MSNBC commentator shares political views
After his interview with President Barack Obama, Chris Matthews believes the problem with the current White House administration is its lack of accountability.
“We can’t even figure out who to blame, that’s how bad it is,” Matthews said. “If you believe in government, you have the job of making it work.”
Matthews, a nationally syndicated political commentator who has hosted “Hardball With Chris Matthews” for the last 16 years, offered his opinions on a variety of contemporary political issues last night as part of the Eagleton Institute of Politics’ Civic Engagement Series.
The discussion followed a conversational format as Ruth Mandel, the director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics, talked to Matthews in front of a full audience in the Douglass Campus Center.
The institute brought in Matthews and the other speakers in the series to describe the ways in which America can generate civil discourse about contemporary issues of great significance, according to a pamphlet handed out at the event.
Matthews frequently bantered with the audience and drew laughter on several occasions.
“I didn’t change my opinion [on Hillary Clinton],” he told Mandel at one point. “You just weren’t paying attention.”
When Matthews mentioned Gov. Chris Christie, Mandel asked if he had ever met him. He paused and gave a simple response.
“Yup,” he said. “I know my audience,” he added when the crowd had finished clapping.
He did not say whether he personally supports Christie, but acknowledged Christie’s appeal to working-class people like his extended family, who live in South Jersey.
“People are so sick of phony politicians, like most politicians are,” Matthews said.
MSNBC, which is generally thought to be a left-leaning television network, airs Matthews’ show. But he said political leadership rouses him from all people in all forms.
“I’m a very emotional person,” he said. “I respond to leadership and guts when it comes.”
When pressed on where such guidance can be found in contemporary politics, he mentioned Secretary of State John Kerry’s negotiations with Iran to end the Iranians’ nuclear program.
If Iran obtains nuclear weapons, Matthews said, the United States would have to work with Israel to eliminate the silos, causing problems that resonate for decades. But no treaty with Israel can work unless Arabs are willing to try other Arabs for crimes against Jews, he said.
“Right now there’s no chance [for peace],” he said. “There’s not Arab leader who will say, ‘If some Arab across the border blows up somebody … I’m going to kill that person.’ That’s justice.”
Elected officials have always cared about who gets the credit for getting something done, Matthews said. Even during the presidency of Richard Nixon, Ted Kennedy, a champion for universal health care, killed a bill that would have required employers to provide health care for their workers.
“There’s not a lot of kindness to be seen,” he said.
The only issue Matthews brought up without prompting was that of voter suppression, which he believes is fundamentally designed to marginalize the minority.
He said 36 states, all of which are Republican, have measures on the books that make it more difficult for people to vote.
Many laws require people to show photo identification in order to vote, but it is normal for people in neighborhoods like his native Philadelphia suburb to not have driver’s licenses.
“The party of Lincoln screwing minorities out of the vote?” he said. “Come on. Make a better case.”
Young people, he said, do not vote in significant numbers because they do not go to the community centers their parents usually go to vote. He wants students to get interested in civics and politics from a young age, and advocates instilling local pride in schoolchildren.
“Politics is serious business — a mix of passion and knowledge,” Mandel said.
Matthews said he is interested to see what Cory Booker is capable of as the newest U.S. Senator acclimates to his first weeks in office.
“There are some good people in politics,” he said. “I don’t want to knock it.”
Michael Guggenheim attended because he had a strong prior interest in politics and Matthews himself.
“He is very insightful on some of the issues, but even when he isn’t insightful he’s always entertaining,” said Guggenheim, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. “I wanted to enjoy the unique advantage of Rutgers having a well-known media personality come and speak.”