris Mathews and Bill O’Reilly religously a few years ago, but now when I turn on the t.v. and see them on, it is like nails on a chalkboard.

  8. Jack Sheet Says:

    I never gave it much thought, but I, too, have gone from an every night viewer in the late 90s to a Fox news only viewer.

    Chris has become tiresome, and the competition is eating his lunch.

  9. Mike M Says:

    In my opipnion, he’s still better than most other political talkshows. His, “we’re all neocons, now” remark has always stuck with me.

    On the other hand, I rarely watch him. No time.

  10. ruprecht Says:

    I used to be a big Hardball fan. Bought and read both of his books. I always had the illusion that he tried really hard to remain non-partisan. After Afghanistan the illusion was impossible to maintain.

  11. wcates Says:

    Thankgoodess someone finally posted something about him… I used to enjoy watching him alot. It seems the media isn’t even pretending to be unbiased anymore.

    It’s not just Mathews. I can’t bear to watch Lou Dobbs anymore either… and he was my only reason to watch CNN. His constant bad mouthing of the economy combined with his political views is just too much. It seems he needs to rename his show.

    I travel alot so I often get USA today for free and now I don’t even bother with that… when you start turning down free stuff you know something is up…

  12. Rogers Cadenhead Says:

    You’re cheating yourselves. If you’re watching news talk shows for reasons other than to have your beliefs stroked, Matthews offers something his rivals don’t: Moments of genuine insanity. Now that Dan Rather is leaving us, Matthews is the host most likely to say completely crazy shit from time to time.

  13. John Mendenhall Says:

    I used to watch Matthews then too. Geraldo Rivera also had an MSNBC show featuring snotty New Yorkers and Beverly Hillsers waxing supportive of presidential blow jobs and Chris was a welcome relief. Then Geraldo left and the snotty guests began showing up on Matthews’ show. Then they started Fox network. Chris does seem more like Bill Maher than anybody else these days.

  14. Cal Says:

    There’s only one show that I consistently watch and look forward to on any of these networks. That’s Brit Hume’s show on Fox. It’s the only politically oriented show that hasn’t degenerated into a shoutfest or a soapbox. It’s also the best show on Fox to see them actually deliver hard news.

  15. Tim Says:

    Chris Matthews is still on the air? I thought they cancelled him years ago. Cable time must be cheap.

  16. Redman Says:

    I stopped watching him when he started doing those shows from college campuses.

  17. Pat Curley Says:

    You know Matthews is slipping when he’s the guy Democrats go to in order to recover from the tough questioning on Good Morning America.

  18. Frank Martin Says:

    It’s hard to be on the losing side of history. Look at it from Matthews standpoint, on every front the progressive community is losing ground, every election puts Democrats further and further away from power. For them, it would be an improvement just to be able to maintain the ground they have. This is hardly where the “power to the people” crowd thought we would be in 2004.

    Remember, this group looks at politics the way most of the rest of us look at religion. They pray at the church of government intervention and the give at the alter of good intentions.

    But when you wake up on sunday and find your church pews are more empty every week, its a bit challenging to be able to maintain your faith.

    Mathews suffers publically the way all middle aged men suffer privately, wondering aloud ” did I waste my life?”, “could I have done more”, “did I do the right things”?

    Its hell to wake up one day with the cold hard realization that you might be wrong and your religion might be false. and worse – “they” might be right…….

  19. Zapatero Says:

    The night Al Gore gave his belated concession speech and Matthews cried on the air was it for me.

    But from 1996 to 1999, he was en fuego.

  20. GWargo Says:

    I agree with Cal. The mail reason I bought TIVO was to record Brit Hume every night to watch after the kids went to bed (Sorry, Greta).

  21. tibor Says:

    There’s only one problem with this theory — I’m pretty sure that Matthews has admitted voting for GWB in 2000.

  22. jk Says:

    Matthews does bring a lot to the table: knowledge, insight and emotion.

    But I followed the same curve as most commenters. I watched every night during the Clinton Impeachment, most nights through the 2000 election, almost never after the war.

