In Which Chris Matthews Goes Too Far (Again)

Chris Matthews likes Tom Ridge. Like, a lot. As in, really, really thinks he’s great.

At least, one can’t help but draw that conclusion after witnessing the following exchange, which took place during yesterday’s episode of Hardball. Emphasis mine; I dare you not to wince.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: With just two weeks now until the Olympics begin, and politics takes a slowdown, Senators McCain and Obama have little time to grab headlines by announcing their running mates, of course. Who is it going to be?

Could it be this man in front of me now you see on camera, Republican Tom Ridge, the former governor of Pennsylvania, the former U.S. secretary of homeland security? You have been the man who‘s gone into the breach for this administration and for this country. You took the responsibility to defend us against enemy attack. You succeeded. You did a great job. You were a combat veteran who fought in Vietnam. You went to Harvard on a scholarship. You‘re a working guy from a working background, working-class background, who has succeeded in American life. You‘re a great man. You‘re a great man. Why are you not going to be on the ticket with—with John McCain? He‘s a guy like you.

TOM RIDGE, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY CHIEF: Yes. Well, you know, first of all, I think it‘s very flattering….And, actually, I have had a few people come on shows and say, hey, not a bad choice. But I don‘t know if I have been vetted. I certainly have had—not had a conversation with my friend about it. So, we will just see what transpires over the next couple weeks.

MATTHEWS: Well, you would have gotten it back in 2000, I‘m told. You were already to get it, except Cheney boxed you out. Cheney wanted the job.

Here’s video of the exchange.

Now, to be fair, perhaps Matthews’s fawning questioning of Ridge was part of a flattery-may-get-me-everywhere strategy for finding The Holy Grail of the Political Reporter in the Weeks Leading up to the Conventions: a Veep-worthy pol admitting, “Yes, I am being vetted.” Or perhaps, if rumors of his planned Senate run are true, kissing up to Ridge was part of an effort to build up his Everyday Guy cred with Pennsylvania viewers and voters. Or perhaps Matthews was simply, as he’s wont to do, “reporting all senses.”

But, still: “You’re a great man. You’re a great man.” Seriously? There’s a fine line, after all, between reporting all senses and losing them.

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.