updated 10/8/2007 10:53:49 AM ET 2007-10-08T14:53:49

Guest: Chris Matthews

TIM RUSSERT, HOST:  You watch him every night on MSNBC when he plays “HARDBALL,” on Sunday mornings with “THE CHRIS MATTHEWS SHOW”.  And now his new book, “Life’s a Campaign: What Politics Has Taught Me About Friendship, Rivalry, Reputation, and Success”.

And he is our guest, author Chris Matthews.


RUSSERT:  Welcome.

MATTHEWS:  Timothy, it’s great to be here.

RUSSERT:  It is...

MATTHEWS:  And I want to know your review before this is over.  I want to hear the whole thing, because you’ve read it all.  I know you did.

RUSSERT:  Life is a Campaign”.  Is it ever.


RUSSERT:  You start off with friendship, and it’s interesting.  Whatever gets you in the game—I love these bottom lines at the end of the chapter.


RUSSERT:  And you say, “Whatever your ambition, you can’t win unless you’re in the game.  If you want to be a lawyer, go to any law school you can get in.  Same with medicine.  If you want to make movies, find a way to break in.”

“The people who show up get the chance.  Get it.  To win the contest, you first have to be a contestant.”

MATTHEWS:  I know.  I tell that to every kid coming out of college.  I say, “Don’t expect to walk into the white shoe law firm out of Yale Law.”

Some people will do that, but the F. Lee Baileys of this world, the really good lawyers, the trial lawyers, they come from everywhere.  Get into law school.  Get it over with.  Get the union card, and you get out there and try and do your stuff.

And also, some people—Michael Ovitz is a great example in Hollywood.  He made—he once bragged to me, “I put 70 movies together, big movies together.”  He started driving a tram out at the Universal lot.  He’s one of the guys that took you on the tours, but that’s how he made his connections.

RUSSERT:  I flew into an airport one time, and this kid driving a taxi jumped out of the cab and said, “I’ll do anything.”  Just give me a shot at NBC.  I’ll work for nothing—I’ll run—I’ll do whatever you want to do.  Just give me a chance.

I said, “Come on.”  “No, give me a shot.”  Just get your foot in the door.

MATTHEWS:  Well, my first job I write about in the book is a cop.  I’m walking around Capitol Hill carrying a .38 Special.  I’ve got my Marty Milner costume on, my police uniform on.

I’m not a fully-trained police officer, but I know what my job is.  And that was my first job, because I went to see—knocking on doors, and a guy says, “We’ll hire you, but you’ve got to work in the office during the daytime and you’ve got to work as a cop at night.  That’s the only salary slot we’ve got.”

So I said, “OK.”  I did that for free months, then I had the real job I wanted, a legislative assistant.  But I couldn’t have gotten that job as a legislative assistant—I didn’t have any contacts or any connections—unless I had taken that entry job.

RUSSERT:  This is for United States Senate.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Unbelievable.  I was a cop.  And I had to guard—I wrote about it in the book.  I’m guarding these papers.

Now, I didn’t know what they were at the time.  It’s 1971 and I had just gotten back from the Peace Corps.  And I’m sitting outside of one of these great old Senate backrooms in the Capitol building and I’ve got my gun.  And in that room were papers I understand that are very important.

They were the Pentagon papers.  But the thing is, that already ran in “The New York Times” and “The Washington Post”.  And I’m guarding them with my life and my gun.  And I said that was a great entry into Washington.  You know, here’s a guy guarding this with his life and they’ve already been published.

RUSSERT:  Senator Mike Gravel, now running for president.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, he was there.

RUSSERT:  He was the man who leaked those papers.

MATTHEWS:  I asked him the other day—I said, “Where have you been...”—on the show I said, “Where have you been for the last 37 years?”  And he said, “Hiding under a rock.”

That was Gravel.  He’s something else, that guy.

RUSSERT:  Chapter two, “Not Everyone is Going to Like You.”

MATTHEWS:  Oh, it’s brutal.  I mean, the Clintons—you know, Bill Clinton is a mixed bag, as everybody knows.  But the great thing about Clinton is, I remember him up in New Hampshire, where he’d be—he had already gotten in trouble over the draft problem, having written a letter—and ABC broke that story.  And yet, he couldn’t get on the television set, he couldn’t talk to reporters like us, because all they’d ask him about is the draft letter.

So what did he do?  He went walking door to door carry video cassettes of his campaign pitch.  And you know what?  Because he said, I have to get around the media.  I have to go directly to the voter.  I can’t have a filter.  And we went along and covered him doing it.

He knew a lot of people didn’t like him.  He always knows that.  But the great thing about Clinton is he says, OK, half the country isn’t going to like me.  I can run this country with half.

Politicians recognize every day they get up—and they can teach us this—if you’re a Republican, you can count on 40 percent of the people not voting for you every single time you run.  If you run five terms, they’re going to vote against you.  And I think they teach us a lesson—opposition comes with the game.

RUSSERT:  Then you write, “Not everyone is going to like me.”

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I went through this.  I had a top aide to a senator who came in, he was competing with the guy who hired me.  He dumped me out of there as fast as he got control of the place.

Of course, I came back with a new way to come (ph) in.  So I went through the ringer there with this guy, and I think it happens all the time.  You’ve got to be careful who you’re dealing with and recognize some people are going to get in your way.  And the key thing is to beat them.