  23. joe Says:

    I used to watch Mathews religiously in spite of his annoying interupting and speachmaking. He used to be tough on both sides. Once the war started and now that we are in the political season, it is quite clear that he has become nothing more than a political operative for the democratic party, and more partriciularly, an apparent Bush/Cheney hater. I will never watch him again.


  24. rodriguez Says:

    The decline of Matthew’s credibility and popularity is due to the same things that killed liberal radio -yes, there was one once And that is the incapacity of the public to swallow any longer what the left has to say. It is time for Democrats to take a long break- say 12 to 15 years- regroup and figure out what to do next. They are simply out of ideas. Clinton won because he sold two conservative themes to the public: cut crime and end welfare as we knew it. Now what?

  25. Pearl Says:

    I also watched Chris Matthews a lot in the past. Add to that Charlie Rose and a couple of other hosts that I thought were more even-handed. Now, I can’t even stand to see their faces on TV.

    I do think it started after the 2000 election fiasco. Maybe it’s because I’ve gotten older, but the unending round of talking heads (see: experts!) have become nothing more than so much noise. Things are happening in real life that are treated as nothing more than reviews of a movie or book. It seems unserious.

    Power to the Blogs!

  26. old maltese Says:

    John Mendenhall — Funny that you should mention Bill Maher. He’s the featured guest on Hardball this very night.

    Tibor — 2-3 years ago Matthews said exactly that on the Michael Medved radio show. It was in response to a Medved question — I give Matthews credit for answering it. He didn’t say so, but I suspect that in 2000 he was just too disappointed in Gore.

  27. jf Says:

    Russert and Matthews lobbed softballs at Kerry. They could do nothing else. If Kerry is seriously challenged he implodes. How could these interviewers be expected to expose the fundamental and global inability of the candidate to complete an understandable sentence. He’s not yet the candidate and he’s a dead man walking. The Gibson interview would be the prototype of any real interview. Kerry would humiliate himself; the news would run the instant replays and the candidate would be disgraced, deflated to Dean (shutter). Not only bad because the media has liberal preferences, but also far to eary in the news cycle to lose the excitement of the horse race. I also think that these interviews were acts of kindness; he’s too easy a target.

    Perhaps not quite ready for prime time?

  28. Frank Martin Says:

    I would have preferred to watch Dean go down in flames than watch Kerry wander around on stage like a fatally wounded dog.

    Atleast Dean was honest and entertaining.

  29. Crank Says:

    Yeah, I haven’t watched Mathews with regularity since impeachment ended.

  30. Esbiem Says:

    I stopped watching Mathews after he announced on-air that he was using his show as a stepping stone to elected office. And it doesn’t take a smoothie jerk to figure out which party he’s hung his hat on.

  31. Alan Huth Says:

    This is interesting. I stopped watching Matthews about the time most others did; now it’s primarily Brit Hume. I felt guilty about abanding Hardball because I was worried that maybe, as I was getting older and more fossil-brained, I just didn’t want to hear the other side. I assumed it was me, not mentally flexible enough to entertain opposing views. Now I’m relieved to entertain the possibility that it wasn’t me, it was him. He stopped providing both sides, and I got frustrated yelling at the tv. I still scan through his show on TIVO once in while, hoping Christopher Hitchens will show up.

    Thanks for de-ossifying my little brain.

  32. Lloyd Says:

    I’ve haven’t got much to add to Will or the commenters. (An outstanding posse Stephen, congrats). I do find interesting the Catholicism that underlies Matthews’ thinking, as well as people like Pat Buchanan and O’Reilly. Actually, both Matthews and O’Reilly are vying for the title of “most irritating and/or pompous blowhard on cable”. I do agree with the others that both these guys are becoming unwatchable not because of their views, but because they’ve already decided what’s definitely right and wrong and to hell with the guests or audience. I agree Hume’s show is on a plane by itself. I would tho recommend retired MNF commentator Dennis Miller’s 6:00 PST show opposite Hannity & Colmes. He’s still a little too glib for my taste but on other hand is capable of intelligent, open minded questioning and has a surprisingly good command of most facts. Also, I’m still pissed Fox put Greta on over one of their very talented newsbabes.

