Frank Rich Blasts Chris Matthews for 'Man-Crush' JFK Biography

November 21st, 2011 9:34 AM

The day after MSNBC's Chris Matthews tore into Barack Obama for having "the worst kind of a notion of the presidency," New York magazine's Frank Rich blasted the Hardball host for publishing a "man-crush of a biography" about the late John F. Kennedy (emphasis added):

The prime movers of the traditional, more uplifting take on the Kennedy legacy are boomers who were young and present in real time for JFK’s brief shining moment. This fast-aging generation accounts for all three books this fall—Caroline Kennedy’s belated release of her mother’s taped 1964 reminiscences with an obsequious Arthur Schlesinger Jr., of course, but also Chris Matthews’s man-crush of a biography, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero, and Stephen King’s Moby-Dick-size novel 11/22/63. [...]

Matthews’s hagiography tries mightily to dramatize JFK’s greatness in office but focuses more convincingly on the refreshing vigor the stylish young president brought to a culture emerging from the buttoned-down conformity of the fifties. Echoing Norman Mailer’s influential 1960 Esquire valentine to JFK, “Superman Comes to the Supermarket,” Matthews sees his idol as a Technicolor movie star who supplanted the black-and-white politicians of the postwar Truman-Eisenhower era. “He had the deep orange-brown suntan of a ski instructor” was the way Mailer put it a half-century ago, “and when he smiled at the crowd his teeth were amazingly white and clearly visible at a distance of fifty yards.” But as for what the star accomplished at center stage, Matthews mainly relies on one unassailable feat, Kennedy’s steely prevention of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. “In the time of our greatest peril, at the moment of ultimate judgment,” Matthews concludes, JFK “kept the smile from being stricken from the planet.”

What's interesting here is all the focus on the Kennedy assassination all of a sudden. As Tuesday marks the 48th anniversary, why all the attention now given the 50th is two years away?

Isn't that more of a landmark event?

Or is this really more about Obama than Kennedy and the idea that folks like Matthews and Rich see the much ballyhooed return to Camelot fading away just as the fictional town does at the end of the show for those that are familiar with it?

People like Matthews and Rich were part of the liberal elite that helped convince the nation that Obama was the second-coming of Kennedy - if not King Arthur!

As this has now become more of a nightmare than a dream given the current White House resident's poll numbers as well as right track-wrong track national sentiment, are they now missing the 35th president so much because of their frustration with the 44th?

Or are they trying to con the nation again into four more years of an illusion they still cling to despite the tragedy before their eyes?