RUSSERT:  Did you write this, Chris, to help people navigate?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I’m writing this for my kids.  I mean, you know, Bill Cosby once said, “The first rich kids I ever met were my own.” 

A lot of kids have advantages, you know.  Ours do, too.  Our kids have advantages.

But, you know, the kid out there who goes to Penn State, who doesn’t have any connections, I’m saying to him in this book, OK, you don’t have any connections.  You don’t even know me.  You don’t know anybody.  Get the entry level job, get to know people. 

My mom always said, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.  Well, I would say to my late mom, it’s not who you know—who’d you get to know?  Who do you get to know?

You got to get out there and get to know people.  And that’s what I’ll say to people who don’t have any breaks.

By the way, most people we know made it.  You made it without a lot of breaks.  People make it without breaks.

Bill Clinton didn’t get many breaks.  He made it his own way.

RUSSERT:  Reading this first couple of chapters reminded me so much of my own dad.  He had a wonderful expression—“You can’t recover the fumble unless you’re on the field.  Get out there.”

And it just focuses you.  If you’re hurt, suck it up.  Just get out there and play.  It’s going to come your way.  That ball’s going to bounce out.

You  may not be the best athlete, the highest jumper, the fastest runner.  But if you’re on the field, you’re going to be able to take advantage of the circumstance.

MATTHEWS:  I like this story of—I grew up in Philly, Northeast Philly, and there’s a neighborhood—I always wanted to live in a housing development even though we had a separate house.  I just liked the kids who lived in housing developments.

We called them projects.  They weren’t really projects, because you had a friends on that street.

Well, everybody played ball at Lumar Park (ph).  And there was a basketball court there, like everywhere.  And the older kids would be playing at 4:00 in the afternoon.  They owned the court for a couple of hours in the afternoon.  But inevitably, one of them had to go home.

I had this brain thing in my head about this.  And the kid who gets in the game when the older kid has to go home to dinner is the kid standing at the side of the court and throwing the ball back in. 

So you’d see a lot of kids in every kind of neighborhood, poor, middle class.  There’s always some kid standing on the side of the court, a little kid, who throws the ball back in when the other guys let it go out of bounds.  And inevitably, somebody yells to the little kid, “Hey, Punk, you want to play?”  You know, even at the side. 

That’s the punk you’ve got to be.  You’ve got to be the guy on the side of the court when they fire somebody, right, or somebody moves on to a better job and they look around—you know how these people hire people in our business—who’s around?  Who’s around?  Who do we know?

RUSSERT:  Get the ball boy.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Get that guy.  He’s here.

It’s not the guy that’s thinking about it at home and dreaming of the job.  It’s not the one with all the ambition out there.  It’s the guy that grabbed you that day.  But if that kid were smart, he’d get an entry level job and be there.

RUSSERT:  Daniel Patrick Moynahan, the great politician, the great scholar, Albany, New York, he worked for Averell Harriman, who was the governor.


RUSSERT:  One of the reporters said, “I knew Pat when he was Averell Harriman’s coat hanger.”  He used to hold his coat.

MATTHEWS:  Really?

RUSSERT:  That’s how he started and broke in, but it was an opening and a pathway and he took full advantage of it.

We’re going to take a quick break.

We’re talking to Chris Matthews.  His new book, Life’s a Campaign”.

We’ll be right back.


RUSSERT:  And we’re back. 

Chris Matthews of “HARDBALL” fame has a new book, “Life’s a Campaign”.

You write, “The person who hires you is your number one stockholder.”


RUSSERT:  Investing in you.

MATTHEWS:  That’s right.  And I say that when somebody hires you when you’re 23, when you’re 40 they’re still rooting for you because they made a bet on you and they want to see you make it, because they made an investment.

The same with campaign contributors.  If you give a guy five hundred bucks, you’re the most likely guy to give them a thousand a couple of years later, because you made an investment.  It’s so important in life.

RUSSERT:  This one I particularly enjoyed.  “The best gift you can give a stranger is an audience.”  Now this is Chris Matthews.

MATTHEWS:  I know.  Of all people.

RUSSERT:  And you’re telling...

MATTHEWS:  I know.

RUSSERT:  In “Life’s a Campaign,” you’re saying, you’ve got to listen.

Chris, when do you listen?

MATTHEWS:  It’s hard.  I’m trying right now, Tim.  It’s so hard.

I say to myself, don’t interrupt, and then I do.  And yet I know that the most effective political people that I really learn from are great listeners.

I talk in the book how Clinton used to get girls that way.  He would just listen to them.

I thought, drink some beer, brag about yourself, that’s how you get girls to like you.  This guy was much better at it.  He had a much better batting average than I did.

Clinton believed that the way to win a person’s love, to be a seducer, is to simply listen to them—you know, I can hear his words, like, “I never heard it so poetic.”  You know, “You’re so beautiful the way you put it together, the way your words come together.”

I can hear him.

Well, he went to a friend of his when he was a Rhodes Scholar.  The friend was trying to win the girl, his love.  He wasn’t trying to pick somebody up, he was in love with this woman.

He says, “What do I do to win this girl?”  And Bill Clinton said, “Did you ever try listening?  They like it.  It’s flattering to listen.”

And he taught it to Hillary, the number one pupil, the listening tour.  Hillary Clinton’s a much better politician than she was when she was a know it all back in the health care days.

