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HE MARRIED JOAN! Matthews ridiculed Wolf and Gore—and won Joan Walsh’s approval: // link // print // previous // next //

SISTER SUPERIOR: Honest to God, there’s no one like Collins! Today, for roughly the three millionth time, she starts her column rolling her eyes at the thought of watching a presidential debate. Snide and superior, above-it-all always, Collins sneers down from Olympus:
COLLINS (11/15/07): I’m sure you are excited about the big presidential candidate debate tonight. Nothing in the previous 25 dramatic clashes of the political titans this season can come close to it. Although we did like that moment when Dennis Kucinich revealed that he had spied a U.F.O. at Shirley MacLaine’s house.
And of course, the requisite mocking of Dennis Kucinich, who “revealed” his (irrelevant, 25-year-old) experience when he was asked about it, by consummate pool boy Tim Russert. Russert wasted time with this for one reason only: It was a great way to ridicule Dennis. And when you front a multimillionaire press corps, mocking a guy like Dennis Kucinich is just good solid clean fun.

Russert wanted to mock the Dem. Collins is here to reward him today, politely recreating what happened. But this is the way the game will be played when your “press corps” is a gang of sneering Antoinettes, typing from Versailles’ lavish ballrooms.

By the way, Collins doesn’t much care for John Edwards either. You can tell when they start up with the “rabid/feral” animal stuff:
COLLINS: Something weird is going on with John Edwards, who was cheerfulness incarnate when four years ago he was the moderate-Southerner-who-can-speak-to-the-Reagan-Democrats. Then he morphed into a sorrowful populist who thought we should vote for him because he cared the most about the poor. Now he’s running around like a rabid gerbil, telling people he should be president because he’s the angriest. Soon, he’s going to run out of adjectives to embody.
It made us think of the first Gore-Bradley debate, almost exactly eight years ago.
“Gore arrived on stage like some sort of feral animal who had been locked in a small cage,” Jacob Weisberg thoughtfully wrote at Slate. “Upon release, he began to scamper furiously in every direction at once.” Two nights later, David Brooks borrowed the image on the NewsHour: “Somebody compared [Gore] to an animal that has been caged up and they let him loose,” he said.

Yep! When they start saying you’re feral or rabid, you know their patience has begun to wear thin. Somewhere, Sally Bedell Smith is purring softly as she frowns at your very gauche affect.

Of course, Collins also got in her licks after that remarkable Gore-Bradley debate—the one where the press corps jeered and hissed at Gore, then invented astounding Group Stories about how horrifically bad he had been. (Back in reality, New Hampshire Dems scored the evening a draw, Gallup later said.) In her column, the queenly columnist ridiculed Gore because he’d asked a mother with a sick child how old her child was. (She was five.) Darlings, that was just funny to Collins back then. Because she’s such a pure Antoinette, it would still be a joke to her now.

Special report: Profiles discouraged!

BE SURE TO READ EACH THRILLING INSTALLMENT: For unknown reasons, you’ve never seen a profile of Chris Matthews which even dimly captures his conduct. Why have our “liberal” journals slept? Read each thrilling installment:
PART 1: The most remarkable fact about Matthews is the fact that he never gets profiled. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/12/07.

PART 2: Eight years ago, just like today, Matthews was selecting your candidate. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/13/07.

PART 3: Matthews’ loathing of women was clear—even way back then. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/14/07.
Today, Matthews trashes Wolf and Gore—and wins Joan Walsh’s approval.

