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Hardball: How Politics Is Played, Told by One Who Knows the Game Paperback – November 2, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Hardball, first published in 1988, is like a modern version of Machiavelli's The Prince, only much more richly illustrated, with anecdotes drawn from talk-show host Chris Matthews's stint as a congressional staffer (where he worked for, among others, renowned Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill). Discussing such basic principles as "It's not who you know; it's who you get to know" and "Don't get mad, don't get even--get ahead," Matthews not only dishes out choice Washington insider info, he has over the years inspired many readers to apply his principles for political success to their own professional lives.

From Publishers Weekly

A former Senate aide, presidential speech writer and assistant to Tip O'Neill, Matthews here offers an entertaining view of Washington politics. He covers much the same ground as Hedrick Smith's The Power Game but writes more informally and with amused tolerance of "the true believers in the power of political self-interest." The anecdotes illuminate rules for success in playing hardball, which Matthews defines as "clean, aggressive Machiavellian politics": keep your enemies in front of you. A Reagan example of savvy is among the most vivid: the president's remark during the debates with Mondale that he would not exploit for political purposes "his opponent's youth and inexperience." Matthews, who writes a column for the San Francisco Chronicle, turns unexpectedly stern in his discussion of a third rule: the press is the enemy. "Like policemen, they are always on duty. Don't trust any of them."
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Revised and Updated edition (November 2, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684845598
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684845593
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (143 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,505 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 59 people found the following review helpful By G. Reid on February 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
Chris Matthews set out to write an honest rulebook on how the game of politics is played and he did just that. It is a nonpartisan guide. Matthews believes that the rules of politics apply to every human life, not just to senators and congressmen. Here are some of the rules of politics as put forth by Matthews:

1. It is not who you know, it is who you get to know. Washington is like working in a big Company where it is who you know is more important than what you know. The key to your success in life is based upon your personal relationships. Nearly everyone in Washington owes their job to a personal friend.

2. All politics is local.

3. It is better to receive than give. Ask for help. The more someone invests in you, the more committed they become to seeing you succeed. As Benjamin Franklin once said, "If you want to make a friend, let someone do you a favor."

4. Dance with the one that brung ya. It is about loyalty to your side. Think about the loyalty that Ronald Reagan had to the conservative movement.

5. Keep your ememies in front of you. Great politicians always stay on speaking terms with fierce opponents to show strength, obtain useful information and because they know that they may have to call on the opponent as an ally some day.

6. Don't get mad, don't get even, get ahead. Focus on getting past your adversaries.

7. Leave no shot unanswered. Always respond to attacks quickly and effectively by attacking the credibility of your opponent, ridicule your opponent, and reverse the attack so it backfires against your opponent.

8. Only talk when it improves the silence. Know when to speak and when to listen.

9. Always concede on principal.
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
The book is an excellent source of info for an aspiring politician or just someone who is curious about how politics in America work. Matthews talks about several ways in which to make it in politics and among them are: stay ahead of your enemies, "don't get mad; don't get even; get ahead" and "it's better to receive than to give." The best part of the book is that Matthews doesn't merely give a list of political objectives, he shows how successful politicians have put his strategies into practice, and how these strategies helped those politicians. Another great part about the book is that the reader gets an insight to how politics in Washington are done...since Matthews was in the govt.; he gives several insights about the administrations of such presidents as Reagan and Carter. However one criticism of the book is that, at times it drags. This is why I couldn't give it 5 stars. Sometimes Matthews tends to be a little too specific in his details and the point of the chapter is momentarily lost. This is evident in his discussion of Reagan's push for the MX missile and discussions of former employer, Tip O'Neil. On the whole, though, the book is a great way to get on the right track in politics. And some suggestions may be useful outside of the world of politics.
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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Traveler on May 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
I'll admit it, I'm a progressive. I also think that Chris Matthews is a first class jerk with a completely unethical view on what's acceptable in this world.
However, I'm extremely politically active, too. I bird dog presidential candidates (Bush, McCain, Gore, Bradley), worked on a Congressional campaign, etc. etc. And the truth is, as much as I hate the messenger, Matthews is pretty much dead on here with this book. If you want to know how the game of politics is currently played, or at least get a taste for it, you should read this book. It doesn't mean you have to like it or think that Matthews is a great guy. But don't dismiss him out of ideology. If you do you'll miss out on the opportunity to learn things that you can use to your advantage.
Activists, particularly those on the left, need to smarten up if they want to succeed politically. I certainly don't recommend everything Matthews is suggesting, but he's got some words of wisdom that should be utilized.
For example, there's "hang a lantern on your problem." That means, if there's no upside, there's no way to "hide" your problem, expose it yourself! In the process you can define it in your own terms and look honorable in the process. I've used this in my own political work.
Then there's "Leave no shot unanswered" which means you don't let the opposition nail you without coming back with an effective counterstatement. This, as Matthews points out, needs to be balanced against "only speak if it'll improve the silence." He gives good examples (although at times a little disjointed) on these and several other words of wisdom to the politically active.
I can't say I like the playing field, but it is the playing field whether I like it or not.
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25 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Eddie Landsberg VINE VOICE on September 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book has often been described as Machiavelli for the '90s and beyond. One might even joke the cynical side of Dale Carnegie's "How To Win Friend's and Influence People" - - A brilliant story teller, Chris Matthews has written a book that to this day if actually read transcends his controversial personality and is an indepth study of how people get ahead... its not just a book for politicians - - everyone should read it - - whether viewed as a study of greed, or a guide to how to get ahead in life, Matthews makes some brilliant observations - - learned from a wide variety of political personae on all sides of the ideological coin, and proving the one thing that every political ideologue in Washington has in common - - a modus of operendi relating to their success based on their ability to pull people's strings. - - In essence, Hardball is a study of just this - - the art of pulling people's strings by understanding what makes them tick, incuring favor, indebting them to you (often by having *them* do *you* favor !) and playing by certain rules. - - People politics are key to the game of life in any field (whether or not you like the game.)
On his TV show, Chris Matthews comes across as a cranky anti-intellectual motor mouth - - one who can have 7 guests, and not a single one will get a word in likewise... The myth of Chris Matthews is best characterized by SNL's Darell Hammond's routine where he's always cutting people off with that hillarious, "Yeah... yeah... yeah... yeah.. shut up !"
In fact, it was through SNL that I actually began tuning into Chris's show - - and I actually took a liking to him...
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