Carville, (Chester) James (Jr.) 1944-
CARVILLE, (Chester) James (Jr.) 1944-
PERSONAL: Born October 25, 1944, in Fort Benning, GA; son of Chester James (a postmaster and general store owner) and Lucille (a teacher and encyclopedia salesperson; maiden name, Normand) Carville; married Mary Matalin (a political consultant), November 25, 1993; children: Matalin Mary. Education: Louisiana State University, B.S., 1970, J.D., 1973. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Catholic. Hobbies and other interests: Jogging, cooking, Louisiana State University football, rhythm and blues, playing bourree.
CAREER: Taught middle school science, 1969-70; admitted to the bar of Louisiana, 1973; McKernnan, Beychok, Screen and Pierson (law firm), Baton Rouge, LA, attorney, 1973-79; Gus Weill and Raymond Strother (political consulting firm), Baton Rouge, became a director of campaigns, 1979-80; administrative assistant to Mayor Pat Screen, Baton Rouge, 1980-81; campaign manager for Virginia's Lt. Governor Richard J. Davis's bid for the U.S. Senate, 1982; worked briefly as an organizer of the South for Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart, 1983; campaign manager for Texas state senator Lloyd Doggett's bid for the U.S. Senate, 1983-84; director of Robert P. Casey's campaign for governor of Pennsylvania, 1986; director of Wallace Wilkinson's campaign for governor of Kentucky, 1987; manager of New Jersey Senator Frank R. Lautenberg's reelection campaign, 1988; manager of Fred Hofheinz's bid for mayor of Houston, TX, 1989; Carville & Begala (consulting firm), Washington, DC, founding partner, 1989—; campaign manager for the reelection of Robert P. Casey as governor of Pennsylvania, manager of Lieutenant Governor Zell Miller's campaign for governor of Georgia, and advisor to Texas state attorney general Jim Mattox's campaign for governor of Texas, all 1990; manager of Martha Wilkinson's campaign for governor of Kentucky and Pennsylvanian Harris Wofford's campaign for the U.S. Senate, 1991; chief strategist for Bill Clinton's presidential campaign, 1991-92; advisor to James J. Florio's reelection campaign as governor of New Jersey and Richard Katz's bid for mayor of Los Angeles, 1993; international advisor to politicians such as British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Prime Minister Ehud Barak of Israel; television commentator, cohost of Crossfire, CNN, and featured in HBO's K Street, 2003. Military service: U.S. Marine Corps, 1966-68.
MEMBER: Andy Griffith Rerun Fan Club (founding member of Washington chapter).
AWARDS, HONORS: Campaign Manager of the Year, American Association of Political Consultants, 1993.
(With wife, Mary Matalin, and Peter Knobler) All's Fair: Love, War, and Running for President, Random House/Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1994.
We're Right, They're Wrong: A Handbook for Spirited Progressives, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.
—and the Horse He Rode in On: The People v. Kenneth Starr, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1998.
Stickin': The Case for Loyalty, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2000.
(With Paul Begala) Buck Up, Suck Up—and Come Back When You Foul Up: 12 Winning Secrets from the War Room, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.
(With Jeff Nussbaum) Had Enough?: A Handbook for Fighting Back, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.
(With Patricia C. McKissack) Lu and the Swamp Ghost (picture book), illustrated by David Catrow, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2004.
ADAPTATIONS: A sound recording of All's Fair: Love, War, and Running for President was released by Simon & Schuster, 1994.
SIDELIGHTS: Although political strategist James Carville worked for many years behind the scenes, engineering the victories of numerous political candidates, he became a public figure as the chief strategist of Bill Clinton's presidential campaign. Carville is largely credited with restoring Clinton's image after it was tarnished by reports of marital infidelity, drug use, and draft-dodging. Following the campaign, Carville also attracted attention with his relationship with Mary Matalin, the reelection campaign director of Clinton's opponent, President George Bush. The unlikely pairing of a Democratic political strategist with a Republican one, especially with both involved at the presidential level, caused the Carville-Matalin relationship to be an interesting coda to the 1992 presidential election. The couple, now married, tell their story in All's Fair: Love, War, and Running for President, which they wrote with Peter Knobler.
All's Fair juxtaposes segments written individually by Carville and Matalin that depict their activities within their respective political parties. In his portions of the book, Carville describes his childhood in Carville, Louisiana—which was named for his family—and relates how his life was forever changed by his reading of Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird, which made him aware of the harmful effects of racism in the South. This awareness fueled his interest in change through politics, causing the young Carville to participate in the political process beginning as a page at the state capitol in Baton Rouge.
Carville attended Louisiana State University for a time after graduating from high school, but devoted more time to parties than studies. In 1966 he enlisted in the marines, serving two years at Camp Pendleton in San Diego. After his tour of duty, he returned to the university to complete his degree, which he paid for by teaching junior high school. With financial backing from an uncle, Carville went on to earn his law degree and attain a position with a firm in Baton Rouge. He soon found the practice of law unfulfilling, however, and became a political consultant. In a Newsweek excerpt from All's Fair, Carville explained: "I was always more interested in politics. I liked the excitement. I liked that there was a definite date to fix on, that there was a winner or a loser. And I always wanted to be a winner."
