Sunday, March 23, 2014
"Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked" by Chris Matthews A Mercifully Brief Review
I think, you can literally whisper the word "bipartisanship" into Chris Matthews' ear and he will immediately smile with pavlovian expedition and make an emission in his pants. Seriously, I am not joking, the Man is Love with that very word, it evokes a Lost World full of hearty political dinosaurs of all political persuasions who somehow "stopped fighting" after six pm and became best buddies, drinking & laughing together. That, to Chris Matthews is somehow the very essence of Good Governance...It is utter nonsense but he believes it the way the Oracle of Delphi believed in the Benign Reign of Zeus the Thunderer. Which brings us to his latest book a pompous work detailing the manly bipartisan dealings between President Ronald Reagan and then US House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill in the 1980 thru 1986 period. Today's columnists tend to reflexively believe that "bipartisan solutions" are the best for The Nation as a whole and as a consequence, the Nation is Merely One Concession Away From the Eschaton. Thats an easy formulation when governance is divided between the two parties, but it also conceals the fact that from the git go one party almost always has the political edge and may agree to bipartisan solutions whilst the other usually has no choice but to negotiate. That was very much the case in 1981 thru 1986, Reagan had a few extra aces politically, a policy of engagement was the only option open to O'Neill. He'd a been much more truculent if the democrats controlled the US Senate, likewise if the Speaker's numbers were even a hair closer in the House Reagan could've have rolled him sans niceties. So this "bipartisanship" that Matthews' worships so avidly, has always been a tactical option, tied to the temporary political calculus and routinely abandoned when the winds are again favorable. It also gets trotted out in wartime and in moments of National Emergency...other than that, it is much praised and little used and for good reason, parties should only cooperate under compulsion, anything else is quite really in keeping with the true essence of democracy which is to paraphrase Rumsfeld, "messy". And it was meant to be messy by the founding fathers. Bipartisanship is NOT and never has been the natural default position of US Politics per se...and "regression to the mean" is a pretty bloody political spectacle indeed. But you can't tell that to Chris Matthews he thinks all the joshing around Reagan did with O'Neill meant something... And that is Chris Matthews' core problem he has always been a vain pompous vaguely ignorant man, very full of himself. He likes to pretend he is a liberal, if he is then he a liberal with no discernible theory of power and that makes him little more than a jobber for movement conservatism. Matthews' loved O'Neill and O'Neill's Brand of Politics back in 1982 just as he Loved George Bush Jr's Manliness in 2002 when Iraq fell...If you have No Theory of Power than almost anyone's exercise of power looks right and just and necessary.