Matthews Engages at IOP

“Hardball” host, praising Obama, calls for a more international president

Unnamed photo
Peter R. Raymond

MSNBC Pundit Chris Matthews discussed the upcoming presidential election and U.S. government at the JFK Jr. Forum at the IOP last night.

Political pundit and cable news host Chris Matthews opened his speech at the Institute of Politics Forum last night by making an admission.

“I am here to make something of a confession,” Matthews said. “Television is limited in the way it can tell the political story of our time.”

The host of MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” went on to “confess” the media’s propensity to focus only on the hot story of the day—the “ring of fire”—as well as his views on the current administration and the upcoming presidential race.

Matthews spoke about the American people’s desire for change and the impact that it has had on election politics.

“Americans generally don’t say this is as good as it gets,” Matthews said. “We’re not European. We don’t just accept the way things are. We always try something new.”

He described the U.S. as a “dynamic, sometimes charismatic country,” citing historical examples—such as the transition from Hoover to Roosevelt in 1932 and Carter to Reagan in 1980—as times when the country underwent “great change.”

Looking toward this fall’s election, Matthews spoke of the need for the next president to be more curious about the international community.

“We need to elect a president who has been a student of the world and is a student of the world,” Matthews said.

Praising Barack Obama throughout his speech, Matthews said the Illinois Democrat is a symbol of the positive change that he believe the country needs.

Matthews’ exuberance—marked by his characteristic interruptions of audience members’ questions—kept his listeners laughing.

“I thought [Matthews] was engaging and the excitement was palpable in the audience,” said Harvard Kennedy School student Taufiq Z. Rahim. “It was interesting to see a political pundit like him in many ways gush about a political candidate.”

When asked by another audience member how he would respond to the claim that MSNBC officially supports Obama, Matthews responded with typical Hardball wit, “Well, it’s not official.”

Matthews had a long history of involvement in politics before he launched his career as a commentator.

Im 1974, he lost the Democratic Party’s nomination for a U.S. House seat in his native Pennsylvania, and served as four years as a speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter. Later, he spent a half decade as a top aide to Democratic Speaker of the House Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, Jr. of Massachusetts.

—Staff writer Lindsay P. Tanne can be reached at ltanne@fas.harvard.edu.