Known for his aggressive campaign tactics, Carville is nicknamed the "ragin' Cajun" and has been compared to Republican Lee Atwater, the mastermind of George Bush's 1988 win over Michael Dukakis. In Newsweek, Howard Fineman described Carville as "a political consultant with a hell raiser's reputation and an inborn feel for the fears of the middle class. His campaigns are as nasty as he can get away with, full of dark accusation, half-truths and last-minute leaks. He chuckles when the word 'principle' comes up."
Carville has led a series of candidates to victory, including the long-shot triumph of Kentucky's Wallace Wilkinson, an unknown who entered his state's 1988 gubernatorial race as the fifth of five candidates and beat his Republican opponent by a landslide. Carville subsequently assisted Zell Miller in his election as governor of Georgia and aided Harris Wofford, who had never held an elected office, in his defeat of U.S. Attorney General Richard L. Thornburgh in a race for the U.S. Senate. Wofford came from forty-four points behind in the polls to win, becoming Pennsylvania's first Democrat in thirty years to be seated in the Senate. His upset victory caused many other political hopefuls to look to Carville for direction, among them Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey, and Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, all seeking the Democratic nomination for president.
Carville joined the Clinton team in 1991 and was faced with numerous obstacles to overcome. Republicans levied charges against Clinton, accusing him of being a draft-dodger, pot-smoker, and womanizer. To counter these charges, Carville arranged a campaign of confrontation for Clinton. When a woman named Gennifer Flowers claimed to have had an affair with Clinton, for instance, Carville arranged for Clinton and his wife, Hillary, to speak candidly about the allegations on the television news show 60 Minutes. Rather than denying the rumors generated by Flowers, the Clintons discussed the governor's infidelity and asked for privacy. While other candidates have been destroyed by such charges, political observers noted that the Clintons, by confronting the issue, defused any potential it might have had to cause the governor to lose the election.
Many attribute Clinton's victory to Carville's devotion and risk-taking tactics. Carville describes his strategy in All's Fair, as quoted by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt in the New York Times: "The cause and purpose of a political campaign is to win the election. I will represent the interest of my campaign and my candidate as ferociously as I can, and I'll be equally aggressive in defending even the things I don't think are too good about him. The bottom line is, My guy is better than the other guy. If you're looking for somebody objective, don't talk to me."
Carville's handling of Clinton's campaign is the subject of The War Room, a documentary film by D. A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, who were allowed access to Clinton's team of strategists at work in their Arkansas capitol office, dubbed "the war room." Rolling Stone reviewer Peter Travers noted that The War Room portrays Carville as one "who plays politics like a raucous game of high-stakes poker."
All's Fair, too, is a lesson in the making of a president, with Carville and Matalin alternately replaying the events that shaped the Clinton and Bush campaigns, while also sharing their love story. Dubbed politics' "Tracy and Hepburn," Carville and Matalin received nearly one million dollars to produce All's Fair in a deal as unusual as their union: competitive publishers Random House and Simon & Schuster jointly published the book and share its profits, an arrangement thought to be the first collaborative effort by two competing houses. New York Times reporter Esther B. Fein explained the merger: "Everyone involved in the deal … conceded that the arrangement was a clever marketing ploy that echoed the onstage competition and offstage romance between Mr. Carville and Ms. Matalin."
While some reviewers recommended All's Fair for its behind-the-scenes look at the presidential campaign as well as its unusual love story, other critics faulted the authors for not including more insight and introspection. Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, for example, praised Carville and Matalin's candor about themselves, but added in his New York Times Book Review assessment: "Too much of All's Fair explores in far too great detail what we already knew about the 1992 campaign, from Mr. Clinton's draft problems to Mr. Bush's trouble coordinating governing with running for re-election." Lehmann-Haupt concluded that Carville and Matalin's "overlong dialogue on an election that fails to sustain its interest leaves the reader with the after-taste of a hermetically self-absorbed world."
Howard Fineman expressed similar sentiments in Newsweek. Fineman wrote, "Apparently, neither [Carville nor Matalin] felt they could be blunt about the 1992 campaign. Carville, who was close to Clinton, never vividly portrays him; Matalin sheathes her cutting wit when it comes to describing most of her fellow GOP operatives. Both authors were careful not to spill hot gumbo on the hands that fed them." New York reviewer Walter Kirn, commenting that the best sections of the book are those in which the authors discuss their early lives, stated that when the authors discuss the election "the book's great flaw is exposed: Matalin and Carville have never stopped stumping. They're still standing by their candidates and trying to convince us we should, too." All's Fair, according to Kirn, is "not a good book, it's not a bad book, but like the election it has a winner: Carville…. Unlike Matalin, who often reminds us she's on the side of virtue, leading us to fill in her dark side, Carville emphasizes his vulgar aspects, causing us to attribute goodness to him. Here, as in the campaign, his southerner's knack for creative perversity is the key to his winning ways."