  33. dadmanly Says:

    I watched him a lot during post-election 2000 until the SCOTUS decision ended the uncertainty. I think he was very watchable then because he so disdained Al Gore and his miserable campaign.

    Other than his week of “stories from Iraq” which were quite good, the rest of his Iraq and Election 2004 coverage has been completely partisan. It’s too bad, I almost forgot he was a Democrat.

  34. old maltese Says:

    A quick second of Lloyd: check out Miller. He’s uneven but he’s smart (and you don’t get that on *every* channel).

  35. Mike Says:

    I vowed to not to watch Chris Matthews after he had on those four “Jersey Girls” who bashed Bush non-stop during the 9/11 hearings. They even accused Ashcroft of not flying, which was debunked when he showed up to the hearing. I have never heard such un-balanced piece of journalism as what Matthews did on Hardball with those 4 anti-Bush widows.

  36. Joe Says:

    So if Matthews was so soft what are some examples of questions you would have asked Kerry?

  37. Becky Says:

    God forbid if Brit Hume someday becomes a blowhard like Matthews and O’Reilly (who once in a rare while is good). Why would any guest actually bother to appear? Why not just send a cardboard cutout for the all the difference it would make?

    I really like Brit’s show, he’s the only reporter around. Other than that, I watch a little Neil Cavuto (usually on too early) and DARN! I forgot about Dennis Miller..he’s great!! I’m going to tune in for him.

    Other than while I’m actually consuming a meal – I don’t bother to turn the TV on. One billion channels and nothing to watch except animal planet, occassional murder mystery, Law and Order, funniest videos, blind date or home improvement show – and all of those are only good for mind numbing. Not worth turning the TV on for.

  38. Robert Says:

    I agree dadmanly, Matthews was pretty good (well, compared to the networks & CNN) during the Florida mess, I was especially impressed with Pat Cadell then, essentially destroying the Democrats arguments. Soon after that, I stopped watching Hardball. I tried O’Reilly for a while, but he got irritating real quick. Dennis Miller is the only one I watch, but fortunately it’s baseball season so that’s what I watch.

  39. John Says:

    We seem to have a demographic here. Like the other posters, I loved Matthews’ show during the impeachment and thought his campaign 2000 coverage was fair and unbiased.

    But I simply can’t stomach his infatuation with McCain, and those broadcasts from college campuses? Please. Could you find a repository more replete with false political wisdom than an auditorium full of 20 year olds that have never paid taxes or had to deal with government bureaucracy?

    And like everyone else, where I used to find comfort in Matthew’s desire to gore everyone’s ox, now everytime I tune in he’s running through the DNC’s weekly talking points.

    I haven’t watched in three years and don’t anticipate that I will again.

  40. fw Says:

    His show’s reliance on Howard Fineman, who is the embodiment of liberal establishment conventional wisdom is irritating as well.
    Fineman leans left, but not too far, so that he can retain some credibility with his “contacts” who are either in the WH or on Capitol Hill. Matthews sucks up to Fineman in a way that I find embarrassing for all concerned.

  41. John Says:

    He did it again tonight. He grilled RNC chair Gillespie for 20 minutes about the Kerry medal issue, then started asking why the Republicans wouldn’t let the matter drop. Hey Chris, if you didn’t make Gillespie talk about it for 20 minutes straight, the issue *would* be dropped.

    But Matthew’s knows this, and he knows that it’s a losing issue for Kerry. So the left-wing spin machine has decided to try to flip the issue and make it all about how Republicans won’t stop talking about it. Matthews is just carrying their water.

    Oh, and this interesting tidbit ran in a banner during the broadcast: John McCain has appeared on Hardball 80 times. 80.

  42. Kathianne Says:

    Shame to say, I get his daily briefing, which might as well be put out by the DNC. I too felt that Hardball might be the mix of the left and right, but Matthews has made clear he is a DNC schill. Too bad.

