Way to Go, Chris!

This is a true story that happened in about 1980/81.  It was early in my career.  Really early.  I worked as a lobbyist back then.  What I really was, though, was a flunky.  Mostly my job involved going to government buildings and Xeroxing.  Yes, being a lobbyist can be exciting.

But one day when an important vote was coming up that impacted my firm’s clients, I was asked to make some phone calls to find out what was going to happen.

I didn’t know the issue.  I didn’t know “the players” – the Congressmen and women who were involved in the issue.  I didn’t know their staffs.  I didn’t know shit.

So naturally, in trying to find out the information I needed, I started at the top.

I called the office of the Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neil.  And somehow I got through to Tip’s Chief of Staff, Chris Matthews.

Now, normally, flunkies like me don’t get to speak with high level staff unless they know the guy.  I didn’t know Chris, and he didn’t know me.

I started the conversation the way I always did with my sure-fire trick to get help.  You see, not only was I very young, well, I sounded even younger.  I sounded about 12, according to friends.  So, well, I took advantage of it …

“This is probably a stupid question,” I began (as I often did).

“There are no stupid questions.  Ask me anything you want, and I’ll do my best to help you,” said Chris Mathews, Chief of Staff to one of the most powerful politicians in Washington.  To me!

Chris not only answered my question, but he explained how things happened, how they were likely to play out on this issue, what other issues might be helpful for me to look into.  He told me what was happening on the issue in the Senate.  He spent about 30 minutes helping a young, inexperienced person he didn’t really need to help.  He was terrific, and I’ve never forgotten him or his voice.

When I went back to my bosses to tell them the news, well, to be honest, I wasn’t really sure who Chris Matthews was.  But when they asked for the source of my information, well, they were impressed.  Because I had gotten to talk with Chris and they had been unable to get through to him.

I did less Xeroxing after that day.  A lot less.  And I’ve used the information and the knowledge that Chris helped me get ever since.

So this morning when I learned that as an MSNBC “Talking Head,” Chris Matthews called out the head of the GOP because they continually play the race card, and divide America.  Today, I am proud of being able to say that Chris Matthews was one of my teachers.  Way to go, Chris.  Way to go.

And thanks, Chris.  For everything.


Filed under Criminal Activity, Elections, Health and Medicine, History, Humor, Hypocrisy, Law, Politics, Stupidity

25 responses to “Way to Go, Chris!

  1. Nice to know that big personalities can also be nice guys!
    I bet he’d remember if you reminded him of the story…


    • I’m thinking he was probably pretty nice when he could be. That’s my impression of him, anyway. I was just pleased to see him go after Priebus. Because they GOP is way over the top in their race-baiting rhetoric.


  2. That was AWESOME. I think I have a school girl crush now.

    Wow, Elyse — what an amazing thing that you had that experience talking with him way back when.


  3. People are not always what they appear to be as celebrities. I’ve met several professional athletes who had very bad reputations. They were totally different than how they were portrayed in the media. Very interesting.


    • Grrr. I had just nearly finished a lengthy response to your comment which went off into cyberspace.

      Anyway, I agree with the fact that we don’t really know those folks we see on TV most of the time. I think that athletes and possibly actors who we see in little smidges probably get judged unfairly more often than someone like Chris Matthews who is out there putting his voice, his opinions and himself on TV night after night. I think we have a more clear perspective of who he is, for good and ill.

      But he was awfully nice to me, so I’ll keep a soft spot for him!


  4. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, surprises are everywhere in politics, pundits included. This was a nice one! Cool story!


  5. cooper

    I’m not a big fan of the public personna of Chris M but it’s awesome that he took time to help you out. Just shows you can’t judge a book by anything you see on TV. I should know better….


    • I think he is perhaps a bit overeager. He has been a bit less heavy handed lately. And I am pleased that he said what everybody else just hints at — that the GOP is playing Race. Hate. Division.


  6. bigsheepcommunications

    So refreshing to hear someone, particularly someone in govt, was happy to be helpful for no other reason than just to be helpful!


    • People in government really do want to help. I find that it is all in the approach. But now-a-days, by the time I get through 14,025 telephone prompts I am ready to kill someone, and that’s not the best way to elicit help from anyone!

      I’ve replaced the young and helpless tone with one of desperation. That works too. Not on phone prompts, alas.


  7. Running from Hell with El

    What a fantastic story! I love how you were honest and admitted what you didn’t know (which at the time was a lot). It’s pretty telling that a high-level power-wielding political actor gave you the time of day to talk with you and teach you something in the process. There’s a lesson in this, and it reminds me of the times I’ve asked for help and have received it. So often, the people with the real power are willing to lend a hand if asked the right way. Shoot, often they aren’t, but that’s often because lower-level staffers block access.