Now she’s—when she wouldn’t even listen to doctors and nurses.  Today I think she has learned—and I don’t think it’s a pretense.  I think Hillary is a much better listener now than she ever was.

RUSSERT:  I have seen politicians go around Iowa and New Hampshire and very effectively go into a small room and say, “Tell me your story.”  And everybody hushes.  And this person tells them, tells the politician what’s on their mind, what’s...


RUSSERT:  It’s so effective.

MATTHEWS:  If it’s real.

RUSSERT:  If it’s real.

MATTHEWS:  I don’t think you can fake it.  I think—I once met George Bush Sr., who’s very good at this, the former president, the first President Bush, and it was one of those days back in the early part of the Bush administration.  He was inviting press people to the White House with him.  And he saw groups they’d put together.

They’d go to the movies with him and have dinner upstairs, a buffet, and then go to the movies together downstairs.  And my mom and dad were in town and I didn’t want to ditch them.  I said, “Mom and dad are in town.”

So I wrote to a friend of ours who knew somebody in the White House and I said, “Look, believe it or not, my parents are in town that night and I’m not going to ditch them to go to the White House.  Can they come?”

And Bush said, “Sure, they can bring their parents.”  So my dad and mom were there, and they’re both gone now, but the president comes up and says something to my dad about us all being Democrats.  And I said—because he had known I had worked for Tip O’Neill.  I said, “Actually, Mr. President, excuse me.  Our whole family’s Republican, I think, except for me.”

And he goes, “What happened to you?” 

Now, I thought that was just sort of small talk.  Three months later, I’m in the Roosevelt Room doing a Hearst interview with the president.  There’s about 10 of us there.  And I thought he had completely forgotten the conversation.  And he comes all the way around that long table they had in there and comes over to me and he goes, “So, has your died changed your mind about things?”

So, I mean, I think he’s—George Bush Sr., great listener.  And I look at the way he put together the first Gulf war with his personal relationships with Mubarak and (INAUDIBLE) and Mulroney and these Saudi leaders.  This president knew a lot of people personally before he got into war and he had a lot of allies because of it.

He didn’t go it alone like this younger President Bush has done.  He didn’t have to go to war alone because of those friendships.

RUSSERT:  So if this becomes a bestseller, this will be the knew you, the great listener?

MATTHEWS:  I’ll read it.


RUSSERT:  But will you practice it?

MATTHEWS:  I try.  I try, Tim.  You’re much better at this than me.

I do—on the Sunday show I’m a better listener.  On the weekday show, it’s a little more pugnacious.

I have people on the show who are not exactly objective.  They have to be challenged.  I try not to take them down, but when I hear them say something that’s just factually wrong, I challenge them on the spot.

Yes, there is some interruptions, but I do listen.  You know the old Irish expression, “Listen with your tongue”?  I think I do that.

RUSSERT:  “Up beats down.”

MATTHEWS:  Oh yes.

RUSSERT:  “Optimism sells.  You can try this one at home.  Tell someone close to you that you’re in fact feeling positive about some family worry.  Don’t just hope for good health, happiness and all the rest.  Get out there and root for it.”

MATTHEWS:  Absolutely.  If you think about the phone calls you always want, the ones that come at 10:30 at night, a quarter to 11:00, twenty after 11:00, there’s some phone calls you always want.

The guys that call up and say, yes, guess what?  I just did this—or guess what?  This guy’s a no good bastard or something—but it’s fun.  The guy’s got a mood going for him.

And then the people who call you up, they’ve always got problems and they’re downbeat.  You know, I always ask myself, if I were lucky to get a free trip to Australia, which I’ve always wanted to go to, 13 hours on the plane, who do I want sitting next to me the whole plane ride?  Do I want a happy person who’s thrilled with life, who’s got good stories to tell and maybe gets up out of their seat and runs around the plane saying hello—I don’t care.

I don’t want somebody next to me who’s worried about the plane crashing.  I don’t want somebody who’s miserable.  And I think that’s how we pick our presidents, because not only are they our leaders, they’re our company.

If we pick Hillary, for example—and she’s doing very well in this race—we’ll have her for four or eight years as our company on television every day.  And if we pick someone else like Rudy, yes, sort of in your head you go, who’s going to wear on me the most?  Who’s going to really bug me after a while?  And who am I going to really feel comfortable—people felt very comfortable with Ronald Reagan, whatever you thought about his politics.

They liked him being in the White House.  It made them feel good.

Jack Kennedy made us feel good as long as he was there.

Eisenhower made us feel good.

Company—being good company usually means being—and by the way, speaking of politics, every campaign slogan and song we grew up with—we didn’t grow up with this, but we remember “Happy Days Are Here Again” was Roosevelt’s.  Happy days are here.  I’m going to get rid of prohibition, we’re going to have fun.

“High Hopes,” the Frank Sinatra song that Kennedy had rewritten for him.

“Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow,” the Clinton song.

I think people always—this campaign song—have you noticed this campaign season there’s no darn song.  Where are the songs?  Where’s the upbeat?  Where’s the inspiration?

Hillary doesn’t have a song yet.  Rudy—I can’t believe what Rudy’s is going to be, maybe “My Way”.  I mean. I think we need that and I think that people like it.  And that’s one thing I learned from politics, is up beats down.

RUSSERT:  Another quick break.

“Life’s a Campaign” is the book.  Chris Matthews is the author and our guest.

