Chris Matthews, anchor of MSNBC’s “Hardball”, decried the House Republicans for causing this week’s government shutdown during a presentation Thursday at the Coop.
Matthews discussed his book, “Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked,” which examines the rivalry between former President Ronald Reagan and his Democratic Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill, and how it was beneficial to U.S. politics.
Questions from the crowd, however, had less to do with topics explored in the book than issues facing the country at present—from partisanship in Washington, D.C. to the government shutdown, which occurred as a result of a failed budget deal between the House and the Senate.
“Most kidnappers grab the baby and ask for your money,” Matthews said of House Republicans’ attempts to end the Affordable Care Act by wielding it as a condition for acquiescence to the Senate’s budget plan earlier this week. “[House Republicans] took the money and are asking for the baby. It’s just not going to happen.”
He compared Obama and his health care plan to the civil rights and New Deal legislation pushed forth by Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Franklin D. Roosevelt, Class of 1904, respectively. “This is the reason why he’s in office; this is what he fought for,” Matthews said of Obama. “You wouldn’t ask LBJ to give up on the Voting Rights Act and you wouldn’t ask FDR to give up on Social Security. He’s not going to give up on this.”
Matthews said that though he respects President Obama, he thinks the president still has not mastered negotiating with Republicans. He contrasted politics in the 1980s, when Reagan was president, to a more tense environment today.
“It was fierce competition, but it was never dirty,” Matthews said of O’Neill’s and Reagan’s relationship during the 1980s. “Today’s political atmosphere is explosive.” Matthews added that he thinks both parties today treat politics like a game. “They use the language of toughness, not progress,” he said.
Nancie Scheirer, tradebook manager at the Coop, said that it is an honor to bring speakers like Matthews to Cambridge, free to the general public. “We are always very conscious of the fact that we live in an extremely academic community,” she said.
No Harvard undergraduates were present at the book talk, but Matthews attended a discussion in Quincy House Thursday night led by the presidents of the Harvard College Democrats and the Harvard College Republicans.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: Oct. 26, 2013
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the class year of Franklin D. Roosevelt. In fact, he graduated with the Class of 1904.
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