By Alex Kingsbury
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
April 20, 2001
Nationally syndicated columnist and CNBC “Hardball” host Chris Matthews spoke about the life of Winston Churchill Thursday night as part of George Washington University’s 2001 lecture series in honor of the outspoken British statesman.
“Steve McQueen couldn’t have played this guy. He was tough,” said Matthews of Churchill. “He is a great example of what a free man can be.”
Matthews spoke on Churchill’s distinguished career from his early days as a journalist, fighting in the Bohr Wars, to his early forays into politics and his triumphant leadership of Great Britain against Hitler and the Nazis.
“He was wrong about many things,” he said, “but he was right about the big things.”
He spoke about why the character of Churchill is so respected in the eyes of history and by those in politics. He said Churchill was a politician who was not afraid to speak his mind regardless of what people thought or the political ramifications.
“He refused to be the person he was not,” he said.
Matthews used the history lecture as a forum for addressing current issues as well, drawing parallels between appeasement and the current situation in dealing with communist China.
“If you think that history began last week, that is a grave mistake,” he said. “For decades China was chewed up by the West … the Chinese are still angry with the West for colonization.”
When asked by an audience member why he thought young Americans have lost interest in politics, he pointed to today’s politicians — saying their character is not like that of Churchill.
“Why should you go to work in politics for someone who doesn’t have a dream,” he said.
Matthews, who worked for former Maine Democratc Sen. Edmund Muskie and President Jimmy Carter, said politicians of today have lost some of their confidence to stand up for what the believe in.
“Clinton had everything but greatness,” Matthews said. “There are a lot of stiffs on Capitol Hill.”
As host of “Hardball,” Matthews interviews many of the most important and influential personalities in the nation’s capital.
“Politics today is about political correctness, not about what you feel,” said Matthews, saying that the political spontaneity of a man like Churchill would surprise the leaders of today.
Matthews did say that John McCain was one politician who did show a Churchill-esque style of oratory and tactics in his work rooting out political corruption and defeating special interest groups.
“John McCain fell in love with his country,” he said. “Some say that he can sit in a subcommittee room and see who has been bought out. McCain wants to clean out the system.”
The Churchill Center, the event’s sponsor, is based in Washington, D.C. Formed in 1994, it is dedicated to promoting the study of the continuing relevance of the life and thought of Sir Winston Churchill.