Shrum So Shrill, Even Chris Cringes

June 28th, 2006 9:47 PM

Over the last couple days, I've received four emails from one liberal reader of these columns, repeatedly asking me why conservatives are so 'angry and mean-spirited'. I tried explaining that while anger is common to the human condition, in no way do conservatives have a monopoly on the emotion. To the contrary, I cited a recent study revealing that, even when controlling for relevant variables, Republicans tend to be happier than Democrats.

Since I was unable to prove the proposition to the reader's satisfaction, I very much hope he was watching this evening's Hardball. For the show provided a perfect case in point of Republican good humor and raw Dem anger.

Chris Matthews' first guest, in for an extended interview, was Tom Delay. He had been invited on the occasion of the Supreme Court decision that largely vindicated his redistricting effort in Texas. DeLay took even Chris' hardest hardballs in stride, answering cheerfully and with refreshing straightforwardness.

Fast forward to the next segment, featuring the affable Republican consultant Ed Rogers and Dem consultant Bob Shrum. In fairness, Bob has what to be bitter about, as is well understood by those familiar with his world record for futility as a consultant in presidential campaigns.

Even so, Shrum's raw hostility was breathtaking. The very first words out of Shrum's mouth, without so much as a 'hi Chris', were these:

"The real sleaziness of DeLay's approach was exposed --"

Matthews was clearly taken aback. He interrupted: "Let's get personal right away!"

Shrum would not be deterred, actually resorting to that most tired of attack lines: "Look, how do you know when the guy [DeLay] is lying? He moves his lips."

You could hear Rogers' protest in the background, and when the camera moved to Matthews, he was manifestly mortified by his fellow Dem.

Finkelstein lives in the liberal haven of Ithaca, NY, where he hosts the award-winning public-access TV show 'Right Angle.' Contact him at