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Cathy's World: Chris Matthews

By CATHERINE SEIPP   |   Nov. 21, 2001 at 1:55 PM   |   Comments

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- CNBC star Chris Matthews dropped by Beverly Hills last week to speak to the Wednesday Morning Club, a group of Hollywood conservatives that meet every month or so under the aegis of neocon pundit David Horowitz.

Since Matthews had the floor, he didn't interrupt even once. This was something of an odd experience for those used to seeing the "Hardball" host interact with guests on TV.

But Matthews did manage one of his famous snorts of derision when someone asked if, given that we now know George W. Bush would have won even if Al Gore had succeeded in completing his recount, there might be public apologies from people who insisted Bush stole the election.

"Yeah, right!" Matthews said -- or, actually, snorted. "Maxine Waters will be out there. No, I'm not counting on her, or on Carville (another snort), the Ragin' Cajun. Like my hero Churchill said, a fanatic is someone who can't change his mind and won't change the subject. All those people with 'Reelect Gore' bumper stickers, it's time to rip 'em off."

And it's a good thing Bush did win, Matthews added, considering the state of the world now. "Al Gore could have done a million hours of homework and he wouldn't have known what to do," Matthews said. "Unlike Bush, who walked into the rubble with the bullhorn. That was a sacramental moment, in my religion."

President Bush, Matthews continued, reminds him of Prince Hal -- or perhaps Falstaff -- in Shakespeare's "Henry V." "He has heard the chimes at midnight," Matthews said, referring to Bush's younger days, when he realized it was time to stop drinking and carousing. "Those of us in the recovering community ... well, I've certainly heard 'em."

"He speaks words now he has not spoken before. Anybody who knows how to find a good speechwriter is a great President. I, unfortunately, worked for Jimmy Carter, who found me, and we both suffered greatly."

"The guys who look good today," Matthews added, "are the executives. The ones who don't are the lawmakers. They're like the kids in the car: 'When are we gonna get there! I'm hungry! I'm tired!'"

Matthews has been making the rounds lately pushing his new book, "Now, Let Me Tell You What I Really Think," a slim, loosely strung together collection of random thoughts and autobiographical stories. Matthews observes in the book that his penchant for interrupting might be partly because he was raised in a family of six brothers.

"We had to eat fast in order to get second helpings, and talk fast in order to get anyone to listen," he writes.

My favorite chapter is devoted to Matthews' hero, Winston Churchill. The TV host neatly recaps the highlights of the great man's life, and brings up a Churchill quote I hadn't heard before and which is particularly relevant right now: "If Hitler invaded hell, I would make at least a favorable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons."

Matthews is regularly excoriated by the Left for his conservative views, which are probably more accurately described as non-liberal.

He began his career as a speechwriter and aide to President Jimmy Carter, and also worked for former House Speaker Tip O'Neill in the '80s.

Nor is he one of those conservatives who can be counted on to round up the usual Hollywood suspects for bashing. Wednesday Morning Club member Pat Boone asked Matthews what he thought of the accumulation of violent shows like HBO's "The Sopranos," which glamorizes gangsters, and "filthy" Comedy Central specials like the recent Hugh Hefner roast.

Boone may have been disappointed by Matthews' answer.

"It's not an accumulation," Matthews said of today's hugely varied TV fare. "It's a judgment based on distilling. Out of all that comes your own eclectic take. Despite what I know about Aaron Sorkin, I identify with the staffers on 'The West Wing.' Just being in the White House is such a wonderful thing. I really think that's what Sorkin stumbled into, literally."

"And I love Tony Soprano," Matthews continued. "I just love the guy. He's a middle-aged guy trying to hold the family together -- his daughter doesn't even talk to him -- I know that scene. I don't want my kids watching it as a preparatory lesson in life, but if you're 55 years old and you want a little company, you want Tony Soprano to hold your hand, I think it's great."

About life after Sept. 11, Matthews noted that one good thing is the death of the '90s, money-crazed culture. "That value system is gone," he said. "Now we're celebrating the firemen, instead of one more story about Donald Trump."

"But we have to get into a war of eradication here, like taking Tokyo," he continued. "If we don't, it'll come back to haunt us, and you'll have no national morale left. It's a very working class idea: If someone kills a member of your family, we go back and get them. I just think you gotta deal with this stuff, and I think the American people have risen to the occasion."

On the other hand, Matthews noted, that whole trading off one's working class background is sometimes a bit overdone these days. He pointed out that the real question is not where you went to college, but where you went to high school.

"Bill O'Reilly went to Chaminade, an upper middle class high school," Matthews said, referring to his fellow TV pundit, who also has a new book out. "He talks about his rough upbringing, but that's the same school the president of NBC went to."

© 2001 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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