PART 4—HE MARRIED JOAN: It’s simply amazing, to see how long the liberal world has put up with Chris Matthews’ misconduct. In the past few weeks, Jack Welch’s best boy has been at it again, trashing the Democratic front-runner—he hates the way she claps her hands!—just as he did eight years ago, when he endlessly trashed the man who is now the Nobel Peace Prize holder. Eight years ago, just like today, he was trashing the Dem front-runner hard, in the nuttiest ways imaginable (Gore had bubbles coming out of his forehead! He would lick the bathroom floor to be president!), and he continued his trashing of Candidate Gore until we had Bush in the White House. Meanwhile, his loathing of women has long been plain, along with his endless gender obsessions. In short, Matthews is a pile of throwback impulses—mixed with an unvarnished loathing of Dems. Here’s how he described the party at the start of this year. Jimmy Carter sat captive in the audience:
MATTHEWS (1/21/07): You know, I thought one of the smart things President Carter did as a candidate...was, every time President Carter won a primary, instead of standing on a platform with a bunch of sweaty, yelling people—you know, the scene with the Democratic Party usually, a bunch of crazy people yelling—and you had to have the full potpourri of Democrats present on that stage or someone would be ticked at you—you would meet in a hotel room and it was amazing. You’d sit down one-on-one, it was a unilateral, with some anchor or reporter, a serious reporter. And every time you saw a primary, you’d stay up till 11:30 to see who won, and you’d see the president, the candidate, sitting there very calmly talking about the future of the country.
In that passage, you see the way the plutocrat throwback views the Democratic Party. By the way, those sweaty, crazy yelling people are minorities—and they’re working people. To this day, Big Liberal Journalists can’t seem to say this is wrong.

Yep! Our liberal leaders have always accepted Matthews’ conduct—even as they serve as guests on his frequently crackpot program. In the past decade, we have never seen a profile of Matthews which even begins to capture his conduct—his rabid trashing of Major Dems, his Archie Bunker-like tone towards women. Eight years ago this very week, Matthews was trashing the Dem front-runner in the nuttiest ways a person could conjure—and now, eight years later, he’s doing the same. But nothing ever inspires liberal editors to tell their readers about his misconduct. Nothing inspires them to get off their *sses and work on your behalf.

This is especially striking coming from female editors. Just consider Matthews’ conduct eight years ago this very week, when his cohort was trashing Candidate Gore by way of a nasty, month-long sexual sliming of Naomi Wolf.

It’s hard to describe the trashing of Wolf in a single post. In our view, it was the most remarkable episode in Campaign 2000—an astounding event which ought to go down as a lasting embarrassment to the conduct of American political discourse. For a reasonably comprehensive account of this affair, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/10/03, with links to our full, five-part report. (Since liberal journals have never discussed this episode, you may still believe all the bull it was built on.) But Matthews’ active role in this ugly trashing—eight years ago this very week—should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever watched him perform on his crackpot program.

Needless to say, Matthews threw himself, heart and soul, into the sliming of Wolf. On the first night of the frenzy, he dragged out smutty conservative Christina Hoff Sommers, hoping she could enlighten the public about Gore’s deeply troubling adviser. (Two years earlier, Wolf had been praised for her “remarkably prescient” advice to the 1996 Clinton campaign. Her husband was a Clinton speech-writer.) And Hardball scored an instant success: Prodded by Matthews’ schoolboy questions, Sommers introduced the bogus notion that Wolf “has very detailed programs on how a woman can get in touch with her inner slut.” No such phrase exists in Wolf’s work; the characterization is both cosmically nasty and cosmically stupid. (As usual, it had started with Maureen Dowd, hiss-spitting back in 1997.) But soon, this claim was rocketing around the press corps. Score one for Matthews’ work.

Matthews, of course, would play the fool about Wolf for the next several weeks. He told his viagra joke three separate times, and he told his joke about “Hi, I’m Albert, I’ll be your waiter” on five different Hardball programs. He said Gore “doesn’t have his gender straight,” and that Wolf “sounds like Monica Lewinsky” with all her “Valley Girl talk.” (Wolf—a 37-year-old former Rhodes Scholar—had written three best-sellers, two of which had been selected as New York Times “Notable Books of the Year.” But so what? The press was involved in creating a set of tortured, Wolf-as-Lewinsky comparisons—and Matthews was playing his part.) He brought on the always disturbed Pat Caddell to say there’s “something else weird going on here...a weird relationship somewhere here where the wife, or the daughter—I don't know what.” (Speaking with Caddell, Matthews referred to Wolf, a former guest on his show, as “that woman with all the hair.”) He invited the crackpot Gordon Liddy to come on and trash Wolf—and he used the occasion to trash Gore’s vile gender confusion again. (“Can we believe Al Gore growing into this protean new person,” Matthews asked, “this new today's man-woman, whatever the hell he's trying to become?”) He persistently played the rube, saying that he just didn’t understand the difference between alpha and beta males. Indeed, more than three weeks into this nonsense, he dragged his wife on the show to take part in this dumb, tired game. She feigned stupidity too, discussing the troubling topic:
CHRIS MATTHEWS (11/24/99): Do women like alpha males or beta males, Kathy? Do they like leaders or—or Ed McMahons?