We’ll be right back.


RUSSERT:  And we’re back talking to Chris Matthews.  His new book, “Life’s a Campaign”.

“Ask.  Don’t be afraid to ask people.”

MATTHEWS:  Right, it’s everything.  You know, people think self-reliance is great.  It never works.

If you want to get into school, if you want to get a job, if you want a promotion, if you want someone to invest in your business, it’s all about making the sale.  And everybody who’s been in business knows this—you’ve got to ask in the end for the deal.

And I think that young people especially need to know that the trick to getting a job is not having an ambition.  It’s going and knocking on the door, getting a meeting and asking for the job.  And I think asking—politicians are good at this.

You know what politicians do?  You’ve seen this.  They’ll call up a guy and say, “Can you give me $50,000?  Can you give me $100,000?”  And that person they make that deal with is indebted to them.  It doesn’t work the other way around.

The most valuable asset in politics is a contributors list, the list of people who have given to you in the past, because everybody wants to double down.  Everybody that gives to you, even in a small way, ends up giving to you more.

That’s why everybody in this election is watching the contributions, because it says, if you gave to Obama, you’ll give to him again.  If you gave to Hillary, you’ll give to her again.

And I’ve learned in politics that that creates a bond.  And I didn’t discover this.  Do you know who did?  Machiavelli.

Five hundred years ago in Florence he discovered that at the end of the year-long siege where the people of a principality had their flocks, their herds stolen, butchered, they had their fields burnt, and they were hiding in the walls of the city with the prince, at the end of that year of misery they were more loyal to the prince than they were at the beginning of the year.  And it’s like having a troubled kid, a troubling kid.  You’re more loyal to that kid that anybody.

It’s like having a secretary of the old school who’s loyal to her boss for 30 years.  She’s more loyal to the boss than he’ll ever be to her.

The more you give to somebody, the more you invest in them, the more loyal to them.  Politicians understand this.  That’s why they’re quite able to go say, vote for me, give me money, work for me for years as a volunteer.

Politicians teach me all the time the value of asking.

RUSSERT:  I’ll put these next few chapters together.

“Don’t Call Just When You Need Something”  And “People Don’t Mind Being Used, They Mind Being Discarded.”

MATTHEWS:  That’s so true. 

Well, let me start with the last one.  If there are any women watching, they know what it’s like that men really don’t know what it’s like.

You get a date with a guy because he takes the initiative.  And then he doesn’t call again.  He calls once.

He doesn’t call back or write you notes saying, “That was a great dinner we had together.  I hope we can do it again sometime.”

Discarding people—it’s why Rudy Giuliani understands the importance of funerals.  He said everybody likes to go to a wedding, but funerals are important.  Because if you got to a funeral, you’ve really said to the family, I’m loyal to you to the end.

And everybody who’s done this, who’s had a death in their family, you never forget who came to the funeral for your parents.  And of course in the back of your mind you don’t like to dwell on it.  You remember who didn’t come.

If you have a wedding in your family and you invite your best friend and they say, well, I really can’t make it, I’ve got to do something, you remember they—you don’t want to hear that.  You want to hear that they showed up.

And so I think that in terms of relationships, people know that we use each other, we ask each other favors.  We actually do use each other in terms of help in life.  But we want to show—we want to get that respect afterwards. 

And it’s true of dating.  It’s true of life.  It’s true of everything.  You don’t want to be discarded.

I learned this from a guy I was in the Peace Corps with, John Catten (ph).  He’s from Pittsburgh.  He used to say this about girls.  He’d say, “People don’t mind being used, they mind being discarded.”

And as for the other part of the rule, if you’re going to ask somebody for a favor, the best thing to do is cultivate that relationship ahead of time.  You know?  As Harvey McCay says, “Don’t dig the well when you’re thirsty.  Dig the well before you’re thirsty.”

RUSSERT:  George C. O’Connell (ph), former city comptroller of Buffalo, New York, the best wake-goer in the city.  He would go to six or seven wakes a night, and every family remembered it.  And no matter what you said about George O’Connell (ph), he was there when our families needed him.

MATTHEWS:  You do a lot of—let me tell you another example.  You do a lot of graduations for colleges.  I know you do a lot of Catholic colleges especially.

I tell you, the thing I like about doing—and I haven’t done as many—is the parents remember that you showed up for their kids’ big day.  You didn’t take away from the kids’ big day, you helped their big day.

They remember that you were there to help them mark something that they paid for, they worked for, the kid worked for.  And you helped them celebrate that achievement.

That is so powerful a bond with people.  I always say to myself, I’ve got to go to some city I’ve never been to before, spend much of the day with people I don’t really know, but I know that in the end what’s left is that mark.

When you go to Villanova or somewhere else, at the end of that day, that’s not the end of that relationship.  Years later, decades later, when you’re dying, they remember, oh, yes, Tim Russert was here for my kids’ graduation.  It means so much.  It’s a bond.

RUSSERT:  Dreams are important to people.  And fulfilling them is magical.


RUSSERT:  And the idea that their son or daughter is going to be a college graduate, when many of them never had a chance to get out of high school...

MATTHEWS:  At the cost to them of $150,000.

RUSSERT:  It’s their life.

MATTHEWS:  After taxes.  They have put—they have put more into that kid than they have at any house they’ve ever owned.  Their house isn’t worth that kind of money, a lot of them.

