In an interview with Mediaite Tuesday evening, at an MSNBC book party to promote Matthews’ new tome, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero, Hardball host Chris Matthews talked about how his book applies to current politics, and had some harsh criticisms for President Obama. Contrasting the President with the Kennedy brand of back-room loyalty brokering, Matthews said that President Obama “should be recruiting an army.”
I got to yesterday’s book party an hour and a half early, so I was able to dive into the middle of Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero, beginning with the chapter entitled “Hardball” that I’d heard Matthews talk about on his show. The book, aided by never-before-seen research materials, is an absorbing read, and that chapter interested me particularly for its resonance to current politics. I was stunned by the similarity of Kennedy-era wholesale politics to the chummy horsetrading I’ve seen the past few years. Matthews’ book shrinks the larger-than-life Kennedy saga down to a compelling, close-quartered immediacy.
Tuesday night was the first time I’d met Chris Matthews, and if I didn’t know better, there’s no way I would believe the guy is 65 years old. If caffeine and cocaine were to have a baby, it would grow up to be Chris Matthews. He worked the party non-stop for hours, rarely sitting, and after all of that, still had the energy to barely let me get a word in edgewise.
We talked about the back-room politicking in that chapter, and Matthews sharply criticized President Obama for failing to develop those kinds of relationships, for not talking to Democratic senators, and for “sending everybody home” after the 2008 election. “He doesn’t have anybody on his side because he doesn’t spend time recruiting an army,” Matthews said. “He needs troops.”
Matthews also talked, briefly, about Mitt Romney, whom he won’t quite declare the eventual nominee, as he’s not ready to count out Herman Cain. “He’s got problems that he has to deal with, but if he can offer up some persuasive damage control…”
Much of that depends on how the story comes out, though, Matthews noted. “What is the worst case? He tried to use his power over an employee for sex? If that’s true, he’s got big problems. If it turns out he told a joke? I think people are very practical about these things. I don’t think it’s disqualifying.”
Here’s the balance of our interview:
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