Sex, Humor, and Partisan Politics: Mary Matalin and James Carville

James Carville at a press conference in Chico on October 3.
"I predict an investigation of the investigator," he said,
speaking of Starr. "Watch your morning papers." Mary
Matalin was unavailable for a photo. (photo KM)
In a spirited exchange, characterized as much by passion for each other as for their respective political beliefs, Mary Matalin and James Carville brought their blend of humor and politics to Chico. Before a crowd of 1100, Matalin, Republican campaign manager for Bush, and Carville, Democratic campaign manager for Clinton, sparred with good humor about each other's politics. Amid the jokes and wit, each had a serious partisan commentary on the current political crisis.

Carville introduced Matalin with obvious pride. Matalin took her turn first, beginning with generous admiration of her husband's optimism, his brilliant political consulting, and his devotion to their extended family. Inspite of her Republican loyalties, Matalin said that she can find the positive in what she and Carville agreed to call "the current unpleasantness" in Washington.

The Clinton crisis provides "an opportunity to re-examine our vows, our devotion to each other...and my husband's definition of sex. In our household," she said, "sex is looking at another woman!"

Matalin described her efforts at prioritizing her busy life to include being a a supportive partner." When James comes home late at night exhausted from defending the President, gets into bed, and puts his arms around me, I whisper," she said with perfect timing, "don't blame me, I voted for Bush." She readily admitted that it was difficult, at times, to be a supportive spouse.

Matalin's first piece of advice to the Republican party was "Henry Hyde!" The party should support Congressman Henry Hyde's desire to examine all evidence. She said, second, "Don't give the White House any more opportunities to demonize you"—as they did when Republicans were accused of shutting down the government and starving children and the elderly. Third, Republicans should win enough seats in the mid-term election to become a true governing force.

"The President has to make good in at least six ways," Matalin said. "He must make amends to the country, his family, the Democratic Party, Al Gore, his other friends, and himself." She believes the crisis is not about the President's behavior. "What we are talking about is one of the foundations of our democracy. We are asking the question: Is this a nation of laws or is this a nation of men?" concluded Matalin.

People have been struck by Carville's fierce loyalty to President Clinton, asking "Why do you stick with this guy?" and "Who knows when another slip may fall?" Carville, in his Louisiana drawl and with self-depracating humor, explained his perspective, beginning with his history as an eight-year undergraduate at LSU. He then became, in his own description, an undistinguished law student, and an undistinguished lawyer. When, at age thirty-six, he realized that "if I had to hire a lawyer, I wouldn't hire me," Carville left law practice to follow his lifelong dream of political involvement. After an apprenticeship of managing losing campaigns, he began to win some, and Clinton asked him to join and manage the presidential campaign. "The next thing you know—the guy wins!" Carville figured he had it made. He was happy; the Clintons were happy; the country was doing well;

Then the problems began. "They have this investigation, and they have that investigation, and then they hound his wife, and then they make fun of his daughter," said an increasingly angry Carville. After five years and $50 million of hounding and subpoenaing tax records and checks, the investigators come up with sex. When the Starr report was about to be released, President Clinton was not allowed to see it ahead of time, an unprecedented act, said Carville. "Nobody's grand jury testimony has ever been made public," said Carville.

"The man has always been good to me. He's been good to my mother. He's been good to my family," explained Carville. Carville gave his word to Hillary Clinton to help her husband through the crisis and he intends to keep it. "I'd rather be a flea-bitten dog howling at the moon than turn my back on a friend."

People worry about the country getting through this crisis. Carville pointed out that the country has gotten through wars, economic turmoil, and the Republican increase of the national debt. He expects the country "will get through sex". Carville said, "Think about it.1862 was the worst year in American history: the country was at war, there was no money, the union was about to disintegrate. In the midst of this terrible time, Congress passed the Morrill Land Grant College Act." Carville concluded with his trademark optimism. "So, if you ask me how my friend, the President's going to come out of this, my answer is, `I don't know.' If you ask me how my country's going to come out of this, my answer is, `just fine.'"

Matalin/Carville was sponsored by UPE, Chico Chamber of Commerce, AT&T, and McCoy Broadcasting.


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