Then and Now: TV Child Stars

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2015 Then and Now: TV Child Stars

Welcome to the new TV punditocracy. In the old days, political commentators made their names as reporters, like Eric Sevareid or Edward R. Murrow. Now they’re springing out of politics like so many jack-in-the-boxes. George Will and Pat Buchanan, Tim Russert and George StephanopoulosTV’s biggest talking heads aren’t paid to dig up facts or break stories. No, they traffic in inside opinions, the more pungent the better. A new power elite, these Beltway insiders don’t just cover politicsthey shape it. As they dwell on whatever’s topical (Elian, John McCain, Rudy’s prostate), their freewheeling analyses create an illusory national debate to which public figures must respond, or else.
Matthews’s distinctive blend of the brainy and the braying has made his program the hottest political show on cable, maybe on all of TV. Rising to prominence during the Lewinsky scandal when it daily pounded President Clinton like a tom-tom, Hardball has made its host a minor celebrity. Matthews is now famous for his machine-gun delivery (“How do you talk so fast?” Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura asked him on one show), for stepping on his guests (“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he’ll say and cut to a commercial), and flaunting his rough-hewn authenticity. He has none of the card-shark savvy of a George Will, who could coach Reagan’s presidential campaign and then pretend to discuss it as an outside observer. Matthews wears his heart on his sleeve, and while his guileless honesty can grate, it’s also what makes Hardball the show that grabs you.
“Chris is a contrarian,” says the show’s executive producer Phil Griffin. “You say ‘left,’ and he’s going to say ‘right.’ You say ‘red,’ he’s going to say ‘blue.’ ” In fact, Matthews is so argumentative that even when you agree with him completely, he’ll still correct you for not getting it quite right. But what makes him fascinating is that he even finds ways to disagree with himself.
He’s well known for hating Clinton, but voted for him twice. He trumpets his blue-collar Philadelphia roots, but he’s put his sons in St. Albans, the kind of elite school he tweaks politicians for sending their kids to. Here’s how contrary the man is: He’s married to Kathleen Matthews, anchorwoman for the ABC TV af- politics ►154
filiate in D.C.; has worked for President Jimmy Carter and House Speaker Tip O’Neill; serves as Washington bureau chief for the San Francisco Examiner (where he writes a syndicated column); has a daily TV show and a five-year contract with NBC; boasts two best-selling books (Hardball: How Politics Is Played, Told by One Who Knows the Game and Kennedy and Nixon: The Rivalry That Shaped Postwar America)’, practices his Roman Catholic faith at the so-called pundits’ church, The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, alongside Ted Kennedy and Cokie Roberts; dines with Warren Beatty; and banters with A1 Gorehe does all this and still positions himself as a feisty outsider.

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