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
“McCarthy went too far. He was probably drunk most of the time, and totally irresponsible.”
When JFK came along in 1956 he was something completely new.
“He was aristocratic, he was good looking and charming, he was well mannered and intellectual but he was one of us. He could navigate between those worlds,” Matthews says.
For the Irish of the period, good government meant WASP. Irish politicians meant the old city machine, which meant corruption. JFK helped break that mold.
“He was honest as hell, rich as hell, he was a reformer that could work with the old guys too -- they loved him. He was above us too in a way,” Matthews feels.
And what about his elusive subject? Did he love anybody? Who truly knew him?
“It’s such an interesting question,” Matthews says. “Who did he ever fall for in life? I think he fell for Inga Arvard, the former Miss Denmark, who was a total sexpot, a Scandinavian dream girl.
“I also always thought he was nuts over Mary Meyer (the American socialite, painter and former wife of the CIA official Cord Meyer). She didn’t play up to him but she was a hot ticket, she was fun and aristocratic. I think he liked her the most. He always wanted to be around her when he was really feeling terrible.
“And I always want to know who the guy loves. It reveals him. My hunch is it was her.”
Jackie Kennedy was aristocratic and had the polish that JFK craved. In his own narcissistic way, it was what he wanted to look like, Matthews believes.
“He wanted to be standing next to her. He was focused on the right shoes, the right haircut, he had his head massaged to prevent baldness, and he wanted to look good,” says Matthews.
“He was always mystified how Jackie would rise to the occasion, she would always perform better than he could imagine. The way she looked in Paris, the way she looked in Texas in that last week, she could turn on a crowd with Spanish, French. He loved the that regal part of her. There’s no doubt about it.”
What do the Irish care about more than food and sex and booze? Status, we’re all about status, Matthews contends, and he believes that JFK was no different.
“Where do you stand in the scheme of things? What seat do you have, where are you in the room? That’s what we obsess about,” he says.
Going to the mat over status was the theme of another U.S. presidential campaign over the weekend, when HBO broadcast Game Change, the film that focuses on the fall of Senator John McCain’s fortunes and the rise of Sarah Palin’s during the 2008 presidential campaign.
“I saw it three times over the weekend,” Matthews confesses. “You think I’m crazy? I saw it three times all the way through and I thought that Woody Harrelson was spectacular. He stole that film.”
In Game Change Harrelson, playing McCain’s political director Steve Schmidt, confesses that McCain can’t stop watching MSNBC, even though it’s become obvious they’re rooting for Obama.
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