Carville wants resignation cease-fire

One of the architects of Bill Clinton's election to the presidency says "calls for resignation are becoming cries of 'wolf' in U.S. politics today."

Alex Koppelman
March 14, 2008 7:40PM (UTC)

You might think a man known -- not entirely affectionately -- as the "Ragin' Cajun" would have a high tolerance for almost all kinds of campaign tactics. But apparently not, as James Carville has just penned an Op-Ed for the Financial Times in which he says that the back-and-forth calls for resignations from the campaign staffs of both Democratic candidates need to stop.

"The problem is that calls for resignation are becoming cries of 'wolf' in US politics today. Every time one campaign's surrogate says something mildly offensive about the other candidate, resignation calls are swift," Carville writes. "This sort of hyper-sensitivity diminishes everyone who engages in it, both the candidates and the media. Politics is a rough and tumble business, and yet there seems to be an effort by the commentariat to sanitize American politics to some type of high-level Victorian debating society."


Interestingly enough for a man whose loyalties to the Clintons generally and in this cycle Hillary Clinton specifically are no secret, Carville takes as his prime example the recent resignation of former Barack Obama advisor Samantha Power, who left the Obama campaign after calling Clinton a "monster." Carville asks, "Have we really reached the point where you cannot call your opponent a monster (even if you think her one)?" and adds, "Ms. Power, come back to work."

Carville's larger point is that the kind of attack Power made is nothing new, but that the level of response to such attacks is. Referring to one moment in the 1992 campaign, during which he was Bill Clinton's campaign manager, Carville writes:

My then girlfriend and now wife Mary Matalin called my client "a philandering, pot-smoking draft dodger." Naturally, someone made a perfunctory call for her to resign which got nowhere, and we all got a good laugh and moved on ...

Some comments are within bounds, while some are not. But by whining about every little barb, candidates are trying to win the election through a war of staff resignation attrition and Americans are losing the ability to distinguish between what is fair game and what is not ... Our candidates need to buck up, toughen up and recognize that time spent whining and sniping is time not spent addressing the real concerns of the people.

And yes, if you're wondering, Carville does address the Geraldine Ferraro controversy, writing, "Rather than having to resign, as she has just done, she should have been dispatched to a cruise ship for a few weeks of sightseeing and spa treatments. I hear Antarctica is a popular destination this time of year."

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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