Remind me: what did Chris Matthews do for Jimmy Carter?

posted at 9:30 am on December 8, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Allahpundit noted with appropriate derision last night the attack by Chris Matthews on Sarah Palin’s use of ghostwriters for her campaign memoir and her speeches.  For the appropriate context, let’s revisit the entire reason Matthews has a show on MS-NBC.  Newsbusters has the transcript of Matthews’ exchange with USA Today’s Susan Page on the subject:

MATTHEWS: Does it bother the press that somebody comes in there, whose book was written for them – and this is people who work. You write every day. You sweat it out getting the right words, thinking how to organize a piece, intellectualizing it and then putting it on paper. And I’m sorry, and reporting it to start with. It’s a lot of work, being a reporter. I’ve seen you guys on deadline. It’s hard work. Don’t you essentially disrespect somebody who walks in and puts a book on the table and said they wrote it, when you know somebody else did? Who comes in and gives a speech that you know somebody else wrote all the jokes for and gave it to her and she paid for it probably? Doesn’t that bother you guys? I’m arguing there.

PAGE: You know I think if it’s, I think if it’s not, if it’s not-

MATTHEWS: Does it bother you?


MATTHEWS: Why doesn’t it bother you?

PAGE: Because if it’s in her voice, like the book, I read her book, it’s in her voice. It sounds just like her. Maybe she doesn’t write it, it does reflect her in a way. And the idea, you who, you who’ve written-

MATTHEWS: But she didn’t sweat it out.

PAGE: You have written many speeches for politicians.

MATTHEWS: And I’ve written them and I’ve written books. And, and I take-

PAGE: Does it offend you?

MATTHEWS: But I have tremendous respect for you guys, on the bus, when I see you guys. I’ll sit on a bus somewhere, covering a campaign, and all of a sudden one of you people from the big papers, and all of a sudden I’ll see a 1,500 word piece taken and you’ve somehow gotten it done, in the same time I’ve been with you? I say, “When did you write this thing?” I mean there’s a lot of talent she doesn’t have, and yet she takes credit for it.

PAGE: It’s not, it’s not the talent that we ask the political figures to have. We ask them to have other talents like points of view.

MATTHEWS: Well why do you let them take credit for books and speeches they didn’t write?

In fact, Matthews only matters because he used to write speeches for politicians.  He got his big break in the Carter White House when he was brought in to write speeches for Jimmy Carter:

As Carter entered the fall election against Ronald Reagan, the speechwriters typically got little direction.  “All the political dinners and all the road shows we did, we had to come up with them [from] nothing,” recalled Chris Matthews, who had joined the speechwriting staff in the late fall of 1979.

A Philadelphia native and former Peace Corps volunteer, Matthews had worked on the Hill, and for consumer advocate Ralph Nader, and made an unsuccessful primary challenge against a Democratic member of Congress in 1974.  He had worked on a government reorganization, including civil service staff, and had helped out on some previous speechwriting, including the 1979 State of the Union address.  “Chris was no Sorenson, but he is a fast, solid writer and a hard worker,” Hertzberg wrote in October, pushing to hire Matthews.  “He is politically very savvy, has a firm grasp of the Carter program and record, and he is very good at working with people.”

That comes from Robert Schlesinger’s book White House Ghosts: Presidents and Their Speechwriters, pages 309-310.  The reason I quote this is to underscore the irony of a man who wrote speeches for politicians complaining that a politician uses a ghostwriter, but there’s another unacknowledged bit of irony at play here.  Matthews has his own television show without having had any real experience in media other than being a staffer for said politicians, and yet here he’s complaining about Palin’s supposed lack of qualifications to actual journalists.  Do you think that Page and Politico’s Jonathan Martin may be wondering how Matthews got a prime-time show, other than his political connections and career writing words for other people?

I daresay they may be a little more offended at a political hack grabbing a media brass ring than a politician who uses a ghostwriter, especially when the political hack also happened to be a ghostwriter.

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Aside from being a transparent hack, Matthews is either an idiot or a liar. It is flat out false to say that Palin didn’t write the book.

Palin Finishes Book After Stint in San Diego

The moose-hunting hockey mom can now add “author” to her resume after consulting her muse in San Diego.

