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Chris Matthews Talks at GU About Reagan and Tip O'Neill Relationship

Chris Matthews

Political commentator Chris Matthews, host of The Chris Matthews Show on NBC and MSNBC’s Hardball, has written several best-selling books. His latest project will focus on the relationship between President Ronald Regan and House Speaker Thomas "Tip" O'Neil (D-Mass.).

October 26, 2012 – Speaking at Georgetown last night, political commentator Chris Matthews recalled a moment when he and Speaker of the House Thomas “Tip” O’Neill (D-Mass.) were in the green room at the Capitol just before President Ronald Reagan’s State of the Union address.

Matthews said he greeted Reagan as he walked through the door with a joke, “Welcome Mr. President to the room where we plot against you.”

In a raspy voice giving his best Reagan imitation, Matthews said, “Reagan goes, ‘Oh no. It’s after 6. The speaker says we’re friends after 6.' He really had the line down about being friends and not always being adversaries.”

Matthews spent much of his speech noting what he sees as the contrast between how the two political parties used to work together and how poorly they interact today.

Both Loved Their Country

Before becoming a journalist, Matthews worked as a speechwriter for President Carter, then as a top aide to O'Neill from 1981 until the speaker’s retirement in 1987.

Matthews is working on a book project that focuses on the relationship between Reagan and O’Neill, who he says worked together to help make the country better despite their differences.”

“Ronald Reagan couldn’t have been more different than Tip O’Neill,” Matthews said. “Tip O’Neill couldn’t have been more different from Reagan except they both loved their country.”

Believing in the System

Matthews read some excerpts from his work and said America needs to elect presidents and congressional members who can work together despite their political leanings. 

“It’s all about the kinds of people we send here [to serve in office],” said the host of MSNBC’s Hardball With Chris Matthews. “The older I get the more I believe in the system [of the U.S. government]. I just want it to work. I just want the right and the left to get together and make this thing work, and stop kicking so many cans down the road.”

The political commentator served as inaugural speaker for the Tanous Family Endowed Lecture, sponsored by the Georgetown University Library Associates and the student-run Lecture Fund. An audience of more than 300 attended.

No Obstacles

Matthews, also host of The Chris Matthews Show on NBC, has written seven best-selling books, most recently American: Beyond Our Grandest Notions, Life’s a Campaign and Jack Kennedy: Elusive Here. 

During his speech he marveled at the way the Republican president and the Democratic congressman, both of whom have since passed away, worked together.

“When Reagan came in wanting to push tax cuts and changes to the budget, Tip refused to play any games,” Matthews said. “There were no filibusters, no efforts to jam things up. No obstacle courses set up. Tip figured Reagan had won the election. He had the votes. It was his turn at bat.”   

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