Reagan, O'Neill, and some chump named Chris Matthews

It is possible to be overlooked by your own mentor, and it’s happened to better men than Chris Matthews, but it’s still telling to contrast how Matthews views his own role in history with how O’Neill and other contemporaries viewed it. (Matthews is not mentioned Reagan’s diaries or autobiography and appears in no other important books about the events of the 1980s, either.)

To read “Tip and the Gipper,” then, is to understand how much Matthews wishes the reader to believe he was a crucial part of those events, which is what really gets to the nub of what is wrong with his new work…

His book reads like an unimaginative teenager’s dry diary crammed full of first person pronouns. (I asked the publisher for an unedited copy of Matthews’s diary, by the way, on which his new book is partly based. That never materialized.) Strangely, Matthews does not even tell the reader much that is interesting about himself, save the advice he was giving O’Neill or the people who were championing his career. He writes about direct-mail fundraising, but omits the nasty hit piece signed by O’Neill that made Reagan so furious he wrote about it in his own diary.

On one point Matthews does relate something interesting about himself. It seems Chris habitually got into trouble with O’Neill over — you guessed it — his penchant for egregious self-promotion. He also apparently worked hard to plant embarrassing stories about Reagan, according to “Tip and the Gipper.”

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