Ex-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin finished penning her tome just four months after the blockbuster book deal was announced, and the release date for her highly anticipated memoir has been moved up from spring to Nov. 14, her publisher said.

Palin, 45, spent weeks in San Diego shortly after leaving office and worked on the manuscript with collaborator Lynn Vincent, a person close to her said. She was joined in San Diego by her family and her top aide, Meghan Stapleton, then spent several days in New York working around the clock with editors at Harper, said the person, who wasn’t authorized to comment and asked not to be identified.

“Governor Palin has been unbelievably conscientious and hands-on at every stage, investing herself deeply and passionately in this project,” Harper publisher Jonathan Burnham said. “It’s her words, her life and it’s all there in full and fascinating detail.”

It must be true. It’s on NBC.

Yeah, she had a ghostwriter. BFD. Hillary had 3. Any complaints there, Chris?

Pablo on December 8, 2009 at 12:02 PM

But….. but……. but did you see all those WHITE people getting their books signed?

Nothing like an old white liberal forgetting that he is a red-faced, Irish Roman Catholic caucasian dude surrounded by a bunch of white folks talking about white folks like they are some rare breed of Palin zombies.

joedoe on December 8, 2009 at 12:11 PM

Such a glass house this BOZO lives in.

faol on December 8, 2009 at 12:17 PM

Remind me: what did Chris Matthews do for Jimmy Carter?

He spit-polished Jimmuh’s shoes?

ya2daup on December 8, 2009 at 12:21 PM

You had someone else do that search for you. Admit it.

LibTired on December 8, 2009 at 10:32 AM

Yeah, I have a ghost Googler.

Over the past decade I have been given one memoir as a gift, and purchased another, both about musicians I admire. Both had ghost writers.

The first one was by David Ritz, who is primarily a biographer (he’s done books about Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and Smokey Robinson, among others. But he also co-authored 4 autobiographies, including the one I got, The Brothers”, co-written with New Orleans’ Neville Brothers.

The other one I got was “Still Grazin’ “, the “autobiography” of South African trumpet man Hugh Masekela. That one was basically ghost written by D, Michael Cheers, head of the photojournalism program at San Jose State.

When Hugh signed my copy of the book after a show, I asked him why he needed help, and he said he could tell the stories, but needed someone else to put the stories into words. Terribly common in the music industry, he added.

Del Dolemonte on December 8, 2009 at 12:35 PM

There it is again, that good old double standard.

Terrye on December 8, 2009 at 1:02 PM

Don’t know why we keep giving this guy any notice. The people posting here are more in number than watch or listen to this complete idiot.

hillbilly on December 8, 2009 at 2:24 PM

dhunter on December 8, 2009 at 11:01 AM

Maybe you’re right. But I remember the guy’s very strategic moves to get into the broadcast business. He wormed his way on to McLaughlin, he endeared himself to Rush and got guest hosting opportunities, then he launched Hardball on CNBC with a nightly crucifixion of Bill Clinton during the Monica investigation. The guy is smart, but being with Olby at MSNBC for this long may be pickling the gray matter.

Mark30339 on December 8, 2009 at 2:52 PM

She needs to go on his show and rip him a new one. Hmmm Chris has a special kind of derangement when it comes to Sarah Palin. The irony in his obession given what he used to do for a living is really too rich. Bet he can’t grasp it either.

Sharr on December 8, 2009 at 2:54 PM

He wrote speeches for Jimmuh? This says loads about his worship/fantasizing of Obama.

OneGyT on December 8, 2009 at 4:29 PM

Aside from being a transparent hack, Matthews is either an idiot or a liar.

Decisions, decisions, decisions…

karl9000 on December 8, 2009 at 5:30 PM

I think Chrissy is still feeling guilt over his on-air performannce on May 1, 2003, when he praised Chimpy Bush for landing in a jet on an aircraft carrier.

Yes, he actually did that.

Del Dolemonte on December 8, 2009 at 7:05 PM

Del Dolemonte on December 8, 2009 at 7:05 PM

He also had huge praise for the effectiveness of Palin’s acceptance speech at the 2008 Republican Convention. He said the image of her holding Trig hit the “sweet spot” of American values. Since then his brain has returned to the pickle jar of leftist narrative.

Mark30339 on December 8, 2009 at 9:37 PM