KATHLEEN MATTHEWS: I'm really kind of confused. I don't even know what these alpha and beta males are.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well, I'll give you an example. Johnny Carson was an alpha male. And Ed McMahon was a beta.

KATHLEEN MATTHEWS: What are you, Chris? Are you an alpha male or a beta male?

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well, I'm asking you.

KATHLEEN MATTHEWS: What do you think, David [Gergen]? Is he an alpha male or a beta male?

GERGEN: I think he's an alpha male squared.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you, do women like guys who play number two for eight years or is—or do women think he's a wimp, Gore?
More than three weeks into this consummate nonsense, the tiny crackpot was asking his wife if women think Gore is a wimp. (Needless to say, he constantly tickled the keys of the corps’ favorite meme—Al Gore doesn’t know who he is.) Throughout this period, he played carefully-chosen clips of Wolf’s 1997 appearance on Hardball, when she had discussed her superlative book, Promiscuities—a book about the unholy sexual demands placed on young women (and sometimes, on young men). When he did, he would play the reluctant prude, as in this stupid example:
MATTHEWS (11/4/99): OK. Let's get to the side—sidebar of this and—I'm a little queazy about this subject, but that makes it more, all the more interesting. Here's what Naomi Wolf apparently believes about young women and sex in today's society.

WOLF (videotape): Today, all girls growing up know that they're bombarded with what I was bombarded with—a culture that says, “Do it. Do it younger. Do it better. Compete with pornography. Compete with Penthouse.” But still says nothing about girl's natural, strong, confusing sexual feelings and still calls them “sluts” for even having them. What we're telling girls is that they should be sexually available, but not sexually in charge of themselves. And this leads to a disastrous situation.

MATTHEWS: Morgan Fairchild, this is right up your ally.


FAIRCHILD: Oh, thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: I assume that what she's saying here—this is what the vice president is paying $15,000 a month to hear from that woman with all the hair.
Of course, that wasn’t what Gore was paying to hear, but there was no time to bother with that. And of course, in the midst of this withering Autumn of Love, we got the ludicrous conversation with Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, in which Matthews, troubled by Gore’s three-button suits: 1) wondered if there was “some hidden Freudian deal here;” 2) asked what Gore’s three-button suits “could possibly be saying to women voters;” and 3) compared Gore to Peter Pan—and to a randy sailor. For a chunk of that addled discussion, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/9/07.

For the record, Matthews’ trashing of Gore continued into the year 2000. When Pew did its study of how the press was covering Bush and Gore in the spring of 2000, it reported an astounding tilt in Bush’s favor—and Pew went out of its way to cite Hardball as the largest single source of negative commentary about Gore. And for those of us who still haven’t heard: This is how Bush ended up in the White House! And yet we have never seen a profile, in any “liberal” journal, that even begins to explore this matter, or its many near-relatives. And sure enough! In the past three weeks, Matthews has started conducting himself toward the current Dem front-runner exactly as he did toward Gore. But then, his notion of Dems was spelled out in January. Dems are “a bunch of sweaty, yelling people...a bunch of crazy people yelling.”

