Behold, Mark Leibovich's profile of Chris Matthews: an epic that simply refuses to end, that you do not want to end, that illuminates the most oddball fixture in cable television's Mount Rushmore better with the light of a hundred H-bombs. Again and again, Matthews morphs into a character from a Norman Spinrad novel.

At one point, Matthews suddenly became hypnotized by a TV over the bar set to a rebroadcast of "Hardball." "Hey, there I am — it's me," he said, staring at himself on the screen. "It's me."

On his idols:

He loved Johnny Carson, particularly his persona as a wide-eyed Nebraskan, awed that movie stars were actually talking to him. "Carson was great company," Matthews says. "He was big company. Best company in the world." He identifies with this. "Now, I am people's company," he told me. "Do you know that women come up to me all the time and say, 'My husband watched you until the end, until he died'?" (Also, Matthews added, Carson "had babes on the show.")

On his historical imperative:

Matthews envisions his role in this presidential campaign to that of Eric Sevareid and Walter Cronkite in 1968. "Your job is to illuminate, illuminate the game," Matthews says. He faces a nightly challenge to "bring to life" the unfurling of history. Matthews says he wants to be synonymous with this campaign, like Howard Cosell was with Muhammad Ali.

"Imagine bullfighting without Hemingway," he says. "I can't."

Is Matthews comparing himself to Hemingway?

"No way," he says. "Don't you, don't you [expletive] do that."

On his head:

Staring at the screen, Matthews squinted, cocked his head and leaned forward. "Have you noticed," he said to no one in particular, "that my head looks about four times as big as Obama's?"

At the end of the piece we learn that he is possibly running for the Senate in 2010.

NEXT: Mother Superior State College Jumped the Gun Images*

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  1. Man I love that blowhard

  2. “Hey, there I am – it’s me,” he said, staring at himself on the screen. “It’s me.”

    Amazing; it’s like he’s two years old.

    Thanks, Dave, this is some highly entertaining shit.

  3. Maybe I’m old-fashioned but I miss the days when the journalists weren’t the story.

  4. Olbermann is far better.

  5. Olbermann is far better.

    As a self-righteous prig, yes.

  6. Maybe I’m old-fashioned but I miss the days when the journalists weren’t the story.

    When was that?

  7. MSNBC has its share of blowhards (Scarborough especially) but its far and away the least bad cable news network.

  8. Maybe I’m old-fashioned but I miss the days when the journalists weren’t the story.

    When was that?

    Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

    Didn’t make himself part of the story, unlike a few of his peers, but still had a bit of the air of superiority along with the pandering to his audience.

  9. When was that?

    Before cable made it inevitable.

  10. So, Chris Matthews is, in other words, exactly like his on-air persona: an ADD-addled hack pretending to be a tough guy because he actually got beaten up all the time in junior high.

  11. I think Wolf Blitzer is the only normal one left.

  12. Before cable made it inevitable.

    Guess I was thinking of Hemingway, mentioned in the post. He absolutely made every news story he wrote a tribute to his persona, way before cable came along.

  13. I agree with Weigel, I was disappointed when the article ended — I wanted even more trainwreck!

    I doubt Leibovich will be getting any more invitations to dinner at the Matthews’ house.

    Which brings up a question for Weigel and the other Reasonites — is it hard to write an incredibly harsh story on someone that you may have to interact with again in the future? Also, do the subjects typically know they are going to get pummelled and cooperate merely to do damage control (my take on the dinner invitation), or do these pieces normally come as a surprise?

  14. agreed with Episiarch — funniest post all day!

  15. A once decent SF Chronicle newspaper man morphed into a Maxx Headroomesque TV Asshat.

    A clear case of deevolution.

  16. Matthews hasn’t been relevant since Fox News came on the air and ate his lunch.

  17. “He faces a nightly challenge to “bring to life” the unfurling of history.”

    Boring. Whenever I hear people talk of their legacy or a historic event, etc. I always think of Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot.

  18. Is it just me, or does Chris Matthews look like he transmits horrible diseases? I think it’s a combination of the hair that always looks plastered with sweat, the shouting and spitting into the microphone and the general unattractiveness. How do these people end up on TV anyway?

  19. At least he isn’t a charcter from Spinrad’s greates work The Men in the Jungle

  20. Olbermann is far better.

    …at reading sarcastic ‘copy’ off the teleprompter written by a 22 yr old intern making $150/wk while baseball highlights are displayed in the background.

    Political analysis?

