On Monday, February 20, TV personality Chris Matthews, the host of Hardball with Chris Matthews, visited campus for a Q&A with Michelle Bernard, President of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics and Public Policy, an MSNBC political analyst, and an Osher instructor. The Q&A, which was open to Osher members and their guests, drew a packed house of attendees interested in learning more about Matthews’ new book, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero, and his thoughts on the 2012 presidential elections.
After an opening commentary on Matthews’ favorite television shows – which include Downton Abbey, Mad Men, and The Good Wife – Matthews and Bernard got down to business.
“This book is so good from the very first word,” Bernard said. “But I have to ask, why did you want to write about such an overdone topic?”
“I wanted to introduce a younger generation of people to JFK,” Matthews said, comparing his task to that of Nick Carraway’s in The Great Gatsby when he was trying to convince others to attend Gatsby’s funeral. “And I wanted to capture male regard for male heroes. What makes a man take a bullet for another man? That was the topic I was exploring in this book.”
During the hour and a half conversation, Bernard and Matthews talked about Jack Kennedy’s role during historic events, such as the Cuban Missile Crisis; his personal life, including his unusual relationship with Jackie Kennedy; his personality – “Jack would screw you over in a second, but he’d do it with a smile on his face,” Matthews explained; and, finally, the current political climate.
“It’s crazy that China is about to overtake us and we’re arguing about birth control,” Matthews said.
And while Matthews was quick to criticize the Republicans for what he said was a failure of the party to produce a good candidate, he also faulted Obama for his inability to unite the country.
“If there’s one thing we all agree on in this country, it’s that we’re divided,” he said. “I just wish this president could have united us.”
Osher Special Events Coordinator Al White said the morning session went better than he could have imagined.
“The dynamic between Chris Matthews and Michelle was just spectacular,” White said. “One of the little tidbits that I really loved was when Michelle told the story about how, when her mother met Chris for the first time, she said, ‘Why do you keep interrupting my daughter?’”
After Matthews’ session, Bernard moderated a panel discussion titled “2012: Capitalism on Trial,” that included Jonathan Allen from POLITICO; Perry Bacon from NBC News’ theGrio.com; Democratic strategist Liz Lopez, a lawyer at Barnes & Thornburg LLP; David Mercer, former finance director for the Democratic National Committee and founder, Mercer & Associates; Republican strategist Bay Buchanan, a political commentator for CNN and adjunct professor of political communication at George Mason University; speechwriter Mary Kate Carey, a contributing editor at U.S. News & World Report; and Charlotte Hays, a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.
“The afternoon session was really good because of the diversity of opinion,” White said. “Even when you don’t agree with someone’s opinion, when the person is articulate, intelligent, and well-informed, it’s just a beautiful situation. And that describes every person on that panel.”
Osher Director Mary Kay Shartle Galotto also sung the program’s praises.
“We were excited and honored to have Chris Matthews and Michelle Bernard as our guests. They are both dynamic and knowledgeable, with years of experience and insight into the complexities of the American election process. The chemistry and flow of ideas between them was fantastic. What a terrific day for Osher at JHU!”