As a young chief of staff to House Speaker Tip O’Neill following Democrats’ sound defeat in the 1980 election, Chris Matthews was charged with finding a counterpoint to President Ronald Reagan’s popular weekly radio addresses.
“We needed someone who could agree with Reagan but also take some shots at him,” Matthews said. “So I said, ‘How about Tom Foley?’ ”
But the Washington lawmaker did take up the mantle, on his way to becoming the 49th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and holding the highest position of power a representative from Eastern Washington has held in Congress. The exchange between Matthews and Foley was one of several stories shared Thursday night at the unveiling of a documentary funded by the Washington State University institute of public policy bearing Foley’s name before a sold-out crowd at the Riverside Event Place in downtown Spokane.