MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on JFK, HBO’s Game Change and the GOP race
Hardball host on his recently published book on John F. Kennedy
In his recently published book JACK KENNEDY: ELUSIVE HERO, top MSNBC host and author Chris Matthews goes in search of President John F. Kennedy, the man who has fascinated him all his life. And on his long-running show Hardball, Matthews searches for solutions to modern-day issues. CAHIR O’DOHERTY talks to the proud Irish American about Kennedy and the current crop of politicians vying for power.
What was he like? Who did he love? Did he ever actually love anyone?
The provocative questions that MSNBC host and author Chris Matthews asks about the 35th president, John F. Kennedy, go much deeper than what he did and where he went throughout his storied career.
Matthews conjures the era and its anxieties with the authenticity of someone who lived through them and has remained fascinated by them -- and by JFK -- his entire life.
At the peak of the Cold War, Matthews reminds us in his highly accessible new book, JFK saved the United States from an impending nuclear war.
But how did he do it? What prepared him to become the leader the country needed?
Matthews’s book, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero (Simon & Schuster), is the result of a lifelong quest to make sense of the Irish American leader his wife Jacqueline Kennedy called “that unforgettable, elusive man.”
“I did an earlier book on Kennedy and Nixon back in 1996, and that kind of set up the scaffolding for a lot of this particular history,” Matthews, 66, told the Irish Voice during a lengthy interview this week.
“But then I really started getting this sense of responsibility about it.”
When asked why he wrote his latest book, Matthews replies there were several compelling reasons.
“The first reason,” he says, referencing the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald and the Irish impulse to commemorate fallen chieftains simultaneously, “was that like Nick Caraway in The Great Gatsby, I wanted to get people to attend the funeral but nobody would come. I felt it was my responsibility to get somebody. I didn’t want to let it fade.”
The next impulse was his fascination with the level of loyalty that Kennedy inspired in those around him, particularly men.
“What is it about the regard guys had for him I wondered? Men to men, they would follow him into the battle. The fealty to the skipper.”
Matthews pauses for a moment and adds, “Leadership is different from celebrity. It’s a statement that seems to draw a line between the past and present.”
Starting out, Matthews had a simple premise -- who is this guy? The answers he got from those who knew him were tantalizing but unsatisfactory: “He was just great. He was just wonderful. He could be cold, he could be careless, but oh he was something.”
What Matthews discovered early on was that Kennedy was a romantic individual in one sense; he was someone that myths could easily grow up around. It’s one of the reasons women loved him.
“Women lost all sense of responsibility around him. They fell before him. There was one young woman called Mimi Fahnestock who fell for him and she said what everyone else did – ‘I’d do it all again.’”
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