Tags: Chris Matthews | Ronald Reagan | Tip ONeill | Republicans

Chris Matthews Celebrates Reagan and Tip O'Neill

By    |   Wednesday, 27 November 2013 06:03 AM

It is with considerable irritation that I report on a book presentation by Chris Matthews of his new book, "Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked," at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

Matthews acknowledged the invitation of Nancy Reagan and recalled that the night he was with the Mondale camp in 1984 when it got the news that they were losing big.

This article will attempt a fair presentation of Matthews' views and then offer a different perspective of one who found the same events Matthews celebrates to be painful and disillusioning.

Matthews comes across as a modern version of Hubert Humphrey's "happy warrior." He proclaimed that "Politics is a wonderful thing," and went on to say, "Self-government is the essence of who we are," and to ask, "If we don't have that, what do we have?"

Matthews instructively drew a contrast between Jimmy Carter, who had no friends in Washington, and the present president, who has few, and Reagan. He quipped that it would have been a good idea for Carter to have made at least one friend so that the friend could tell him how badly his administration was doing.

The Reagans, on the other hand, set out immediately to establish ties with the Grahams, who then owned the influential local newspaper, and with Tip O'Neill, Speaker of the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives.

According to Matthews, Reagan cultivated a close personal and working relationship with O'Neill, who, while a tough adversary, could be approached and dealt with based on mutual respect on fiscal and foreign policy issues that vex Congress and the administration today.

From his point of view, after the early days of the administration, when O'Neill "gave Reagan everything he wanted," it was payback time, and Reagan had to accept tax increases brokered by Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., and an increase in Social Security taxes orchestrated by means of a commission headed by then Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.

Among the Republicans Matthews enjoyed working and socializing with were Ken Duberstein, who was Reagan's White House chief of staff and deputy chief of staff, and Michael Deaver, Reagan's deputy chief of staff.

An endearing rule Reagan established was that "after six o'clock," Reagan could relate to O'Neill as a friend, and sometimes Reagan would call and start the conversation by asking, "Is it after six yet?" In those days, Matthews was O'Neill's key staffer in the Speaker's office, and he had a desk right next to Jack Lew, later President Obama's White House chief of staff and now Secretary of the Treasury.

Matthews explained the mechanics of a deal, stressing that each side should get what it wants most. With evident sincerity, he lamented that today's leaders don't know how to relate to each other civilly, and they don't know how to forge deals.

I served as a volunteer advisor to the group of House Republicans who supported Reagan during the campaign, with the avowed objective of setting the stage for cordial relations once Reagan took office. That never happened, and while Matthews and Tip were having such a good time, House Republicans felt a cold chill. Like POW/MIAs, we never had a nice day.

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Chris Matthews, reflecting on the relationship between Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill, lamented that today's leaders don't know how to relate to each other civilly, and they don't know how to forge deals.
Chris Matthews,Ronald Reagan,Tip ONeill,Republicans
Wednesday, 27 November 2013 06:03 AM
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