A Softer Ball: Hertzberg on Matthews

By SteveK 

Last month’s New York Times Magazine profile of Chris Matthews (or as Matthews apparently refers to it, “that fucking article”) left some with a bad taste in their mouths.

The New Yorker‘s Hendrik Hertzberg, who says in a full disclosure, “I have more reasons than most to love Chris Matthews,” paints a broader picture. Hertzberg and Matthews worked together in the Carter administration.

“When I first met him, thirty or so years ago, his hair was a different color, he was skinnier, and his neckties were more random, but he was otherwise pretty much the same political jabber machine he is today,” he writes.

Hertzberg addresses the profile at the end of his piece. “The profile that ran in the New York Times Magazine a few weeks ago captured some of Chris (the insecurity, the self-promotion), but some is not all,” he writes. “The insecurity without the huge appetite for life, the self-promotion without the empathic social conscience that lurks somewhere behind all that love of the political game — these give a distorted impression.”

After the jump, Hertzberg’s opinion on why Matthews “went kind of haywire,” during the presidency of Bill Clinton.

(image, of Hertzberg and Matthews, courtesy of The New Yorker)

In my opinion, Chris went kind of haywire during the Clinton years. I have my own theories about why. Theory one: he and Clinton are too much alike. Same age, same size, same crazed gregariousness, same gift of gab, same manic energy, same thirst for attention, roughly similar political views and non-elite backgrounds. (A similar this-town-ain’t-big-enough-for-both-of-us dynamic, this one focussing on rival good-ol’-boy personae, poisoned the relationship between Howell Raines, then the editorial page of the Times, and Clinton. In my opinion.) Civil wars are always the bitterest.

Theory two: it had something to do with the difference between Irish Catholic and Southern Baptist views of sin and forgiveness