Hendrik Hertzberg: In Praise of Chris Matthews (Seriously)

On his New Yorker blog (which you should be reading if you don’t already), Hendrik Hertzberg has a fun reminiscence of his old Carter administration colleague Chris Matthews. “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,” writes Mr. Hertzberg.

After recounting some details of their White House period, Mr. Hertzberg tells what it was like editing Mr. Matthews when he was helming The New Republic:

He wrote almost as fast he talked, though he was a little weak on spelling and typing. After we got our butts kicked by Reagan, Chris wrote a few pieces for The New Republic, which I had become the editor of. Editing him was like tending a lush garden—you water, you do a lot of weeding, you get something worth admiring.

Mr. Hertzberg also offers some theories of why Mr. Matthews “went kind of haywire during the Clinton years”:

[H]e 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-élite 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.

Be sure to read all the way to the end of Mr. Hertzberg’s piece for his final thought on what Chris Matthews means for American politics and society. (Spoiler alert: It’s all good.) Hendrik Hertzberg: In Praise of Chris Matthews (Seriously)