Huge amounts of money that people put into these kids today in terms of higher education.  You’re right.  And that’s the day they get to celebrate it.  The one day.

RUSSERT:  And the lesson of politics, Chris Matthews, whether it was Philadelphia or Boston or New York, the so-called ward healers, the reason they stayed in power is because they delivered services and gave help to people who needed it.  There was no great mystery.

MATTHEWS:  I know.  Tip, who I worked for all those years, Tip used to read this poem which I can never remember, but it’s “Around the corner I have a friend in this world that has no end.” 

And he talks about this guy who was his old buddy.  They used to hang around when they were in their 20s.  And he said to himself—it’s kind of a black (ph) Irish thing.  He says, “You know, I haven’t kept up with him lately, but I know he knows I’m his friend.”

And then he gets the telegram he died that day, and that’s what you get in the end, a vanished friend.  And the argument there—it’s kind of a black (ph) Irish thing, but the argument is, if you have a friend, keep up with them.  Call them up once in a while.

It’s the hardest thing after a year or two when you haven’t been together.  Call that guy up and say, “What do you hear?”  That’s all you’ve got to do.

Then the ice is broken.  You’re friends again.

It’s the best lesson of politics, is to keep in touch.

Tip’s biggest putdown over the years was, “Haven’t seen him around lately.”  That was the biggest putdown.  In other words, the guy’s not checking in, he’s not part of the scene.  “Haven’t seen him around lately.”

RUSSERT:  Or, “He only knows my number when he needs something.”

MATTHEWS:  Well, that’s another thing.

Lobbyists on Capitol Hill, we know, a good lobbyist is not somebody who calls you up all sweaty, “I need this bill passed.”  A good lobbyist in the old days, when you could do this, would say, “You know, the vacation’s coming up for you guys.  Why don’t you and our wives get together and have some dinner?  No big deal.  We’ll go to a little Italian place.”

That’s the best lobbyist.

RUSSERT:  Another quick break.

“Life’s a Campaign,” Chris Matthews. 

A lot more right after this.


RUSSERT:  And we’re back.

You watch Chris Matthews on “HARDBALL” and on the Sunday morning “CHRIS MATTHEWS SHOW”.  He has a new book, “Life’s a Campaign: What Politics Has Taught Me About Friendship, Rivalry, Reputation, and Success”.

The second component of your book is rivalry. 

“Grin When You Fight”?

MATTHEWS:  I love this one.  I said it was my favorite thing I’ve ever learned from politics, is the willingness when you’re up against at a zero sum game like these guys --  imagine two guys have a shot to be president, only one’s going to be president.  The other one’s going to be (INAUDIBLE).  And yet, the best of them, like Jack Kennedy, would just laugh their butt off at Nixon, just have so much fun doing it.

He’d enjoy it.

RUSSERT:  He would read the negative things that Nixon said about him.

MATTHEWS:  Can you beat that?

I mean, he’d say, “He called me an ‘ignoramus’.  He called me a (INAUDIBLE).”

“Lyndon says he called him and, I said, ‘No, he called me that.’”  He’s like fighting an imaginary fight with his running mate about who’s calling who what and laughing at it.

The beauty of that, Tim, is that after that little performance, he could walk up to Nixon, who he was very friendly with in the old days, and say, what do you think of that?  And they’d laugh about it, because it’s so good.  It’s so smart.

But also—I mean, I got this from my little fight with Zell Miller, you know, way back in...

RUSSERT:  The duel.

MATTHEWS:  The duel where Zell was going crazy.  And I had producers in my ears saying, “Savor it.  Let it stretch out.”

Of course, those guys just wanted to keep the fight going.  But they also understood what I understand now, which is enjoy it.  Don’t get hot and sweaty.  The other guy’s getting hot and sweaty.

When I look back at the tapes, I’m laughing my butt off and Zell Miller’s getting crazier.  And who wins?  The guy laughing.

I guess that’s what Hillary Clinton’s doing lately.  I’m not sure how to read her mind, but when Chris Wallace or Bob Schieffer asks her a question, I don’t think she cackled at you when you had her on, but that seems to be some sort of reaction she does now when she’s under pressure, which doesn’t hurt, I don’t think.

RUSSERT:  Is the focus on her cackle fair?

MATTHEWS:  Yes, because we’re looking at Hillary, her cackle.  We’re looking right now at Rudy’s cell phone calls from Judith.

I think at this stage at the campaign for president, we’re past the first act.  We know who the frontrunners are.  And the scrutiny’s on.  Let’s face it.

We’re looking at the frontrunners in a way we wouldn’t look at a guy three rows back.  No.  Of course it’s fair.

RUSSERT:  I remember all the focus on Al Gore in the debates about his sign.


RUSSERT:  And these kinds of issues that are sometimes used by journalists as a way to create or continue a story line.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it’s what we call, I think, a permission slip to get into the bigger question . But to those who say the press caused Al Gore to lose that very heartbreaking election, where he did win the popular vote, I would go back to the polling that was taken two or three weeks before—in the two or three week period before those debates over a sustained period of time, like a month.

Look at the Gallup poll.  Al Gore going into those three debates with President Bush was significantly ahead three or four points.  When he came out of those three debates, when everybody in the county, 100 million people a night, saw those debates and made their own judgment about Al Gore and George Bush, he was three points behind.