    Not so much…

  21. Chris Mathews Bully & Hypocrite – Ernie Nounou, Disgruntled GE Shareholder

    “The Aria of Chris Mathews” (NYT Sunday Magazine 4-13-08) provided a contextual reminder why friends and I stopped watching Hardball. As long as GE provided steady double-digit earnings growth, I’ve held my peace. After GE’s dramatic earnings miss last Friday, I’m mad as hell and see no reason why the $5 million that is partially mine pays the salary of a narcissistic, boorish lout conducting an oral food fight.

    Full disclosure: I’m a Hillary supporter, dismayed by her disastrous campaign missteps, the responsibility for which rests with her, and fully respect Barak Obama’s campaign triumphs from a standing start. The best analogy is Sir Francis Drake’s routing of the Spanish Armada. That said, I don’t accept the shamelessly biased behavior of MSNBC during this campaign, and Mathews in particular.

    An enduring quality of the American character is our strong sense of fair play. While we forgive and abide liars and philanderers, we loathe bullies and hypocrites. Mathews is both, and based on all the blogging in response to the NYT article, opinion of him runs 15 – 20 to 1 against. (Chris, why not put it to a vote on your show, if you dare?) Very interestingly, I tuned Morning Joe to see their take on this article. Note they have a segment that checks out articles in various papers, and suck up any media pieces that aggrandize any MSNBC personality. They quoted Frank Rich’s NYT Op Ed, but had a loud silence, total avoidance of the Mathews article. MSNBC policy, future portent? Let’s hope so!

    Bully – Chris Mathews makes a big deal about his tough and blunt holding guests’ feet to the fire; but the truth is it’s very selective. Interrupting and talking over his guests, as the article contextualizes, is not about uncovering scabs and discovering truth, but rather feeding the insecurity of this self-absorbed egotist. Where does such a loudmouthed bully get the temerity to complain about the divisions and lack of civil discourse in our politics and society?

    Note how he doesn’t dare talk over Russert, or Obama. Based on a clip on another show of his campus interview with Obama, it takes chutzpah to call that show Hardball with a straight face. Mathews has defended his tough critiquing of Hillary’s campaign based on her being the frontrunner. Now that Obama is the frontrunner, where’s the hardball?

    Hypocrite – Mathews totes his book “Life is a Campaign” as a philosophy for the young to embrace. His enormous self-absorption blinds him to Hillary’s being the embodiment of that philosophy. His derision of her for following some of the precepts in his book reveals his own true heart. It is told that a Roman viceroy of Jerusalem, on seeing a Jew salute as his carriage passed by, ordered him executed for daring to salute a Roman viceroy. Later, a Jew having heard what happened, did not salute as the viceroy’s carriage passed. The viceroy ordered him executed for failing to salute. When questioned on this inconsistency, the viceroy admitted it didn’t matter; he simply hated Jews. So it is with Mathews, he simply hates Hillary no matter what she does. Her laughs are cackles. Her ads relating to 9-11, Mathews sees as 911 and subtly racist, when even African-American guests don’t.

    Mathews ignores Hillary’s successful senate career and reaching across the aisle to work with former tormentors such as Trent Lott and Lindsay Graham. In true Roman viceroy form he calls her a divider, and decries her campaign as a soap opera that must end. In his January 17 apology to Hillary he praised her resolution as First Lady, senate campaign and accomplishments, and predicated his judgments as relying on his heart, “?a heart that bears only goodwill?” Goodwill, really? Jon Stewart had him pegged right that his views expressed in his book is a sad reflection on his philosophy (and by extension on his life).

    Mathews is reported to have backed away from his apology, implying he was forced/induced to make it. Great testament for his integrity, and a ringing credential for his proclaimed senate candidacy. My “Big Number” is 90-10 Mathews won’t run, because bullies lack the courage or stomach for a fair fight, and to hear what people really think of them. And he has the audacity to question the veracity or integrity of any candidate? His own supposed candidacy is merely hype to revive a career in eclipse!

    Notwithstanding MSNBC’s bump in viewership this past rating period; it is more a reflection of this historic campaign, the absolute crap that passes for television programming, and far less a testament to the quality of its programming. Once this race is over, so will go the ratings bump. A liberal leaning Lite version of Fox News is not an answer either. As a GE shareholder I object to this misuse and waste of corporate assets, and urge that Mathews contract not be renewed. In fact take him off the air now, and let him do cameos like that other clown, Tucker, who actually doesn’t sound so unreasonable in measured doses.

    If GE and NBC management can’t do better job, then sell NBC Universal and invest the proceeds in faster growing businesses. Let someone else do the necessary housecleaning, starting with ending the psychodrama of Chris Mathews, the bully and hypocrite hosting the food fight that is Hardball. Any likeminded reader and/or GE shareholder please voice your opinions to GE, NBC, MSNBC, and the blogs, and feel free to copy any of the above if helpful.

    Ernie Nounou

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