Mary Matalin and James Carville

Bipartisan political power couple Mary Matalin and James Carville made waves on both sides of the aisle when they got married in 1993. Twenty years later, they’re still at polar ends of the political spectrum. The two join us to talk about how they’ve successfully made it work, and about their new book, “Love and War: Twenty Years, Three Presidents, Two Daughters and One Louisiana Home.”

James Carville, Democratic political commentator, author, former lead campaign strategist for Bill Clinton's first presidential run and former co-host of CNN's "Crossfire"
Mary Matalin, Republican political strategist, author and former adviser to Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney

  • Joe

    Some have said that the outer appearance of acrimony and conflict between the two major parties is just a show, similar to what you see in WWE wrestling, and that behind the scenes the Republicans and Democrats are good buddies serving the same corporate master. What better embodiment could there be of the sham of this Good Cop Bad Cop political farce, than this couple? They surely will insist that they disagree on many issues, but on any topic that really concerns the criminal banking elite or the cartel of corporations that run this country, I am sure they are very much in alignment.

    • Ehkzu

      There’s a lot of truth in this but I think the assessment goes too far. Democrats at least try to whittle around the edges of America’s corporatist oligarchy, while Republicans embrace worship of the wealthy wholeheartedly.

      The notion that there’s no difference at all between the parties is Republican propaganda designed to depress liberals so much that we don’t bother to vote. It doesn’t go the other way because Republicans are Republicans tribally more than politically.

      In practical terms, if Al Gore had been president instead of Bush II we would not have gone to war with the wrong country, with a three trillion dollar price tag. We would not have seen the federal government’s regulatory infrastructure systematically dismantled. And we would not have been saddled with a far right corporatist Supreme Court majority for the next several decades.

      We also would not have seen the corporatist oligarchy dealt with as it should be, but that truth would not have been a good reason to sit out the election. And in that election, as with most presidential elections, the popular vote was divided by only a few percentage points.

      So never forget the fact that the corporate oligarchy WANTS liberals to think that both parties are the same and there’s no reason to vote.

      • Joe

        It was never intended by the oligarchy to permit Gore to win. Read Greg Palast’s investigation about what happened in Florida in 2000. The Republicans illegally removed 50,000 Democrats from the voting rolls. These proven criminal actions were never punished and were repeated in 2004, 2008 and 2012. The Bush presidency was decided upon and made to happen using that attack (voter suppression) and the Supreme Court’s attack. Little known fact, the only reason why we don’t have a Repug in office today is that hacktivists targeted Karl Rove’s illegal election rigging operation in 2012 and prevented it, thereby thumbing their nose at the 1%. But even with a Dem in office, we are still ruled by criminals.

        Real change requires third parties.

  • amyj1276

    Mary says, “if it works, we’re going to do it; if it doesn’t work, we shouldn’t be doing it.” Yet she supports a party that continually, religiously, does things that have overwhelmingly been proven to NOT work simply because of ideology. One example in a small sense is the insistence on things like abstinence-only programs and scared straight or “tough on crime” programs, both of which have been overwhelmingly proven to not only not work, but do the opposite of its intent. Another example in a broader sense is the basic Republican tenet of “trickle down,” which both history in our own country and comparative history has proven to not work. Also, how can she as a woman support such anti-women policies so blindly? I’m curious about how she rationalizes these things in her mind.

  • Peter Li

    Hard to understand how Mary self-identifies as an empiricist yet still feels closest to a political wing that is patently antiscience.

    • Ehkzu

      I noticed that too. You can’t be an empiricist and be religious as well as embracing faith-based politics.

      It is true that the Democratic Party is not exactly a hotbed of empiricism either, but I would agree that it’s less loony–and less anti-science–than GOP, which has now disavowed the politics of its leading lights before the Reagan reign.

      She also claims to be a Federalist, which is almost equally ridiculous, even though most right wingers wrap that flag around themselves. The Federalist founding fathers–notably Alexander Hamilton–argued for a muscular federal government, while so-called modern Federalists seem to want to take us back to what America was under the Articles of Confederation, with a helpless central government.

      Which they’ve almost accomplished, actually, with 157 million Americans living under absolute Republican control at the state level, despite the GOP being in the minority overall and even in a number of those states.

      The secret of today’s GOP is that everything it does serves to further minority rule over America.

      • Bill_Woods

        It’s not at all inconsistent to think that the country needs a larger federal government than it had circa 1800 but smaller than it had circa 2000.

      • Peter Li

        I agree the Dems have their own brand of faith-based policy, but at least they’re making an effort at empiricism. And it seems they’ve improved quite a bit since the 60s.

  • Ehkzu

    We’ve got them beat–I’m a usually Democratic-voting independent atheist married for 32 years to a devout Mormon Tea Party-leaning cradle Republican. Her solution to our political differences is that she won’t talk politics with me.

    That said, I’d say our secret is that it’s more important to agree on other things, which we do: where to live (Palo Alto), what to do with money (live within our means but not skinflinty), where to go on vacation (mostly scuba diving in Indonesia), to respect each other’s beliefs and not try to undercut them, to resolve conflicts quietly, and valuing compromise–which has often turned out to be better than what each of us wanted originally.

    Ultimately what unites us is that we have similar temperament–practical, sense of humor, both methodical AND adventurous, with a tendency towards stoicism. That turns out to be much more important than if we agreed politically but had conflicting temperaments.

  • Christine

    Bravo to this engaging, brilliant and inspiring couple! As a yellow dog Democrat married to a Reagan Republican for almost 29 years, I can tell you that the foundation of this marriage boils down to one thing: Respect. Respect for each other as persons, respect for the intelligence of the other, respect for the space for different approaches, different opinions, different answers.

    During their years growing up, our two now-grown children would run from the room during election years when Mommy and Daddy were “discussing” politics, but all has always turns out well. And one is now a registered Republican and one a registered Democrat. Can’t get more balanced than that.

    • amyj1276

      That does make a lot of sense. However, I would have a very hard time respecting a partner who supports a party that is trying mightily to harm me as a woman and as a middle class person. Of course, today’s GOP is a far cry from a Reagan Republican, but even in the 80s’ Republicans were pretty backwards on social and economic policies.

  • gez devlin

    Birds of a feather rock together, & opposites attract…even if the other side is wrong.

  • Vic Hull

    I adore them both and think they make a perfect role-model for many bi-partisan couples, families and friendships. I thimk James Carville is brilliant, and a southern gentlemen! Mary Matalin is so lucky to have found a supportive, educated, respectful, God-loving man! I admire their loyalty to their parties..Those of us California n’s in bi-partisan relationships are not as fortunate to have peaceful opposing party relationships,; and usually end up with hardened relationships., or estranged friendships…I like their agree to disagree perspectives, it just shows so much respect..Kudos for that and for all you both do! I can not wait to read this book!

  • Menelvagor

    Republicans and democrats are basically the same party–on foreign policy, especially. They both cater to the rich. Capitalism manufactures war. BUt if one of you is truly against our imperial genocidal wars and the other supports it–i cant see how you can respect each other. You dont care that much about the issues if you dont hate each other. If you in are in office you are both begging for the same dollars, both frauds, both agaisnt the american people.

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