Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date: October 2013
Duration: 10 hours 56 minutes
From Chris Matthews:
Tip O’Neill brought me in as his top guy just as the struggle was beginning to brew between those two guys. Reagan had just ended a press conference by accusing him of “sheer demagoguery.” Tip’s old pal, Leo Diehl, told him, “Let it go, Tom.” Leo was of the old school who believed you did politics in back rooms like this and shut the door to the TV camera crews. To him and Tip’s secretary Eleanor Kelley, they might as well have been vacuum cleaner salesmen coming round to waste your time.
That day in June 1981, Tip decided to fight. “I’m going up to the gallery,” he said and went back into his office, back into that other door that was his private bathroom. He came out smelling of hair spray or cologne, whatever it was that I’d get used to when he would ready himself to meet the cameras and the questions. At 6’3” and close to 300 pounds, the dandruff flaking on his giant shoulders, the hair defiantly thick for his age, he began his relentless stride up to the Radio-TV press gallery where he knew the correspondents would have raced to be ready for him. Once up there, he’d give his response to “the president of the United States” who had spoken with such disrespect of “the Speakership.”
This is how it began—for him and Reagan—and, it turned out, for me. A few weeks later, he named me to be his administrative assistant, the old Capitol Hill title for chief-of-staff. For the next six years I was on the inside of the best political story in the country - one of the best ever - the roaring, sometimes rosy relations between the two most powerful men in the country, a pair who couldn't be more different or more the same.