Tears Of A Clown

by digby

“I don’t think people look at me as the establishment, do you?” Matthews asked me. “Am I part of the winner’s circle in American life? I don’t think so.”

I just read the Chris Matthews feature in the NY Times magazine that Media Bistro teased yesterday. I don't know if it's an accurate portrayal of Matthews or not but if it is he is even more of a cartoon character in real life than he is on his show. He fulfills every single Village media cliche: obsessive social climbing, deep personal insecurity, primitively sexist and racist and just plain dumb. It's so bad that I almost felt sorry for him by the end of it. In fact, it's so relentlessly damning it feels like piling on -- and nobody hates this guy more than I do.

What really cracks me up in the article is the extent to which people who are just as bad as he is in their own ways try to distance themselves from him. Just as bad are those who go out on a limb to praise him --- because he's so good for them. He does have a TV show, after all, which makes him very important no matter how ridiculous he is:

Matthews is clearly an acquired taste, and some of his most devoted followers are Washington media figures and politicians. “The things people complain about I actually like,” says Roger Simon, the chief political columnist for the Politico news Web site and an occasional guest on “Hardball.” “His interruptions are invariably a reaction to something you just said, which indicates that he is, in fact, listening.” Simon calls Matthews “a major political force” whose shows are closely monitored by campaigns and journalists. “I know when I go on the show, I get comments, I get e-mails,” Simon told me. “He drives conversations.”

Never say that journalists think the story is all about them.

Not that that quote is typical of the reaction inside NBC. According to this article, he is loathed and despised by virtually everyone at the network, or at a minimum, an object of ridicule. This I consider to be a bit much, since NBC is hardly a bastion of responsible journalism with or without Matthews.

Tim Russert, for instance, is made to look positively statesmanlike in contrast to crazy Chris, for the single most shameful episode in his career: the Scooter Libby business. Please, if there is one time in his whole damned career that Matthews accidentally did some journalism it was when he intuited that Libby and Cheney were in the middle of the Plame scandal. Russert folded like a fading begonia when Scooter called him to give him what for and he was forced to admit under oath that he automatically puts all conversations with important people on background without them even asking. That's how he builds 'trust." With them. Not us.

The article is interesting. Matthews is a clown. But we knew that. He is apparently deeply uncool and out of fashion among the kewl kidz, which has an upside: he may lose his show. But we also know that he isn't particularly unique. All the usual suspects go on the various NBC shows, the Finemans, the Simons, the Milbanks, and they recycle the same insider conventional wisdom all day long to each other and to their audience. They are happy to appear with Matthews and validate his ravings. Simon admits it right up front, although he's so lacking in self-awareness he doesn't even know what he's saying.

Matthews may be the most ridiculously transparent of the Village idiots and scribes, but he is far from unique. The story isn't him, it's the sick culture that has nurtured him and allows people like him to flourish.