Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

October 4, 2007

“Life’s a Campaign” Reaction to Jon Stewart’s Interview With Chris Matthews

Filed under: culture, media — Tags: , — codesmithy @ 8:30 am

Rawstory has video and a story of Chris Matthews being interviewed by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show.

I thought the interview was great on a number of levels. First, it displayed two philosophies of life. On one hand, Matthews espouses the idea that success is finite. The most important things in life are to get that good job, marry that beautiful woman, or obtain political office. It is a consumerist agenda: more, bigger, better, faster. Stewart points out that there has to running theme to your life, or a soul: be good, be competent, do the best you can. It is good to strive to do great things, but life is about the journey, not the destination. We are all ultimately destined to be dead and our bodies recycled. All glory is fleeting. It is hard to believe Chris Matthews would be unfamiliar with themes like those in the film Napoleon Dynamite, and so unprepared to address them.

Stewart’s mild critique was one thing. Matthews’ over reaction to the criticism was another. Stewart may have compared Matthews’ book to “The Prince,” but it was Matthews who agreed with that comparison and added that his book was “better.” Matthews’ head long offensive at the end of the interview was also surprising. It is a hardball tactic with Matthews trying to establish his dominant male position again. Matthews accused Stewart that he was afraid of his book and by implication effeminate. It is unclear whether Matthews understood the heart of Stewart’s criticism at any deeper level than Stewart wasn’t saying positive things about it and therefore Stewart was “trashing” it.

What I feel was the nail in Matthews’ coffin is how he lauded Bill Clinton. Matthews was clearly demonstrating his envy. Some people suggested that Matthews was trying to bring up the specter of Clinton’s sex scandals. I disagree, for Matthews I think it was legitimate praise in his mind. I believe Matthews is sexually frustrated which is sometimes played out on Hardball when he has to interact with women: whether it be a creepy exchange with Erin Burnett, fawns over Laura Ingraham, calls Judy Miller a hero or his overall deference to all things Ann Coulter. Matthews clearly wants to emphasize two aspects to this 1) bedding women, 2) really listening to people. What he doesn’t seem to get is that by connecting the two, it makes the listening part seem disingenuous, since Clinton appears to be listening to women for ulterior motives. I’m sure Matthews would defend himself by charging that isn’t what he was trying to say. However, trying to untangle the two is a Herculean task and it is probably better to make your point in another way. One where the results are more selfless and the conflict of interest doesn’t arise. For example, maybe explaining how Clinton listens to his staff during a campaign meeting.

As an author and a political observer, Matthews is clearly drawn to strategy, which is probably why Stewart’s reading would make him think Matthews was emphasizing the strategy over the values. I’m sure Matthews isn’t even remotely aware of his bias. Everyone has blind-spots to their character.

Overall, it is a great interview. It is probably more enlightening than the book itself, and the interview is more likely to have more of a positive impact on the culture also.

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