In the face of this history—in the face of the dead and dying souls of Iraq—it’s hard to be polite about Joan Walsh, who appears as a regular guest on Hardball, and who has never commissioned a serious profile of Matthews for her “liberal” magazine, Salon. Who offers pandering comments like this, in the face of the past ten years’ history. Note the date—she said this in January:
WALSH (1/24/07): I happen to love Matthews on "Hardball." He is what he is, an old-school political junkie, an insider's insider who was wrong about impeachment but right about the Iraq war, who likes his men tough and his ladies pretty, and doesn't bother to hide it. He can get silly with women guests, but never sillier than when he's fawning over manly men. (I'll never forget the way, after savaging Vice President Al Gore through the whole 2000 campaign, he lost it over Gore's sad, dignified concession speech when Antonin Scalia made George W. Bush president, gushing over Gore's “sublime masculinity.”)
In the face of the lost souls of Iraq, it’s astounding to think that a liberal editor was still describing Matthews, in January of this year, in the manner Walsh did here: As someone “who was wrong about impeachment but right about the Iraq war.” In that striking formulation, Matthews’ two-year war against Candidate Gore—the war which put George Bush in the White House—goes straight down the memory hole, exactly where it has been sent by people like Walsh since the time when they sat around and let it move forward. In her assessment, Walsh acknowledges the fact that Matthews spent two years “savaging” Candidate Gore (“through the whole 2000 campaign”); incredibly, she just doesn’t think it’s worth including as part of Matthews’ basic history. (Would any conservative who ever drew breath roll over and play dead this way?) To Walsh, Matthews got one call right and another call wrong—and she happens to love him on the show! The two-year savaging which put Bush where he is? To this day, it’s not important enough to make the main part of the story!

For the record, Walsh had guested on Hardball only two times when that kiss-kiss letter was written. Starting in July of this year, she has become a regular guest on the program. Surely, everyone understands that these facts are completely unconnected—and that none of this could possibly explain the failure to profile Matthews’ work. But coincidences of this type sometimes seem to animate a great deal of present-day “liberal” journalism. They’ll give you excellent policy work, but when it comes to the titans driving your mainstream press corps—well, if we were to paraphrase their work, it would go like this: Kiss kiss kiss kiss.

Small hint: Matthews felt free to trash Clinton for clapping her hands because he was allowed to do it to Gore. But don’t worry! When President Rudy starts the next war, Joan will be there, guesting on Hardball, helping us see that it’s wrong, oh so dreadful.

THE DAY GORE CONCEDED: Good Lord, old links can be killers. On the day Gore conceded in December 2000, Walsh was quick to say it was all for the best. Gore could never have brought us together! She trashed Gore’s two-year effort from stem to stern—and never said a word about the work of the mainstream press corps. (She led her piece with remarks about Matthews—but failed to say that he’d spent two years “savaging” Candidate Gore.)

But she did have modest hopes for Bush! Here’s a chunk of what she said in that remarkable post:
WALSH (12/14/00): Gore simply does not have the charisma, the power, the emotional reach to heal the partisan divide right now. Despite his history of bipartisanship in the Senate, he's become a hectoring, polarizing figure. He might have shown us unexpected greatness as president, worked bipartisan magic we couldn't predict. But the Al Gore who has campaigned since last year—the guy who marshaled teams of lawyers this last five weeks but never mobilized the American people behind his just election contest—was not likely to have succeeded in the shrill and hate-filled Washington that would have greeted his election.

Will Bush? It's doubtful. But if he's serious about reaching out to Democrats, as he has in Texas, maybe. Bush has one other thing on his side: the charm and charisma of a one-time loser—a guy who, for all his silver-spoon advantage, fought to be more than his family's black sheep, struggled with alcohol and addiction, and is actually most likable when talking to the down and out.
Gore was polarizing! And Bush? He had the charm and charisma! Today, Walsh happens to love Matthews on Hardball, where he likes his ladies pretty.

Let us repeat what we’ve told you all week. You have never seen a published profile of Matthews that ever begins to explore his past misconduct. Result? He spent last week insulting your intelligence—and trashing the current Dem front-runner—because he knows it will be allowed. Always has been—always will be. Allowed with Gore. Allowed now.

Luckily, we have Joan Walsh—and Katrina vanden Heuvel—serving as occasional guests on Hardball, where they help us understand everything about modern politics except the way the White House gets lost. We hope the celebrity makes it worthwhile. So do the dead of Iraq.

WE WERE SURPRISED WAY BACK THEN: In 2003, we tried to help. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/20/03 and 2/21/03.