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Matthews Takes Wide Angle on ‘New Right’

Chris Matthews is very much in love. Unfortunately, it’s with the sound of his own voice.

MATTHEWS001 So when the “Hardball” host gets a chance to apply a slightly more thoughtful view to something than his daily rat-a-tat pontification, it displays the knowledge he can bring to an issue, which is often obscured by his irritating style.

Matthews’ “Hardball” documentary, “Rise of the New Right,” airing June 16 at 7 p.m. ET, contains several interesting insights about the roots and history of those voters who at times seem to have lost their minds over seeing Barack Obama in the White House. But the title and format, alas, is too liberating, as the focus strays to too many targets. There’s just no way to do the Tea Party, militias, Fox News Channel and loony Internet radio hosts justice all in one hour.

Matthews’ main point, delivered at the end, is a proper and sobering one: That the angry rhetoric being used in an effort to de-legitimize an elected government is problematic, dangerous and could be “giving license, on some day, to real trouble.”

But the documentary is forced to oversimplify because of its shotgun format. Among the gaffes this TEA PARTY001 produces are a historical leap from Barry Goldwater directly to Ronald Reagan, somehow completely omitting Richard Nixon’s presidency.

Matthews flatly makes several assertions that will doubtless anger conservatives, among them that there is “an element of class and racial resentment” in the New Right as presently configured. He also traces the movement’s roots to the anticommunism of the early 1950s, which is certainly accurate — see all the references to Socialism and Marxism — but doesn’t completely capture how the culture wars of the 1960s are still being fought and re-litigated. (Maybe Matthews should spend more time watching “Mad Men.”)

One Tea Party supporter interviewed expresses hostility toward both parties, saying she’s “tired of the lesser of two evils.” Then again, it’s hard to take people too seriously when they’re dressed like Paul Revere or comparing Obama to Hitler.

I’m kind of tired of Matthews, too, but if it’s a choice between his daily show and something that at least tries to put the news in a bigger, more thoughtful context, I’ll take that lesser evil any day.

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