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Media Fratricide: New York Times Give Chris Matthews’s Book a Scathing Review

(Photo by Earl Gibson III/Getty Images)

(Photo by Earl Gibson III/Getty Images)

Greg Pollowitz notes: I’m not sure this is the type of review Chris Matthews was hoping for from the Times of his new book, Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked. “It’s a nice idea for a book, if only it were true”:

“Ever since our national politics dissolved into a miasma of polarization and strident punditry — which means either the Clinton pseudoscandals or the John Adams administration, depending on your historical reference point — Washington pontificators have waxed wistful for gentler times. In the glow of nostalgia, even ideologues and scoundrels come to resemble civic-minded statesmen who put aside partisanship to broker compromises.

This romantic tendency usually makes for bad history. A few good books have mined the vein — including last year’s overlooked “The Last Great Senate: Courage and Statesmanship in Times of Crisis,” by Ira Shapiro, a former Senate aide — but Chris Matthews’s “Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked” isn’t one of them. A former speechwriter for Jimmy Carter and aide to the House speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill Jr. (one of his subjects here), Matthews is best known today as an ­MSNBC talking head — snarling head, some might say — a kind of Democratic Pat Buchanan giving voice to the resentments of the disgruntled middle class. For those familiar with his brand of confidently asserted overgeneralization, the book is about what you would expect.

The 1980 elections made Ronald Reagan the most conservative American president since before the New Deal and gave the Republicans control of the Senate for the first time since the ’50s. Protecting Social Security, the progressive tax code and other fixtures of the postwar economy fell above all to O’Neill, a corpulent, old-style, steaks-and-cigars Boston Irish pol. The conceit of “Tip and the Gipper” is that for all their ideological differences, Reagan and O’Neill liked each other enough to put politics aside at 6 o’clock — a line Matthews repeats throughout the book — and strike deals in everyone’s interest.

It’s a nice idea for a book, if only it were true.”

The rest here.

National Review Online

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