Meet the Press   |  September 29, 2013

4: Chris Matthews on politics, partisanship

MSNBC's Chris Matthews talks with David Gregory about politics, partisanship and his new book on the subjects.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> "tip and gipper," describes a time where they compromised. i'm going to have you read a section, one of the things ted cruz said struck me, which basically says he represents an age of politicians fighting against the establishment in washington. they don't think the old guard, mostly guys, who could compromise on issues are representing you know, the people they represent anymore.

>> yeah, i think it is a good argument, because people are very unhappy today because of the crunch of the middle class . but if you look at the polling and ask people if they respect congress, back in the '80s, tip o'neill had a 67% job approval, today, they had single digit approval. and reagan had at least that high, people were government -- confident that even the government, when it argued, would have a compromise.

>> you had had a question of why can't things work? this is not a historical piece, why can't it work --

>> i think people need to know the new norm is not the norm, there is a better time, they will again, they disagreed on the role of government, compromised, trying to get along even as they challenged each other. why, we wonder, can't it be that way again? why wouldn't the leaders work to accommodate each other, as they work to accomplish goals in this country's best interest. the mood today, even on this program, this sort of anger that is in the back drop -- the people out there have an anger. i remember walking up to the president, i said welcome, mr. president to the room where we plot against you. and the president said oh, no, not after 6:00, the speaker says not after 6:00. there is a sense of we'll argue it and get it done. there were shutdowns, over money, the usual kind of things politicians argue about, but there were not non-negotiable demands.

>> i guess democrats are complaining this week, saying ted cruz , if you want to change the law, let's talk about how we can change the law. but don't set up a scenario where it is either you get rid of the whole thing or the government will end of being shut down or the debt limit won't be raised.

>> yeah, i love the negotiations, jack lew, the secretary of the treasury, sat next to me. we thought it was the most partisan time in history. but the speaker would meet with him, tip would say, okay, i'll give you the democratic votes for the debt ceiling, we'll pass it. but i want a letter from the democrats asking the president to do it. i know you like that idea. because it shows how professional behavior was. one time on the tax increase, mr. o'neill said i'll pass the bill with you, 100% is too high. they knew how to cut dealins after the fight.

>> how did this president do in creating the kind of atmospheric?

>> i don't think he was as good as reagan was as nurturing relations. i remember going to the jim dinner, which most of the guys were having steak dinner and apple pie , and baked potato and a beer. and just to be a dissenter, no press, it was a big deal . and in walked reagan with george bush . and george bush , as vp, had been a member of the house and knew how it worked. you got to connect with these guys. and i knew there was something that would help him get elected, every democrat took their picture.

>> most of the democrats don't want their picture, that would hurt them.

>> reagan being from notre dame , he had a lot of democrats who liked him. and i think this president doesn't have a lot of republicans that like him. this makes it a tougher time, by the way, it is politics, not civics, guys and women who believe in what they do. tip was the classic liberal who served, got elected 50 times as a liberal. he totally believed in helping people. and you know what? reagan respected him liking people and wanting to help people. he actually understood him. and ron reagan is on our program a lot of times, it wasn't personal.

>> search for compromise, we need it now. chris matthews , thank you very much. again, the book is "tip and the gipper" when the politics worked.