Frankly, I did not think of Chris Matthews as an episodic apologist until I watched his MSNBC documentary this week, "President of the World: The Bill Clinton Phenomenon." The episodic apologists are a familiar fixture of the Clinton administration, much as the court historians are a fixture of the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Whereas the court historians always could be relied upon to spin history FDR's heroic way, the episodic apologists always end up slobbering all over the Clintons -- albeit with a twist.
The court historians were always pretty straightforward. They adored FDR from the beginning to the end. The episodic apologists' lives are endlessly more complicated and melodramatic, as the Clintons are more complicated and melodramatic. There seems to be a script prepared for them. The apologists begin with high hopes and admiration for Bill and Bruno. Then Bill and Bruno fail them. The Clintons lie before grand juries or filch White House property while exiting for Chappaqua, or they are caught in Troopergate, in Travelgate, in Filegate or renting the Lincoln Bedroom. Of a sudden, the apologists suffer blighted hopes. First they become indignant. Then they feel used and abused. Some cry in public. Finally, hope springs anew.
In 2005, John F. Harris, then of The Washington Post, wrote in his book, "The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House" -- after years of such humiliating scandals -- that the Clintons are "the two most important political figures of their generation." Perhaps he forgot about George W. Bush and Newt Gingrich. By the way, Harris was tapped by Matthews to shill for Clinton the other night.
However, I would have expected more of Matthews. To be sure, he was always a reliable Democrat on most public matters and public figures, but on Clinton, he was often skeptical. During the Monica Lewinsky, shall we say, exposure, and subsequent impeachment proceedings, he seemed impatient. I always suspected that it was his Catholic sense of right and wrong that was triggered by the Clintons' amorality. Apparently, enough time has elapsed for him, too, to join the episodic apologists.