Chris Matthews

Does politics have to be this way?

MCNBC host and former political operative Chris Matthews describes what it was like to work as a top aide to Speaker of the House Tip O'Neillat a time when Democrats held the House of Representatives and Ronald Reagan was in the White House.

Matthews says he has a nostalgia for "those two big Irish guys" - Tip and the Gipper - who used to fight with each other every day. Their dispute at the time was "the pure question of the role of government in our lives," a debate that Matthews says American democracy will always be renegotiating, along with the question of what our role in the world should be. 

For six years Matthews worked behind the scenes with O'Neill as the two plotted their moves in the media war between Reagan and O'Neill that Matthews has recounted in his book Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked

What Matthews feels nostalgia for, more than anything, was a time when politics had rules, or simple constraints that he says both men followed. When they crossed the line, they tried to correct the mistake. For instance, in 1981, Reagan called O'Neill a demagogue. O'Neill said "Don't call me a demagogue, I'm the Speaker of the House." The next day, Matthews says, Reagan was on the phone apologizing. 

That respect that people had for each other's office, Matthews says, is completely missing today. 

Watch here. 

Chris Matthews is a political commentator and host of the nightly hour-long talk show, Hardball with Chris Matthews on MSNBC. Matthews worked as a police officer with the United States Capitol Police and then served on the staffs of Democratic members of Congress, including as a top aide to Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill. Matthews was also a presidential speechwriter during the Carter administration. Matthews began his journalism career in print media, spending 13 years as Washington, D.C. bureau chief for the San Francisco Examiner. He is the author of six books.

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