Those debates were critical.  And that’s when people saw the unfiltered Al Gore and they made up their minds.

I would argue that.

RUSSERT:  And yet in those debates we heard George W. Bush say that we’d be a humble nation, we wouldn’t be involved in nation-building.

Quite striking.

MATTHEWS:  That led a lot of people—let me say this, that led a lot of people to vote for him.  They regretted it later, because that’s not what we’ve gotten.

RUSSERT:  It is Winston Churchill who said, “I like a man who grins when he fights.”

I remember watching Hubert Humphrey, the great happy warrior.  And this guy in the crowd was letting him have it, screaming and yelling, and Humphrey looked up and said, “Hey, buddy, I’ve got two words for you, and they’re not happy motoring.”

And the place just went crazy.  It was...

MATTHEWS:  Good for him.

RUSSERT:  ... in a humorous, fun way.


RUSSERT:  Everyone got the message.  He threw a shot back at the guy, but he did it in a way...

MATTHEWS:  It was great.

RUSSERT:  ... that the crowd could embrace.

Our politics now seems so sterile...

MATTHEWS:  I know.

RUSSERT:  ... so methodical.  Where are the personalities?

MATTHEWS:  I love it when, like, LaGuardia was mayor of New York.  When he made a mistake, he’d say, “When I make a mistake it’s a beaut.”

I mean, just lay it right out there.  People love that. 

You know, I heard—you know this great writer now—I don’t know if you had him on yet—Drew Westen, who wrote “The Political Mind”.  He said people don’t mind a politician taking any position except the fetal position.

Take a position.  Pro-war, anti-war, somewhere in the middle, but don’t go hiding with the polling.  Don’t hide somewhere.

And I thought that was a pretty good line about—he was explaining why Jim Webb in a conservative state like Virginia did well in the Senate race, is that people like a guy who stood somewhere.

RUSSERT:  I remember when they said that Jack Kennedy—you know, “If it’s an Army-Navy game, Mr. President, you’re the commander in chief...”  He said, “I’m a Navy guy.”  I’m a Navy guy.  I’m for Navy.

MATTHEWS:  That’s right.  Well, that’s one of the rules of life, which is loyalty.

Back in the old days when I worked on the Hill and people would say—Tip O’Neill, for example, who I was working for, would always take sides with Rostenkowski against anybody else.  And I thought, well, that’s probably not smart.  But it is, because in the end, people want to know you’re loyal to your friends.  And even the people who aren’t your friends get it.

Nancy Pelosi, the new speaker, I’ve watched her.  People gave her a lot of trouble about fighting for Jack Murtha for majority leader.  But Murtha helped her to get that job.  He was her campaign manager.

And everybody noticed Nancy looked out for Jack.  And that works in politics.

If you want a loyal person, even if they’re not loyal to you, you believe in it.

RUSSERT:  “No One’s Ever Late for an Execution”.

MATTHEWS:  That’s brutal.  It’s brutal.  It’s this city we work in.

This city, I was here during Watergate and there was an electricity in this city.  I remember driving past the White House, when you could still do it before 9/11.  You could blow your horn over Nixon to quit. 

This city really likes a public hanging.  This city really does.  This is tough.

And when you get into these situations like Clinton was in, in ‘98, it’s riveting.  And you don’t want to be on the wrong side of it, that’s for sure.

RUSSERT:  I like this one: “Attack From a Defensive Position”.


RUSSERT:  You would think attacking on offense.  Explain.

MATTHEWS:  Let me give you a vivid example.

Jimmy Carter, back in the debates with Ronald Reagan—and I worked for Carter.  Carter thought he had a hard time taking on Reagan because Reagan had no recent record.  He hadn’t been in politics for a while when he ran for president.  He was a radio commentator.

So Carter went way back to his record in the early ‘60s and said, back in the early ‘60s, you were taking the American Medical Association’s position against Medicare.  And what Reagan does is, “There you go again.”

He didn’t deny it.  He just said, basically, “There you go again.”

That reactive was saying to the public, this tired guy is so clinging to office here, he has to go back to something I did 20 years ago to hold onto his job.  You know, aren’t we tired of this?

It was respectful.  “There you go again, Mr. President”.  What can Carter say after that?

I’m sure Jimmy Carter goes, what do I say?  He just put me away with this one-liner, an Agincourt, the great battle of history, when Henry V beat the French, outnumbered, what, 15 to one.  He got the French to move on him and then he killed him with the arrows.

Get them to make the advance, because at the moment of attack, you are your most vulnerable.  When you’re swinging your Sunday punch at the other guy, he knows exactly what you’re doing.  And that’s the moment he comes back at you.  And that’s why people not only root for the person who’s the underdog, they love it when he wins.  And when he beats the guy who’s taking him down with a great comeback, we love it.

How about Lloyd Bentsen?  OK?  There was Dan Quayle ragging about the fact he had as much experience in Congress as Jack Kennedy—pause.  And the old club (ph) man comes through, Lloyd Bentsen.

“Senator, I knew Jack Kennedy.  Jack Kennedy and I served together.  We were friends.  You’re no Jack Kennedy.”

Boom  Kid, goodbye.

RUSSERT:  We’re going to take...

MATTHEWS:  Attack from a defensive position.  It’s the smartest move in politics.

RUSSERT:  We’re going to take another quick break.

The book, “Life’s a Campaign”.  Our author, Chris Matthews.

