When people look at the politics that happen within Washington and Capitol Hill most people cannot even begin to understand how it works. In Chris Matthews book Hardball: how politics is played, told by one who knows the game Matthews dissects everything that happens in politics from the oval office to social clubs and focuses it on one central idea, hardball. Hardball is defined as uncompromising and ruthless methods or dealings; Matthews in a series of 14 chapters all based on different aspects and incorporates them into everyday life as a Politian. Throughout this books Matthews gives almost guidelines on succeeding in Capitol Hill, from the benefits of making friends to the repercussions of making enemies.
Knowing the right people to get ahead is a concept that everyone is accustomed to, this idea is one of the most important in hardball, as this could either win or lose an election for a candidate. Matthews notes how getting connections to various people in Washington was one of the main reasons Reagan and LBJ were so successful in their elections. He also explains how former president Jimmy Carter’s lack of charm held him back when he was acting as president. Historically LBJ wasn’t known for being great in interviews and his odd personal behavior didn’t help his image either. But even with all of his shortcomings Johnson was a very persuasive person. Matthews states that that Johnson ‘wielded power not in the bright glare of TV lights but in the personal glow of one-to-one communication’. Johnson would use a strategy called retail politics; he would have conversations with politicians in which he would try to learn more about them and learn how to manipulate them. President Reagan also used a similar strategy. After being elected he attended gatherings at the homes of some of the most prominent journalist, lawyers and businessmen in order to get favor with them. Having the benefit of having journalist on your side is one the strongest advantages you can have being a politician. Successful politicians have dinner at each other’s homes, go out to eat together, and attend the same social clubs. Not having friends in Washington can weigh a politician down for their entire term; just look at Jimmy Carter for example. During his campaign when he was running for president his strategy was to distance himself from the rest of the candidates and become the “out candidate”, or basically “run against Washington”, and it worked. But as Cater would soon find out, neglecting his social responsibilities leaves him with little friends. For example once The Speaker for the House at the time Tip O’Neal asked Carter for tickets to the inaugural ball, so he gave them to him; tickets to the back of the hall of course, obviously not the most respectful thing to do. There were many instances like this during Carters term. Carter was considered an outsider in Washington and was blamed for high interest rates, inflation, and the recession, which he had little success in controlling during his one-term presidency. Congress did not give him much support in meeting his campaign promises. In Hardball Matthews also emphasizes that all politics are local. Basically stick to your roots. Always remember that all good politicians have deep ties to their homes. They sponsor local businesses in their community, fight for legislation on their behalf, and are just relatable. One of the most important elements to hardball politics is to always have your enemies close. Matthews uses examples from The Godfather to Saratoga. This tactic has been use all through history for one simple reason. What better way to control and monitor your enemies’ movement than sleeping in the same tent as them, operating on the same team, or having them work for you? Just look at James Baker for example. Baker managed the presidential campaigns of both Gerald Ford successfully and George Bush