Chris Matthews, Barack Obama Fan

What role is appropriate for the MSNBC commentator and 'Hardball' host?

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As I write this, just before 8 a.m., Chris Matthews is on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" saying that he is rooting for Barack Obama to succeed and that he sees it as his duty to help make that happen.

Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski reacted with horror: It's not your duty as a journalist to root for, aid, or abet the new administration!

It's a fine but not indistinct point, but Matthews is not being inappropriate here. He may be a journalist in that he is involved in the greater news business, but he is not a reporter—his job is not to gather the facts and present them in a dispassionate way. He is a political commentator whose livelihood is dependent not only on the keenness of his analysis but on the flair with which it is presented. (Which is why it was appropriate for MSNBC to relieve him and fellow commentator Keith Olbermann of anchoring duties during the campaign season.)

That's not to say that Matthews is incapable of dispassionate analysis (his is often quite good) or of breaking news, but that's not his role. And as such, rooting for Obama success is no more inappropriate than smart conservative commentators like Ross Douthat and the folks at places like NRO, Hot Air, to name a few, opposing Obama.

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