According to pop culture-obsessed Chris Matthews, a good comparison to TV "icon" Tony Soprano is Bill Clinton. While discussing the untimely passing of actor James Gandolfini, the Hardball anchor insisted that if "more politicians could invoke" the personality that the fictional mobster did, "we'd have a lot more popular politicians."
Matthews gushed, "I think Clinton had a piece of this. I think we always knew Clinton's problems. He was the most transparent guy ever to be president." [MP3 audio here .] The liberal journalist proclaimed, "All his problems were human problems," just like Tony. He added, "People today really look back on [Clinton] with tremendous affection." Inside the Actors Studio host James Lipton explained the popularity of the two men: "Hey, we like a little evil in people...It's one of the most attractive qualities that a person can have." Remember, Matthews and Lipton were trying to be positive.
Matthews was positively charmed by the murderous, vicious killer played by Gandolfini. He concluded, "They come along once or twice a decade. Tony Soprano for better or worse, in sickness and in health, was our guy."
Back in 2008,  when Hillary Clinton made a faux-Sopranos ad for her presidential run, Matthews praised, "Look I really think that works. It works for me."
A partial transcript of the June 20 segment, which aired at 5:08 ET, follows:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: I wonder, James, theater is your business and politics is my obsession, I guess. But, you know, if we had politicians that could evoke this kind of personality, obviously without being criminals, I think we'd have a lot more popular politicians. I think– I think Clinton had a piece of this. I think we always knew Clinton's problems. He was the most transparent guy ever to be president. All his problems were human problems and we knew what they were, no matter what he said. And yet people today really look back on him with tremendous affection.
JAMES LIPTON: Hey, we like a little evil in people. It's one of the most– [Matthews laughs.] It's true. It's one of the most attractive qualities that a person can have. We like to know that someone is vulnerable, that someone is evil. Why? Because we're vulnerable and evil.
LIPTON: So, we like to know these people are like us, and Tony Soprano was like us.
MATTHEWS: I think everyone was shocked by this. Taken away from us too early, way too early. What a great-- I mean it. An icon. We don't have many icons in this country. They come along once or twice a decade. Tony Soprano for better or worse, in sickness and in health, was our guy.
-- Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here  to follow him on Twitter.