“Don’t Pick on Someone Your Own Size”.  An interesting chapter.  We’re going to come back and talk about it right after this.


RUSSERT:  “Life’s a Campaign” is the book.  Chris Matthews is the author.  It’s just out.

“Don’t Pick on Someone Your Own Size”.

MATTHEWS:  Take on somebody bigger than you.  Tip O’Neill took on Reagan and became a folk hero.  Newt Gingrich took on Tip O’Neill and became the speaker.

If you take on somebody bigger than you, you’ll end up winning.  Because they all look like they’re in their weight.  And that’s just like in boxing.

You go up a weight, you take on the other guy.  Maybe you won’t win that belt, but people think of you on a bigger way.  And I’ve experienced it all my life.

RUSSERT:  Do you like doing that on “HARDBALL”?

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I like taking on people bigger than me.  I try to do it with respect.

I’m like you.  I’m a (INAUDIBLE) guy.  I respect titles.  I respect positions.

I always call them “Senator”.  You’ll never catch me, you know, calling somebody by their first name on these shows.  It’s always “Senator,” “Congressman” “Mr.”

I treat them all with respect.  And the only exception would be somebody I’ve known forever.  And even in those cases, I’ll say “Mr.” or “Senator” or “Congressman” most of the time.  I might sneak in a “Jack” once in a while.

So I really try to treat people with respect.  At the same time, I take them on in their positions.  And it’s bracing.

RUSSERT:  Who is the toughest person you’ve had to interview?

MATTHEWS:  Oh god.  It wasn’t Zell.  It’s probably some of the real people on the far right are very skilled at a number of locutions that they’ve learned that are very effective.

Like, “Let me talk.”  Even though you did interrupt them.  You know, “Let me talk.”  “I’m letting you talk.”

Or they’ll use a language trick and you’ll have to fight with it.  And you’ll say, wait, why are we getting so flustered here?  Let’s have a discussion here.

But there’s some tricks out there.  I don’t know them all now, but I know that when I’m dealing with them there are definitely some tricks to the business of negotiating with people, a decent conversation.

But you know what?  I really love point of view people with strong points of view.  I can sit back and let them talk.

Pat Buchanan, my colleague over there, our colleague, in a way, he is the best guest.  Because you know what?  He has a clear point of view and he’ll come on and he’ll honestly express it.  And he does it in an irascible way.

And I watched him debate the other night with a woman who was a very liberal woman from Air America, and they were tangling, but they were letting each other talk back and forth.  It was very interesting to watch that cadence.

RUSSERT:  And he’s passionate.

MATTHEWS:  Pat is the most gutsy guy.  And he’s said some things you don’t have to agree with, but boy has he been tough.

He’s still (INAUDIBLE) Richard Nixon.  He still (INAUDIBLE) the guy.


The debate the Republicans had hosted by Tavis Smiley, the four frontrunners did not show up to discuss minority issues.  And Buchanan said, I wouldn’t do that because that’s not the base you’re playing for right now in the Republican primary.

Everybody else, Jack Kemp and Newt Gingrich, all saying this was a mistake, this is crazy.  Pat saying, oh, no, you can always find time to reach out.  But now is not the time.

MATTHEWS:  Well, the only thing he may be wrong on, after Katrina it’s going to be very hard for any Republican candidate for president to get many African-American votes.  But the suburban white voter, if you will, who’s Republican doesn’t want to be in a party that feels racist.  They don’t like that anymore.  Look at the Macaca situation in Virginia.

Suburbanite whites do not want to be thinking of themselves with their own kids when they talk politics that way.  It doesn’t work anymore.

I’m not saying we’re beyond the problem of race and ethnicity in this country, but nobody wants to feel that about themselves anymore.  And so I think Pat may be wrong here, because I think Republicans want a better self image than that.  Where I come from they do.

RUSSERT:  We’re going to be right back.

“Life’s a Campaign” is the book.  Chris Matthews is our guest and the author.

We’ll be right back.


RUSSERT:  And we’re back.

We’re talking to Chris Matthews from MSNBC’s “HARDBALL” and his Sunday show, “THE CHRIS MATTHEWS SHOW”.

His new book is “Life’s a Campaign”.

The final section of the book is called “Success”.

Aim high.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I think people should.  I mean, I think that, you know, we’re all aiming high.  And I think that you don’t always make it.  But if you don’t aim high, you’re not going to get halfway there.

Politicians are all heading for the presidency, you know.  They make it to the Senate, they’re a little frustrated, but they all want to make it all the way.  It’s a good role model.

Try.  You know, movie stars want to be the biggest star in history.  They end up being pretty good some of them.  But they don’t make it to the biggest star in history.

RUSSERT:  Your bottom line is, “It’s hard getting somewhere without a map.  It’s the same reason so many of us love biographies.  They show us how others have gotten where we want to go.  If you want to get somewhere, study the routes others have taken.”

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I wanted to be Ted Sorenson.  I wanted to be a great presidential speechwriter.  I got as far as writing speeches for a president.

I wanted to be Joe McGuinness, a guy going to Holy Cross.  I wanted to be a great column writer, and I wrote a column for 15 years.

I didn’t meet these guys’ standards, tremendous standards.  I’m doing what I’m doing now, that I didn’t even know existed back then, being a talk show host and doing what I do, kind of a Timler (ph), and doing the Sunday show.

