One of America’s premier political analysts dropped by Naperville Sunday, as MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews appeared at North Central College’s Pfeiffer Hall as part of a special program sponsored by Anderson’s Bookshop.
The celebrated television news personality, whose work includes MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” ffered an author talk and book signing about his latest work, “Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked,” a look at the sometimes tumultuous relationship between former Speaker of the House Thomas “Tip” O’Neil and President Ronald Reagan.
Matthews worked as a top aid to O’Neil, which provided him unique insights for his book.
The Washington, D.C., veteran joked with the audience and said there was no coincidence with the release of his book and recent events in Washington.
“I’ve thought about this book and actually worked on parts of it for about seven or eight years, including lectures I’d give,” Matthews said. “I think it’s a balanced book in that it deals both with Tip and his feelings that government should always help people and Reagan, who despite his differences with Tip always felt the government should do what it has to in order to work.”
The event at Pfeiffer Hall was introduced by Anderson’s Bookshop owner Becky Anderson, who admitted to a crowd of about 200 that she was a “Matthews groupie.”
“I have to say up front I am a big Chris Matthews groupie and find myself asking as I see things happening, ‘What would Chris say?’ and realize, as Chris says, that there was a time for the good of the country that humanity and friendship ruled,” Anderson said.
Many who came to hear Matthews deliver about a 30-minute overview of his career and participate in a short Q&A and book signing afterwards said they hoped people in Washington would find the book instructional and perhaps provide a model or a key to unlock what appears to be nothing more than growing political deadlock.
“I remember a time when politics was about people listening to each other even if they didn’t get along or agree,” said Kathy Giles of Naperville, who came Sunday to see Matthews along with her husband Ralph.
“We like to watch Chris on TV and feel that he believes government could be functional even if people were antagonistic,” Ralph Giles added. “Despite problems, still the government got things done. Today, government doesn’t work.”
Gayl Caul of Palos Park called herself an activist and said she was anxious to ask Matthews about the current situation in Washington.
“I’ve always watched him and liked his opinions, and I’d like to ask how he thinks we can encourage Washington to focus on the issues and move on,” Caul said.
Naperville resident Sheryl Mylan said she watches Matthews each week and while she doesn’t consider herself a “political junkie,” she likes to keep herself informed.
“I hope this book does prove to be instructional for people in Washington in that there have been times in politics when people have been opponents but not enemies,” she said.
Bob Kelderhouse of Naperville added that despite Matthews’ comments to the contrary, “the timing of the book’s release was perfect.
“The premise is that there were two people with different opinions, but rather than government stalling and repeatedly voting, they did what they needed to do to get things and kept moving forward,” he said.
Matthews admitted before going on stage that he is in the midst of three book ideas to add to the seven he has already published.
“I’d like to do another on growing up as a Catholic, and finally a book about the 1960s in Africa,” he said.