  43. wendy Says:

    As a South Carolinian, I laughed like hell at Chris on the night of the Republican primary in 2000. His McCain dream went down in flames and he looked physically ill during the primary night coverage from the beach. Maybe it was bad oysters!

    Take solace though, Mr. Matthews. We did go on to elect McCain’s top state supporters, Lindsey Graham and Mark Sanford, to the US Senate and the governership. Maybe we’re not such knuckle draggers after all.

    And to follow Robert’s lead- Hardball did have the best coverage going during the recounts. (No Fox then.) Pat Cadell is the reason I’m still sane.

    I can’t watch Hardball anymore though. Too much flying spit.

  44. Joseph Mendiola Says:

    Leftism is the only ideology I know where the stated facts or evidencias broadly or specifically DON’T match or relate to the final conclusion(s) – Cris Matthews’ problem, for me, is that, as ESBIEM says, he became a blowhard, practically a Sharpton- or Swaggert-style celebrity preacher, and stopped linking or relating his facts, suppositions, or evidence to his conclusions! I suppose its possible such phases occur now and then for everybody in media, but Matthews’ period of madness should’ve been over a long time ago. As recently ilustrated by pro-Democrat demostrations against Kerry or dedicated Democrats criticizing Kerry, there are still many traditional rank-and-file DemLibs out there who refuse to accept the Communist Clintons moving the Democratic Party to the RIGHT, and “redoing Liberalism Now” or “redoing Socialism Now” by pretending to be work with the GOP-Right ala [Rightist/Right-slanted] National Unitarianism. Clintonian “Centrism”, alleged “National LIberalism, and “New Leftism/Communism/Socialism” are mere PC Left-centric labels for what is essentially [democratic] FASCISM regardless of what the anti-W, anti-GOP/Right, and anti-American, American Leftmedias and American Leftperts/Policrats claim to the contrary. Rank-and-file Democrat believers who criticized Kerry are angry because they realize not only is their national Party lying to them and telling them they are Republicans-Rightists now, but also that to be a good American DemLib is to NOT positively or internally reform Failed Leftism-Socialism but to betray your neighbors and your country by forcing the latter to give up their freedoms, their wealth, and their nation’s sovereignty to the very same Failed Leftism-Socialism and despotic Socialist OWG, which the Clintons are NOT telling them is = Communism. And not just [dsiguised/PC] COMMUNISM, ie UltraLeft Socialism, but Asian-centric, Asian-LeftSocialist controlled, ie Non-Western centric, COMMUNISM! IOW, rank-and-file Democrat believers not only now know Leftism has failed, but their own Party is telling them to be LIARS-HYPOCRITES, FAKERS AND TRAITORS, which is anathema, or should be, TO EACH AND EVERY DEDICATED PATRIOTIC AMERICAN! Its for Matthews to show or prove that not only is contemporay Democratism-Liberalism still valid, but that the Democratic Party as a whole must get rid of the Clintons and their cabal regardless if their Party wins or loses any elections! The Clintons are friends to no one save Asian Communism, a Communist world order, and their own power – the DNC has got another thing coming if they [stupidly] believe the Asia- and Asian-Socialist Communist Clintons and Clinton Left are out to maintain or improve American-Western geopol power, or that they won’t destroy their own American Left once and after the GOP/ American Right is successfully destroyed, within America itself, and America is de facto under domestic Socialism as well as anti-sovereign UN-based Socialist OWG!

  45. Hawaiian Island Creations Says:

    I’m merely passing through, but read enough in this particular thread to spur me to offer my own thoughts.

    After perusing these various comments, I can understand how and why a majority of Americans still believe that Iraq was behind the 9-11 atrocities, even though the Bush Administration resolutely failed to offer any evidence whatsoever to support such a misinformed supposition.

    There was a time not too long ago — certainly within my own 42-year life span — when people tuned into the “News” to learn about current events, and not merely to reinforce their own preconceived biases.