These programs didn’t exist back then.  There wasn’t cable back when I was growing up.  There was column writing.  And today print isn’t what it was then.

But I think I’ve followed a lot of these roles and I wanted to be like these people.  I always wanted to be like a speechwriter.

The guys I identify with when I watch the Oscars, by the way, are the guys with beards, the four or five writers that come out together.  I always—I don’t think of the movie stars.  I think, I’m like one of those guys, I’m sort of a writer, creator guy, and I want to be one of them.  And that’s what I like to do.

Someday I’d like to write a movie script.  I’d love to do it.  You know?  It’s the kind of thing I think about doing—well, I’m thinking about doing a lot of things.

RUSSERT:  And the subject would be?

MATTHEWS:  What do you think?  Politics.

RUSSERT:  What was it like running for office as a young man?

MATTHEWS:  It was something else.  I came back to Philly.  I had been working at a campaign in Brooklyn.  I wasn’t going anywhere.

The scariest thing, Tim, I have ever done in my life—and I was in the Peace Corps, out in the middle of nowhere on my bike—and I think the scariest night of my life physically, physically scary, was driving across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge back to Philly, knowing that the only people that were going to help me in that race—and I had no money and no connections.  I had been away to school and the Peace Corps. 

Well, my brother Jim was a great local politician and my dad, who said, “I think people are ready for change,” like your dad, “I think they’re ready for something different,” and he worked for the city, he wasn’t a politician or anything.  My grand-pop was a Democratic committeeman for years.

And just to start that campaign—and going over my old paper route and collecting petitions.  You know, getting them signed, getting them in.

My dad says, “Well, your chances are 100 to one.”  After I got my petitions in and I was on the ballot, he says, “Well, I thought your chances were 100 to one before you started.  Now that you got petitions in and you’re on the ballot, I give you 10 to one.”

That’s just how he said it.  It was very cold.  But it was so scary.

I ended up getting 400 high school kids working for me.  I went around to the Catholic schools, the public schools.  I gave sort of the Billy Graham pitch, and then I collected, what do you call it, index cards afterwards. 

I was in my 20s, I had index cards.  And I’m running against the Democratic organization, a machine, against this guy that was really tough.

RUSSERT:  It was a primary for Congress.

MATTHEWS:  It was a primary, a Democratic primary.  And I’m running around doing shopping centers, movie lines.  We had a bunch of kids, cute young kids, all standing on Roosevelt Boulevard, Northeast Philly—you probably know what it looks like.  It’s the main artery.  Every afternoon at 5:00, waving “Honk and Wave” signs until the guy I’m running against gets a hold of the police and gets us off the street. 

I had a high school band.  These kids were so idealistic, Tim, that when I offered to buy pizza for this band that was playing for me at the mall, they were offended.

That’s clean politics.  They were offended I was going to buy them a pizza.  They didn’t want to be bought, because I didn’t have any money in the campaign.  I was saying I’m running a campaign without money.

RUSSERT:  What was your issue?  What were you running on?

MATTHEWS:  I had worked—it sounds odd now—I had worked for Ralph Nader for three or four months, and I ran into an investigator reporter, a guy who was cleaning up politics and wasn’t taking any money.

In fact, my literature was done on an offset printer in the middle of the night by a kid working for Jim Abourezk...

RUSSERT:  Senator from South Dakota.

MATTHEWS:  He was a House member.  And this guy, after he finished his job working in the Robo Room (ph), or whatever, at midnight would start running my stuff off, but he did—I wrote a book, a comment on what he said, “You’ve got steel ones.”  And I thought that was the greatest tribute to me and that campaign, the guts I had to say on the Philly organization.

But I didn’t make any enemies.  And when I came back, Frank Moss (ph), my first boss, said, “I told you to dip a little bit deeper in these political waters.  And then he got me the big job with Senator Muskin (ph) and the budget committee.  He went to town for me.

Again, pick on somebody bigger than you and making me a lot of friends.

RUSSERT:  Would you ever think about running in the future?

MATTHEWS:  You never know.  Old dreams die hard, Timothy.

RUSSERT:  Really?

MATTHEWS:  And it’s always out there.  No, it’s always out there.  Always out there.

RUSSERT:  To be...


MATTHEWS:  Always out there.  Always out there, yes.  Always out there.


MATTHEWS:  Because I think that sometimes it’s too easy to do what I do right now.  It’s too easy to be a critic.

Sometimes—but I think I have more influence—and you certainly do—in terms of if you think there’s a problem in this country, you think it needs to be addressed—and you can raise it as an issue, you can’t prescribe the solution.  I can’t really either.

But we can raise these issues and say, this is important to talk about, this is an answer we need in our country’s history.  We have to get over this hump.

We can do that, but politicians can come up to the floor in the Senate and say, this is where we’ve got to go.  This is where the country needs to go.  That’s a different role, and it’s a much more bracing role in history.

I’m not sure we’re all going to make the big history book, Tim.  I’m not sure many senators are going to make it either, but I do think that Rudy Giuliani, this time around, and Hillary Clinton, this time around, and maybe a couple of more, are going to make American history.

RUSSERT:  Congratulations.  Ten years of “HARDBALL”.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, sir.

RUSSERT:  “Life’s a Campaign”.

MATTHEWS:  You’re the best.  Thank you.

RUSSERT:  Chris Matthews is the author.

And that’s it for us.  We’ll see you next week.


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