Customer Reviews: Hardball: How Politics Is Played Told By One Who Knows The Game
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on February 5, 2005
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. In many cases, the best way to achieve one's goal is to concede the argument. Great politicians often negotiate by telling their adversaries exactly what they want to hear. By conceding the principal at issue, they manipulate their critics into accepting their views.

10. Hang a lantern on your problem. When in doubt, get it out.

11. Spin, spin & spin. Always turn negatives into positives.

12. The press is the enemy.

13. Have the reputation of power. Political leaders become powerful by appearing powerful. There are six ways to appear powerful. They are: play your strengths, lowballing, sandbagging, creating new commandments, passing the buck, and put your opponent in a "put up or shut up" position.

14. Positioning yourself to the voters as they desire to see you.
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on November 4, 1999
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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on May 19, 2002
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. I can curse it, or use it to my advantage while also applying my own moral standards.
If you're a progressive, slog through the baloney -- the fact that this book received a rave review from George Will should give you some indication of what I'm talking about -- but read this book and learn.
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VINE VOICEon September 2, 2002
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... Rather than finding him to be "anti-intellectual", I found him "anti-rhetoric" - - On the surface it sounds like he's hostile, rude and won't let his guests get in a word likewise, but if you listen in closely, what he does is not allow his guests (who are ALL in the P.R. game some way or another) to lay on their carefully rehearsed soundbits... He listens when they shoot straight, but all hell breaks lose when they start to launch into the same diatribe that they delivered on "Meet The Press" - - when he questions them, rather than eliciting the rhetoric talk show hosts are expected to do, he often lays their own rhetoric on them and cuts them off when they go for their carefully rehearsed speeches. - - After reading this book, it seems clear that Chris Matthews isn't Darell Hammond's cranky old big mouth... the truth is, he knows the game and is having fun throwing side pitches - - in reality, few will fluster or break down and cry (most simply resort to doing little other than repeating themselves over an over), but I think being able to outmouth any powerhouse with a big ceeeeeeegar is somewhat of a fete in itself.
Incidentally, despite the rumors, its hillarious to find out that he was actuall Tip O'Neil's right hand man, and practically learned the game from the old Democratic sage of Capitol Hill ! ! !
Long after Chris's stint as a popular cable TV show talk show host is forgotten, this book will be mandatory reading at high schools, colleges and in the game of life (of course, played hardball style !)
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on August 1, 2001
Matthews, now known for screaming at people on CNBC, was originally the author (Way back in the late 1980s) of this timeless book about how legislation is crafted, and deals are done.
After reading this book, you will agree that legislation is like sausage: You don't want to know how it is made or what goes into it.
Hardball is a brutal insight for the naive into the power game, the relationship game, and the lobbying game. Legislation is not drafted to protect the poor and innocent. Rather, it is drafted to aid the rich and powerful, and to advance the careers of the sponsors.
It is a fair characterization to say that this book is cynical, but it is also very accurate.
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VINE VOICEon December 8, 1999
This is a short book that none-the-less has much wisdom to offer. Matthews begins by recalling his background in politics and journalism, which is quite extensive. By 1988, he had already worked for a Senator, a President, and a Speaker of the house.
The basic theme is how to play politics, or more specifically, how to win at politics. He has a couple of hardball theories. My favorite is the politician that loses the public fight but wins the greater policy victory. He explains in detail how Ronald Regean was able to sway congress in supporting the Contras in Central America by using their language with his policy.
Many other things in the book seem like common sense or too easy, but Matthews shows how they work. He explains how Lyndon Johnson made his way from Congressional Secretary to Representative, to Senator, to Senate Majority Leader and later President. Johnson simply got to know people. He found what a person wanted, and then delivered when he could. This would almost always create a supporter. Johnson knew that if he could get some congressman's bridge built he would have that guy's vote later.
Also interesting how he compares Washington politics with everyday office politics and how these lessons apply to most everyone.
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on May 3, 2015
Though the book has 1 1988 copyright date, the information is essentially timeless. It could have been written as a weekend conference hosting Prince Machiavelli, King Solomon, Sun Tzu and Dale Carnegie as its collective writing staff. The only facet that establishes a time frame is its real-life cast of characters, from Wendell Wilke and LBJ to Edmund Muskie and Ronald Reagan. Chris Matthews picks no favorites as he shows the merits and faults of many players quite candidly. His endless series of anecdotes are divided into chapters with unique central points which are wisely matched with exponents who mastered those techniques. Matthews takes many of the stories from firsthand experience as an operative with the respective master as he was employed in a variety of ways with many of the highlighted pols over a lengthy career in Washington.

As the author points out, virtually all of the techniques, systems and characteristics are universal and could be used in sports, business, for-profit and non-profit environments as well as high-level politics. It is a book that is fun to read and does not bogged down with details or tedious issues of the day, choosing to focus more on the actions and reactions of the proponents and antagonists as they fought for their cause de jour. It's a primer for PoliSci 101, not too heavy but not kindergarten either. Neither a Pulitzer candidate or a coffee table tome, it will keep your interest especially as you relate the chapter's characters with the chapter's title.
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on June 19, 2013
I'm 14, and I already love the game of politics - but I don't always love reading. When my dad got me this book, I left it on the bookshelf as a kind gesture. Recently, I decided to open it up, and I sped through it in 3 days. It was incredible, engaging, and, most importantly, extremely important and helpful for anyone who will enter the game of politics.

Matthews may be annoying on TV, but he is an absolute political genius who outlines exactly how to confront ever situation you'll come across in politics.

I highly recommend this book.
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on December 29, 2013
Chris Matthews should really consider revising and updating this book. I read it myself and used (some of) it with my students in a government class. It has consistent lessons about the importance of politics and how they work - considering how lousy a job our current Congress is doing perhaps we shoudld get a copy for each of them - it couldn't hurt!
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on February 28, 2015
Excellent book. Author provides insight into the world of politics illustrated by numerous anecdotes and examples. Some of the most practical takeaways include the value of "retail politics", the importance of checking your own ego and focusing on the ego of those you wish to influence, and why getting someone to do you a favor helps cement their future support. Last part of the book addresses a number of keys to political success.

Overall a very good book with practical application in politics, buisness, or daily life. Highly recommend this book.
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