You may not know their faces unless you’re a CNN diehard, but chances are you’ve heard their names: political strategists James Carville and Mary Matalin ran the 1992 presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush; they’ve hosted Crossfire and acted together on HBO’s K Street. Carville is a Democratic consultant known as the “Ragin’ Cajun” who could not be more ideologically different from Matalin, who served as assistant to George W. Bush and counselor to Dick Cheney and was named the “worst-dressed woman in politics”. Fun fact: they have also been married for almost twenty years.
“America’s favorite odd couple” spoke to a packed BankUnited Center on Tuesday night as the last major event in the university’s “Decision 2008: A Dialogue for Democracy” series. Their lecture, entitled “All’s Fair: Love, War, Politics”, was equal parts inspiring and hilarious. It isn’t hard to see how these two political polar opposites make it work.
“How do we do it? We don’t talk to each other,” said Matalin facetiously, having claimed to have never read any of her husband’s books or seen any of his television appearances. “There’s never any rational discourse with Carville when he starts yipping away…That’s my man!”
Carville and Matalin spoke separately before answering pre-submitted questions from students together in a session moderated by President Donna E. Shalala. Somewhat unexpectedly for many students, Matalin was uproariously funny while lovingly deprecating her husband (“Corporal Cue Ball”) and relaying anecdotes from decades in the political arena.
“The only thing [my kids] don’t consider dorky about me is that I’ve been invited to be on [The Colbert Report],” said Matalin after a student-submitted question referenced satire shows.
In a press conference for student media, Matalin told The Miami Hurricane that she believes that “it’s a very bad environment” for McCain to be running in, though “it’s a testament to [the campaign’s] doings that they’re that close.”
Carville, who fathered this election cycle’s message of “change vs. more of the same” during President Clinton’s 1992 campaign, was an outspoken critic of the Democratic Party the first night of the convention in Denver, believes that the Democrats are doing “pretty good- real good” since then.
“[The Democratic Party] came out not as strong as we would have preferred,” said Carville, but he credits the economic crisis and McCain’s claim that “the fundamentals of the economy are strong” for Obama’s strong lead in polls.
“Stick a fork in him; he’s done,” said Carville of McCain. “This is a country that hates a loser and loves an underdog.”
Carville also warned that while this election may seem like the most important in history to many young voters, there will be at least 15 to 17 more in our lifetimes. However, he believes that our generation has witnessed something truly special.
“What stunning history you’ve seen in a thing that started in 2007…Things will never go back to a time when it’s between an old white guy and a really old white guy. That all happened in one cycle,” said Carville.
Carville also cited the biggest challenge for the next president as this: “People have to have confidence that something can go right in this country.”
Students and faculty alike were left impressed by Carville and Matalin’s banter and breadth of political knowledge.
“James Carville’s the funniest man I’ve ever heard,” said Willie Morrison, a junior. “I loved how informal it was. It was perfect for a college campus.”
While they may not agree on much politically, both Carville and Matalin credit our generation for our eternal optimism.
“You’ve chosen not to curse the darkness but to light a candle,” said Carville. “Stay involved the whole way….Go out, take a shot. Just keep on pitchin’.”