If I ever knew that Chris Matthews' brother Jim Matthews is the Republican candidate for Lt. Governor of Pennsylvania, I had forgotten. Chris manifestly has not, and on this evening's Hardball peevishly berated a Republican guest who had the temerity to remind him of that fact.
After interviewing Dem Congressman Jack Murtha, Matthews had Murtha's Republican challenger Diana Irey on as a guest. Before getting into substance, Matthews testily alluded to the fact that Irey's campaign manager had sent Matthews a press release with proposed questions for Murtha. First on the list:
"How hard is it for you knowing that Jim Matthews just appeared two days ago with your opponent Diana Irey to cut the ribbon at her volunteer HQ in your hometown of Johnstown?"
Matthews lit into Irey over what the Hardball host clearly took as an affront:
- "What relevance is that to anything here on this show?"
- "What's the purpose of this question, to intimidate [Murtha] or what?"
- "Do you think it was right for you to have your flack bring this up as part of a set-up for an interview with you?"
- And then, flashing some real anger: "I love my brother. I don't need to be reminded he's the Republican candidate for Lt. Gov. in Pennsylvania."
Irey good-naturedly took Matthews' barbs in smiling stride.
Then, with a preview of the condescension that was later to reveal itself, Matthews said: "Let's move on to the substantive, grown-up stuff." Translation: this was a kid-stuff move on your part.
At the end of the interview, Irey, describing Iraqi children who regularly displayed their appreciation to US soldiers, expressed optimism for Iraq's future.
Retorted Matthews "I appreciate your coming on. You're a very delightful challenger." Very delightful? Code for 'young and attractive if not quite a heavyweight'? You sensed that it was only the fact that they were in different studios that prevented Matthews from patting Irey's hand. He ended by schooling his guest: "Let me tell you something. 50,000 Iraqis have been killed since we went in there. I don't think there's going to be a lot of flowers in there when we leave."
Had a conservative host treated a liberal woman candidate with the same condescending paternalism, NOW would have had a picket line organized before the show was over.
Finkelstein lives in the liberal haven of Ithaca, NY, where he hosts 'Right Angle,' the award-winning public-access TV show. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org