    Often the ones who’ve helped me the most have been men, at least when I practiced law. What’s up with that?

    I’m going to think about this some more. It’s a really interesting story.


    • Thanks, El.

      While I’ve had help from women too, I do agree that it is the men that do seem to go out of their way. Sometimes, I imagine it is a way for them to spend time with a sweet young woman without getting into trouble. But mostly, I think that we all need to impart our wisdom, and I know that as a young woman, I didn’t hesitate to ask. And I never wanted to sound like an ass, so if I didn’t know anything I would say so. It generally worked to make people really help me, because so many people try to fake it.

      I think that Chris Matthews is a good-hearted man. Even though he sometimes drives me crazy when I see him on TV, I think he is still trying to do what he did for me — to inform, to guide, to help. Sometimes, he gets in his own way. Well, a lot of times he does!


  8. What a story! I watched Chris take after Priebus this morning, it was good. But, although I agreed with him in principal he was doing a bit of grandstanding. I didn’t care though, Priebus is such a weasel.

    Do you know what really fascinates me about the GOP today? I mean really. They kick Michael Steele to the curb, guess he wasn’t Right enough. Then they install Priebus, guess he is slimy enough. Then they have a Black Republican Caucus during last weeks platform meeting, guess who wasn’t invited? Guess who also wasn’t invited to the Past Head of the GOP meeting? So I guess Steele isn’t anything enough.

    Yet he still goes on TV and defends them and their Platform and their candidates. Is it something in the Kool-Aide?


    • Chris is always grandstanding! He drives my husband crazy. Me, I think back to that conversation and always think kindly of him. There was nothing for him to gain from being so helpful, so informative. Nothing at all. He simply did it to be nice. And I think he is probably still a nice guy in that way.

      As for Priebus, what a toad. What a smug, rich, prep school dweebe. I would love to smack him.

      I wish I could figure out what made folks drink that Kool-Aide. What makes people vote against their own economic interest. Against the future. Against helping each other. The only thing I can think of is that they play up hate. And I’m looking for another reason because that one is simply too hard to accept.


  9. John Erickson

    That’s a really cool story! Enthusiasm can be a great door opener. When I spent my one summer out at the FermiLab in Batavia, Ill., some of the high-ranking techs took notice of me. Later that fall, my science class toured the facility, and they pulled me off the tour to go play a computer game they had cooked up. Yep, on the government’s multimillion dollar computer system! (Of course, neither the teacher nor the lab’s tour guide were too amused when I disappeared, but hey, geeks of a feather play computer games together! 😀 )


    • In my case, I think “fear” was the door opener. Chris realized that I was young and inexperienced and took the time to help and educate me. Every time I see him on TV, even though I don’t always agree with him (and often want him to shut up and let the guest answer his question), I remember that he is a good guy. He practices what he preaches.

      Your story about the computer game is hilarious. And just think, the laptop I am typing on now probably has more power than that multi-million dollar computer system you got to play with! (Sorry, I am feeling especially old right now. Listening to Simon & Garfunkle and a recording from 1969. I feel very old!)


      • John Erickson

        Well, I COULD tell you that while you were working, I was still in high school. But I’ll be kind. (Um … oops? 😉 😀 )


        • Wait. I thought you were older than me. Of course, I think everyone is older than me. Mostly because other folks age in dog years, while I do it according to the earth’s rotation around the sun.

          I started supporting myself in 1976. Damn, I am OLD!


          • John Erickson

            Holy cow, 1976? I as in JUNIOR High then. Our absolutely beater Vega came out only 3 years earlier. My Cavalier wouldn’t even be THOUGHT of for another decade!
            Oh crud – I was supposed to be making you feel better. Um … c’mon, think … my current house is over 110 years old. I have World War 2 field phones that came out 35 years before you were supporting yourself … er … ah ….I remember 1976? (Aw crap, I’m screwed now…..) 😉


            • We’d better never meet, John. Because you are TOAST now. Made with day old bread, I might add…

              But of course I am way more enlightened than you are. I am a Boomer. You are, um, unspecified.


              • John Erickson

                i am actually a boomer, just barely. Kinda like I escaped being the third Sagitarius in our family by 6 minutes. (Yeah, I’ve always been a borderline kinda guy. 😉 )
                Don’t worry, I happen to be quite fond of older women. My wife is in her fifties, I’m still in my 40s. (Yeah – she turned 50 in July, I turn 50 in December if the Mayans weren’t right – c’mon, Mayans!) My first crush (and still favourite Star Trek lady) is over 30 years older than I am. So you;re in good company! (Hey, I know it’s weak, but I’m tryin’, okay?) 😀


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