    What you all apparently want from shows like “Hardball” and “The O’Reilly Factor” certainly isn’t news, i.e., factual information, in the classical sense. You are clearly seeking to validate your own opinions — a potentially fatal exercise in collective self-delusion on your part that most American media seem all too willing to indulge by substituting studio punditry and entertainment for actual live reporting and dissemination of factual information.

    Unfortunately, as recent events in Iraq make very clear, reality bites. And while everyone is certainly entitled to their own opinions, we are not entitled to our own set of “facts.”

    I’ve yet to determine for myself as to how John Kerry might perform as president. But I do know with a fair amount of certainty that the present dishonest and disingenuous national course, as ineptly charted by this current administration, is simply unacceptable and bodes ill for our country’s future if it is allowed to continue.

    Further, while I do not hold the current incumbent primarily culpable for the alarming series of events that have occurred on his watch, I do hold him accountable for his administration’s failure to accept responsibility for its own actions and reactions to such events. Therefore, I can see no reasonable rationale for expecting different results, should he and his administration be returned to power in November.

    I’m under no illusions that I might change anyone’s minds here, but before people jump to conclusions about where I’m coming from, please understand one thing — people like me are not the enemy.

    I served my country in the Persian Gulf War in 1990-91, and I lost my father in Vietnam when I was in grade school. Because of my own life’s experiences, I am probably more hypersensitive than most to the horrors and effects of war. While I consider that experience an asset, I also freely admit that it may well cloud my perspective on issues of national security.

    What alarms me in reading these posts is my perception that many of you apparently refuse to hold the Bush Administration responsible for the results stemming from its activities done in our country’s name. If you — the president’s earnest supporters — do not use that support as leverage to force this administration to make the painful decisions necessary to correct our current course — instead of acting as their de facto enablers — I genuinely fear for what will happen to our country.

    Thank you for allowing me the courtesy to express my own opinion. Aloha, and God bless you all.

  46. Alan Huth Says:


    Your post takes the trouble to seem calm reasonable, above the fray, but you still manage to stereotype and insult most of the posters in this thread.

    The overwhelming concern of just about everybody in this thread is the perception that Chris Matthews has lost the ability to present both sides of an issue. You somehow twist that into our seeking a “validation of our own opinions”. That is false and insulting.

    On top of that, you further insult these posters by suggesting that by reading these posts, you understand why most americans buy the Iraq/9-11 link, implying that we are incapable of thinking clearly, just “collecively deluding” ourselves.

    I seriously doubt that any of the respondents here believe(d) that Iraq was “behind” 9-11 directly. Iraq certainly did have serious ties to al Queda over the years, you may be surprised to learn, but nobody is saying they were the primary impetus for 9-11.

    Frankly, I think you are the enemy. You throw out the usual attacks on the administration about dishonesty, disingenuous, inept, etc. Of course, you have the facts to back this up but don’t bother providing any. You accuse the posters here, who just want to see both sides when watching a news analysis show, of being collectively deluded. That’s a strong statement. How about a shred of support for it?

    You are the enemy because, despite your reasoned demeanor, you are a hater. You attack indiscriminately, you offer no alternatives, you take a condescending view of the mental aptitude of conservatives, and you presume we are wrong.

    You don’t bother to pick a particular issue and argue the facts, despite your professing to have the facts on your side – rather, you simply dismiss the whole lot.

    This looks like liberal hatred dressed up to appear reasonable.

  47. freddie poo Says:

    In sum: he is great when you agree with him but terrible when he says things you disagree with…I guess that cuts out many tv show, papers, magazine, blogs. A sure sign of objective reasoning.

  48. Mike Says:

    It really is a shame that Matthews has become unwilling or unable to present both sides of the issue of Iraq. When he is on; he is very good. However, I think he has lost all ability to evaluate the administration and Iraq because he looks at everything through Vietnam color glasses. Seriously, he cannnot go 5 minutes without saying Vietnam. He has lost the ability to be objective because he is stuck in 1972.

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