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
“I recall how proud we all were of Kennedy, and I can only imagine how proud black people are of
Obama. To know your kid growing up, when they take them down to Independence Hall and they show them those old guys, kids have a totally different view of that now,” says Matthews.
“Before it was just the same white guy from 1776 to 2008. Now the boss is black. It’s just different. It’s got to have an impact on kids with ambition. It’s a totally different world.”
The lesson that Kennedy left us with is the importance of public service. Running for office should still be an aspiration for the brightest and best among us.
“I think we had a hero for a president. The courage he had in war when he dived into the water with gasoline burning all around him, saving the life of Paddy McMahon, is the same guy that got us through the Cuban missile crisis.”
Kennedy was willing to learn the business of politics. If young people today are not encouraged to do likewise we will have a real problem -- we will have the dregs running the country, Matthews concludes.
“We have to encourage young people like Bill Clinton and Jack Kennedy to be ambitious in politics. The sadness of this campaign season is the weakness of the Republican field,” Matthews feels.
“This group of replacements we’re looking at. They’re not leaders of today. They’re just used-to-be’s. People have seen how dangerous and unrewarding politics can be today. It’s narrowed it down to people with money, or extremists. We have a deficiency of ambition. We have too few Bill Clintons.”
Matthews is remarkable among commentators in the sense that he can dispassionately evaluate the candidate he’s looking at, a vanishing skill on the nightly news.
“I get along with Rick Santorum and I like him when I see him even though the things he says areoutrageous,” he says.
“I get along with Newt Gingrich because we both have a background in the House of
Representatives. And Romney is a man of business.”
Matthews suddenly laughs uproariously at the image that has come into his head.
“He reminds me of one of those guys in A Christmas Carol. The way that Romney presents himself is so 1950s. I do notice they seem to be a different vintage. They just come from a different direction to most of us now.”
In his own way Matthews has remained as elusive as his famous subject. Predicting his outlook or his private opinions is an impossible task.
It’s the key to his success as a commentator, and it’s what makes his study of Kennedy such a compelling read.
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