Against all of our better instincts, we found ourselves kind of loving Chris Matthews in the Times Magazine’s profile of him, which came out today because the paper published it into the future in that weird way that they do. We’ve never much gone for Matthews boyish wonkiness, but Mark Leibovich showed us the error of our ways by exposing the — at times strangely vulnerable — man behind the forelock.
Leibovich’s version of Chris Matthews is sincere to the point of being childlike: “He will, at times, bounce in his seat like a Ritalin-deprived second-grader,” he writes. Matthews idolizes colleague Tim Russert (even though Russert may actually kind of hate him) and tends to repeat his best lines “suggesting a speaker who feels insufficiently listened to.” Aw. At one point, he becomes mesmerized by his own image on the screen: “Hey, there I am — it’s me,” he says. “It’s me.” He also utterly lacks a filter, as exemplified by this interaction with the actress and Obama supporter Kerry Washington, whom MSNBC head Phil Griffin invites on Hardball at an event.
“I know why he wants you on,” Matthews said to Washington while looking at Griffin. At which point Matthews did something he rarely does. He paused. He seemed actually to be considering what he was about to say. He might even have been editing himself, which is anything but a natural act for him. He was grimacing. I imagined a little superego hamster racing against a speeding treadmill inside Matthews’s skull, until the superego hamster was overrun and the pause ended.
“He wants you on because you’re beautiful,” Matthews said. “And because you’re black.” He handed Washington a business card and told her to call anytime “if you ever want to hang out with Chris Matthews.”
Places like Media Matters will doubtless point out this interaction as further evidence of Matthews’s demeaning attitude toward women, but they’d be missing the point. Matthews is a sexist in the same benign way your grandfather is, but at least he tells the truth.
The Aria of Chris Matthews [NYTM]