Chris Matthews makes $5 million a year. I want you to roll that figure around in your head for a minute.
He earns this $96,000 a week for his political expertise, gleaned from his keen insight into American political life and what makes the whole messy mess work.
I've been watching him off and on for years, and while his hyper-manic style can be highly amusing, I'm still waiting for the insight. For a man who constantly references his prowess with retail politics, the politics of the masses, he has a remarkably narrow view of human nature.
On "Hardball" last night, he did a segment on new audio of Sarah Palin talking about how she needed to pray before stepping out for her debate with Joe Biden and realized that there was no one around to pray with.
Here's the full Palin quote:
"It was the night of the vice presidential debate against Biden. So I'm getting ready to go out there on stage and before any big thing, I pray. And I ask for God's wisdom, his strength, and everything else. I'm dedicated to God, and ask him to lift me up. So I'm looking around for somebody to pray with. I just need maybe a little help, maybe a little extra. Well, and the McCain campaign, love ‘em, you know, there are a lot of people around me, but nobody that I could find that I wanted to hold hands with and pray with. "
OK, so there are a number of approaches you could take in analyzing this little anecdote.
You could take the personal angle: "Wow, can you imagine, coming off the Katie Couric interview, how nervous Sarah Palin must have been at the idea of stepping out in front of 71 million people, 51 million of whom were already convinced she was a babbling moron? I'd have needed to pray, too!"
You could take the purely political angle: "Wow, that's really a great illustration of how disconcerting it must sometimes be for vice presidential candidates. Running mates are picked late in the game, and are usually not personal friends of the presidential candidate, and then they're just plopped down in the middle of a pre-existing campaign structure, surrounded by new faces and unfamiliar advisers. Even if her criticism isn't particularly valid, it's a terrific view into Palin's sense of being a stranger in a strange land...."
Or, you could take the religio-political view: " Wow, what a great illustration of the fracture within the Republican Party. Religious conservativism has such deep roots within the party at this point that it would have been impossible for McCain -- as a haphazard High Episcopalian with a failed marriage and a whole host of moral failings to his credit -- to win the base without a tangible sign that he was amenable to the more openly evangelical faction. At the same time, Palin was really an oddball in a campaign structure that saw that faction as a necessary evil."
You could even go out on a limb and take the purely religious view: "Wow, that really shows the diversity of religious practices in American life. Many Protestant denominations and many Catholics, see prayer as something you do quietly, by yourself, preferably on you knees in a church somewhere on a Sunday morning. Palin comes out of a much more emotive tradition, where prayer is frequent, open and, usually, a group activity. It can be really disorienting for those of us raised in different churches, and navigating the waters between these very different religious cultures is one of the main problems in modern politics."
So what does the $5-million-man come up with?
"I don't think it's normal."