Episode 125, with guest Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball”

Chris Matthews is our guest this week.
Show produced by Katherine Caperton.
Original Air Date: November 2, 2013 on SiriusXM “POTUS” Channel 124.
PoliOptics airs on POTUS on Saturdays at 8 am, 4 pm and midnight and on Sundays at 12 noon and midnight.
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This week we consider Tip and the Gipper, the new book by Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s Hardball.

As we scratch our heads at dysfunction in today’s Washington — yes, Leibo, we mean This Town — and muse on the intellectual circles that Barack Obama and John Beohner try to run around each other, we tend to wax nostalgic for a simpler time, when the president talked only from 3×5 cards and the House Speaker fed the daily TV appetite with grunts barked from his car as he made his way to the Capitol.

And yet, if you believe many accounts, Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill made it work. They fought like dogs, they swore a lot, they hued to their political pedigree, but they respected each other’s office and each other’s power. And, when quitting time came (6 p.m. on opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue in those days), they laid down their arms and put politics aside, Ronnie and Tip, clinked glasses, lit up cigars (Tip mostly) and told Irish tales. A polioptic vision of bonhomie.

True or not? There have been some folks who question the image of a time “when politics worked,” who say it’s a myth engineered to stir discontent with our current leaders. But Chris Matthews doesn’t, and he was there.

Now the host of MSNBC’s Hardball and the author of a slew of books including, most recently, Jack Kennedy, Elusive Hero, Chris was a young speechwriter for Jimmy Carter who, through ambition and patience – and good mentoring by the the legendary Kirk O’Donnell – made his way to the front lines of the 1980s political donnybrook as an aide to the House Speaker, the man from North Cambridge, Tip O’Neill.

Chris may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he occupies a special niche among the hosts of modern cable shows: he actually lived the life of the young aides so often the focus of that niche. For my generation of ex-White House and ex-Hill Aides, that gives him credibility. One generation before us, Chris was scrapping for the same opportunities that we found with Bill Clinton. While many of us veered from public service into law, lobbying or PR, Chris became a storyteller across many mediums, using his experience to draw tangents to American history before and the American present we’re living through today.

In a wide-ranging, hourlong conversation with Chris, we had a chance to hear many tales — from the Reagan-Tip era, and before and after — directly from the storyteller himself. Enjoy.

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