Chris Matthews on “Tip and the Gipper” and political compromise: ‘They had to make it work’

October 17, 2013

Another theory on the government shutdown, this one from Chris Matthews: Maybe the protagonists were just too young to make a deal.


Ronald Reagan and Thomas “Tip” O’Neill stand during a Budget Summit on Capitol Hill in 1982. (James K. W. Atherton / The Washington Post)

The MSNBC host spent the past 18 months obsessing about political leadership while writing “Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked,” a study of the relationship between Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Tip O’Neill.

“The Irish thing helped, but I think the most important thing between these guys and the reason it worked is they were both in their 70s,” Matthews said at his book party Tuesday. “For them, it was the big act as well as the final act, and they knew they couldn’t put it off with speeches and talk and positioning and crap. They had to make it work.”

That’s a different mindset from the today’s young Turks (Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, Eric Cantor ) who have years and years to make their mark — and less reason to reach across the aisle.

The book cover of MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews' newest book, "Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked" (Kris Connor/MSNBC) The book cover of MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews’ newest book, “Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked” (Kris Connor/MSNBC)

Is there a luckier author in Washington? Matthew’s perfectly-timed seventh book came out on the first day of the government shutdown; the party at P.J. Clarke’s happened to be scheduled for the night Senate elders put the final touches on a compromise deal.

The idea for the book began six years ago, when Matthews — who worked as a top aide to O’Neill in the 1980’s— spoke at the Reagan Library. He drew from Reagan’s diaries, the Speaker’s press conferences, newspaper clips, and a personal journal he kept while working on the Hill.

Much has been written about Reagan and O’Neill’s after-hours friendship. Matthews focused more on their “cordial and fighting” relationship: Despite differences, the two men respected each other as worthy opponents; Matthews describes them as “two great sluggers going at it and both looking good after the fight.” The men also shared a WWII-era respect for authority: “Tip was always, ‘Mr. President’ and Reagan was incredibly respectful of congress — and always understood that it was a co-equal branch,” he said. “Much more than Obama.”

On hand for the party: Three of O’Neill’s children (Susan, Rosemary and Kip, plus granddaughters), newly engaged couple Alex Wagner and Sam Kass, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Sen. Ed Markey, former RNC chair Michael Steele, and a large contingent of Matthew’s media colleagues.


The Tip O’Neill family: starting on the left is son Christopher Richard “Kip”; daughter Susan; granddaughters Leah, Catlin, Abby; and daughter Rosemary, pose with Chris Matthews. (Kris Connor/MSNBC)

 

More Reliable Source:

Harry Belafonte’s fight with Martin Luther King’s estate goes to court
Madame Ambassador: The growing power of women diplomats in Washington
Hillary Clinton gets parking tickets, too
Quoted: Rielle Hunter apologizes, plugs new book
Giuliana Rancic headlines breast cancer fundraiser — in a casino

Continue reading
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Lifestyle

lifestyle

reliable-source

Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters