Friday, August 20, 2004

Tonight on 20/20: Hindsight!

Here's a brainteaser for you. Which partisan commentator made this bold statement?

"The Democrats are so scared of the chattering class it's unbelievable. I mean, if you want to start a stampede in Washington, drop a feather in the middle of a congressional Democratic caucus, and when it hits the floor they'll be gone out of every exit, they'll be diving out the window, running for fear. They're scared of their own shadows."

Dude, where's my car? Posted by Hello

Meet James Carville. If you read this blog for any reason, chances are you need no introduction. Yes, that's right, it was Carville who made the above 1997! A native of Carville, Louisiana (no joke!), Carville was the head political consultant to Bill Clinton during Clinton's hugely popular presidential campaign in 1992; in particular, the Ragin' Cajun is famous for coining the Clinton catchphrase, "It's the economy, stupid." Since then, Carville has remained one of the most visible and loyal faces of the New Democrat movement. He has co-written several books with his wife, right-wing paragon Mary Matalin (whom he claims to have never met), as well as with consulting partner and Crossfire co-panelist Paul Begala. He has also fared well as a solo author, with the bestsellers We're Right, They're Wrong, Stickin': The Case for Loyalty and, most recently, Had Enough?: A Handbook for Fighting Back. He also appeared in the classic college comedy Old School, playing the role of one James Carville.

Carville is also the mastermind behind the book ...And the Horse He Rode In On: The People v. Kenneth Starr. See, Carville has had a little problem with the notorious "independent" counsel for many, many years. Keep in mind that, long before the media became aroused by the whole Monica scandal, Starr was careening through the fruitless Whitewater investigation. Starr spent several years and millions upon millions of taxpayer money looking for something--anything, really--to pin on Clinton. That witch-hunt was plenty enough to piss off Carville, which is something you just don't do.

This anger filled the air in an interview Carville gave in the June 1997 issue of Penthouse Magazine. (Hey, I read the articles, what can I say?) Reading it again, in light of everything bad and worse that has transpired in the seven years since, I noticed that Carville was scarily on the mark on just about everything:

"There's nothing that Ken Starr can do now that could matter to anybody, unless it is validated by twelve citizens on hearing properly presented evidence." (Remember, this was BEFORE anyone had ever heard of Monica Lewinsky)

"I think it's that their credibility is on the line. They've invested everything in this Whitewater deal. And this was the way for them and a lot of people to sort of get back and get their--because the reward, we made it such, for good or bad, the rewards of bringing down a president, or finding a story like this, are so big that it's like you say in campaigns, people tend to do things because they want to win so desperately. This has become a struggle. This is a testosterone struggle, man, that's what's going on here." (Keep in mind, this was BEFORE Monica!)

[On the media] "What they're going to say when it turns out, as everyone now knows it is, it's a land deal that lost money. They can't say, Well, we wasted three years of time, we sold you a bill of goods. And if something happens...they are desperate for the prosecutors to do something."

And do something Starr did...soon after the interview was published, the special prosecutor found himself some dirt, in the form of an intern who would soon be known to the world as "that woman." Starr would run with it, but not before taking a short recess:

Relaxing in the penthouse Posted by Hello

More Carvillian clairvoyance from the 1997 time capsule:

"Now if someone wanted to say that Clinton will give a slick answer, there is some validity there, you know what I mean? ...But what happened was his enemies conned a lot of the mainstream media into believing that there was something illegal going on--of which there was not--and they don't know how to get off." (Monica would take care of that for them.)

"When [Republicans] collectively decided it's time for this person to go, then that person went. But this guy Clinton didn't go, and not only did he not go but he won reelection, and he's still there! And if he walks away in 2001, then they've been hurt. Now, if they, quote, get him, unquote, then they can say, See, we told you all along.

How does that play into the Gingrich stories? Had they decided that he should go?

Yes. He's gone. He's gone. He ain't gone yet, but he's gone. He's gone.

You think he's out of here before the end of the year?

He's out now. He doesn't have any power. He's eviscerated." [Newt Gingrich stepped down as Speaker of the House at the end of 1998.]

Finally, Carville directs a bitch or two toward his Democratic allies:

"I will do something I rarely do: I will publicly criticize [Clinton]. I think that when someone stands for us, we ought to put our arm around them, and I think when somebody takes a cheap shot at us we ought to go knock their goddamn head off. Okay?"

"Look, if we can't stand up for poor kids or something, you know what I mean? If we just stand up for anything. If the Democratic Party, if the Democratic caucus, said, 'This we'll do, and there will be no nothing, this is our patch of ground, dammit, here!' I think the country would explode in applause. Okay?"

Anyone who is willing to unabashedly dish on our political foes and our own shortcomings alike is just fine by me. The Democrats would be wise to continue taking the advice of the Ragin' Cajun.


oyster said...

Carville is awesome. I've followed his work since Wofford upset Thornberg (sp?) in PA in '91. I literally cheered when Clinton hired him for his campaign, knowing that he will always hit back. There's a behind the scenes documentary from the '92 Dem campaign that shows him at work, and it is something to see (can't remember the title offhand).

This needs explanation:

"the Ragin' Cajun is famous for coining the Clinton catchphrase, 'It's economics, stupid.'"

Carville's famous phrase for Clinton's team was "It's the economy, stupid". Is this an early variation from Carville that was transformed, or what?

Ian McGibboney said...

I believe you're right, oyster. The phrase Carville coined was, "It's the economy, stupid." Things like that happen often at 3 a.m. Though, in my defense, I do recall hearing it cited both ways at different points. But let's go with yours, because it makes more sense. Thanks for the head-up.

Incidentally, the documentary to which you refer is "The War Room":