iOS app Android app

Why the Dems Need James Carville to Take a Long, Long Vacation


During a week when Harry Reid and the Dems finally found their spines and their voices on Plamegate and the war, it was deeply disturbing to see James Carville parading his tired, old, and utterly clueless act all over the TV -- supposedly offering up the Democratic point of view.

Can somebody please, please, please shut Carville up -- especially about Plamegate. His takes on the scandal are utterly compromised by his marriage to Mary Matalin.

This isn't like the weird-but-fun old days when they were a sitcom come to life -- running opposing campaigns during the day and sharing pillow talk at night while creating a cottage industry as "the Donny and Marie of politics."

That's all in the past. Now, as one of Dick Cheney's most trusted first-term advisors, one of eight founding members of the White House Iraq Group, a witness in front of the Plamegate grand jury, and a close friend of Scooter Libby ("The man you pray you get seated next to at a dinner party," she recently cooed), Matalin is a central player in all this.

And it has hopelessly handcuffed Carville. Check out this exchange from his appearance on The Situation Room this week:

BLITZER: Should the vice president hold a news conference or grant an interview and answer the tough questions that are being asked out there?

CARVILLE: I've got a better idea. Why doesn't the president get out and have one? Harry Truman didn't say the buck stops with the Vice President. The buck stops with the President.

[snip]

I think the first step is not the Vice President -- [it's] the President of the United States standing up, answering to the American people, answering people's questions... The Vice nothing. There aren't no Vices around here. There's one man in charge of this country and that is George W. Bush.

Jesus, could Carville have turned the focus of the discussion away from his wife's former boss any quicker?

"The Vice nothing"? "There are no Vices around here"? The buck doesn't stop with the Vice President? Are you kidding me? The Vice President's office is Ground Zero on Plamegate -- and on the Bush administration's push for war. It was Cheney who regularly stormed over to the CIA, knocking heads and twisting arms to get the intel he wanted. It was Cheney who set the Plamegate ball rolling by demanding info on the bogus claims of a Niger/Iraq uranium connection. It was Cheney who led the media charge in selling the war with his unwavering claims that Saddam had the ability to "subject the United States...to nuclear blackmail." It was Cheney who helped foster the bogus impression that there was an al-Qaeda/Saddam connection -- continuing to tout the "Atta met with Saddam's reps in Prague" story long after it had been shot down by the FBI. It was Cheney's office that opened its arms to Chalabi after the CIA soured on him. It was "Cheney's Cheney," Scooter Libby, who wrote the original draft of Colin Powell's shameful UN speech. And it was Cheney's office that took the lead in the administration's efforts to discredit Joe Wilson and his wife.

Memo to Carville: If you can't talk about Dick Cheney, then you can't talk about Plamegate. Or about the war -- and the lies and deceptions the administration used to sell it to the American people. And if you can't talk about Plamegate and the war, you should not be talking at all from the Democratic side of the aisle.

And there is the additional problem that Carville never really got Iraq and its significance. That's why he spent much of 2004 advising Kerry and the Democrats to focus on domestic issues. And we know how well that turned out.

On Tuesday, we got a snapshot of how Carville deals with the issue of the war on the Today show:

COURIC: Obviously the White House would like to change the subject away from the indictment of "Scooter" Libby. Is this story over, James?

CARVILLE: No, this story is not over. I'll tell you another story that's not over: We had the fourth bloodiest month in Iraq... and that's of a lot bigger concern here. But...


So there we are. One line on the war, nothing on Plamegate's connection to it -- and then a lightning-fast pivot to the domestic front, where he obviously feels more, well, at home:

I think Democrats have a great opportunity to show that they're going to stand up for the interests of working people, going to stand up for the interests of middle-class people and get away from the machine gun lobby and the anti-Family Medical Leave and all of these other decisions here.


Family Medical Leave? Iraq is going to hell, the American public has turned against the war, Bush is staggering from the Plamegate revelations, and Carville wants the Democrats to "stand up for" family medical leaves? Is he serious? Why not throw in school uniforms and mandatory 48-hour hospital maternity stays while you're at it, James?

It would be bad enough if Carville were only dishing out this clueless crap as a TV talking head -- but, unfortunately, he's also serving it up to Democratic leaders who, inexplicably, keep seeking out his advice.

I'll never forget sitting in Lawrence Bender's living room 12 days before the 2004 election, listening to Carville predict that the election was in the bag.

"If we can't win this damn election," he said, "with a Democratic Party more unified than ever before, with us having raised as much money as the Republicans, with 55% of the country believing we're heading in the wrong direction, with our candidate having won all three debates, and with our side being more passionate about the outcome than theirs -- if we can't win this one, then we can't win shit! And we need to completely rethink the Democratic Party."

But, instead of rethinking, the party is returning to the bone dry Carville advice well. He's one of the guiding forces behind the influential Democracy Corps, which recently released a report [PDF] calling for the Democrats to run on a 2006 agenda focused on "health care, education and energy, followed by top end tax cut repeal and homeland security."

Thud (that's the sound of Democratic chances dropping).

James Carville hasn't had a fresh idea since The War Room stopped filming.

It's time for him to take a long, long vacation from the spotlight. And he should take his Cheney/Libby-apologist, WHIG-war-salesman-wife with him.