Carville continues his edgy take on the political life of the nation as a talk show host for CNN's Crossfire. An international personality, he has worked on political campaigns both in the United States and abroad, helping Ehud Barak to become prime minister of Israel in 1999. He has also—despite what he terms a learning disability—continued to write books. Actually, he dictates them. "I can't spell," he told John Woestendiek in the Houston Chronicle. "I can barely read. I sure can't type."
In We're Right, They're Wrong: A Handbook for Spirited Progressives, Carville lays out in a "chatty, pointed survey," according to Booklist reviewer Mary Carroll, the differences between the Democratic and Republican parties, from their respective stands on the GI Bill to Head Start, claiming for the Democrats a morally superior position. Carroll went on to call Carville's primer "fast, funny, [and] energizing." Nation contributor Robert Scheer noted that Carville "provides a lot of pity spitballs to throw at the [conservative talk show host] Rush Limbaugh's crowd." Scheer further commented, "Pity that there isn't more of Carville's populist anger in [President] Clinton." Similarly, Phil Gailey, writing in the New York Times Book Review called the book "part diatribe, part populist manifesto and part campaign script for the 1996 elections." Gailey also observed that Carville "offers [the book] to Democrats as a manual for hand-to-hand combat."
With —and the Horse He Rode in On: The People v. Kenneth Starr, Carville takes on the prosecutor who headed the Whitewater investigation into alleged illegal business dealings by President Clinton. Carville questions Starr's motives and his office's legitimacy in this book that is an "oddly entertaining cross between a vitriolic rant and legal brief," as Francine Prose described it in People. For Jonathan Lear, writing in the New York Times Book Review, the book "doesn't pretend to be anything other than it is: a full-throttle partisan critique." Loyalty takes center stage in Stickin': The Case for Loyalty, inspired in part by Carville's sense of loyalty to Clinton when others were abandoning him amid the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Carville includes other classic examples of loyalty in sports and public life, as well as some infamous cases of traitorous acts, as witnessed during the anticommunist McCarthy hearings of the 1950s. The book proved to be another best-seller for Carville, who had found a winning recipe in his highly partisan narrative. As Library Journal reviewer Karl Helicher noted, "Republicans will be infuriated, and Democrats will be gleeful."
Teaming up with Paul Begala, Carville shares the winning secrets of campaigning and of succeeding in other aspects of life in Buck Up, Suck Up—and Come Back When You Foul Up: 12 Winning Secrets from the War Room, a "good-natured approach" to the subject that is "humorous and refreshing," according to a critic for Publishers Weekly. Booklist's Ilene Cooper found the title "part memoir, part self-help book," written with a "down-home sensibility [that] ices this cake nicely." And Washington Monthly critic Michael Crowley called the work "less a book of 'secrets' which might excite political junkies and insiders, than one of some fairly elementary rules of thumb for politics and life."
Along the same lines is Carville's 2004 title, Had Enough?: A Handbook for Fighting Back, which he wrote with Jeff Nussbaum. It is "a critique of the faults, failures, and lies of the [George W.] Bush administration," as Michael A. Genovese described it in Library Journal. For Genovese, Carville's book proves to be "funny, informative, and challenging." Similarly, Jamie Malanowski, writing in the Washington Monthly, thought it was a "brilliant book, essential reading for anybody interested in the preservation of our democratic institutions." In effect, the author provides alternatives to the Bush White House policies on issues including health care, the environment and tax cuts. Booklist's Ilene Cooper noted that "candidates who would spend good money for Carville's thoughts can find them here for the price of the book." A critic for Publishers Weekly commented that Carville "launches another no-holds-barred assault on the conservative powers-that-be" in this book. And writing in Denver's Rocky Mountain News, Laurence Washington felt that "the book is tough as nails, with rapid-fire quips—a challenging call to arms with fresh new ideas to make our country stronger." Washington concluded, "Like him or not, even Republicans will have to concede that Carville is never boring."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Carville, James, Mary Matalin, and Peter Knobler, All's Fair: Love, War, and Running for President, Random House/Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1994.
Booklist, February 15, 1996, Mary Carroll, review of We're Right, They're Wrong: A Handbook for Spirited Progressives, pp. 962-963; November 15, 1998, Bonnie Smothers, review of —and the Horse He Rode in On: The People v. Kenneth Starr, p. 547; January 1, 2000, Mary Carroll, review of Stickin': The Case for Loyalty, p. 830; December 15, 2001, Ilene Cooper, review of Buck Up, Suck Up—and Come Back When You Foul Up: 12 Winning Secrets from the War Room, p. 682; November 15, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of Had Enough?: A Handbook for Fighting Back, p. 546.
Business Record (Des Moines, IA), April 8, 2002, review of Buck Up, Suck Up—and Come Back When You Foul Up, p. 17.
Campaigns & Elections, May, 2002, review of Buck Up, Suck Up—and Come Back When You Foul Up, p. 20,
Challenge, November-December, 1996, M. E. Sharpe, review of We're Right, They're Wrong, pp. 61-62.
Houston Chronicle (Houston, TX), May 24, 2002, John Woestendiek, "Carville's Life Marked by Failures, Comebacks" and "Success in Spite of Himself," p. 57.
Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, January 9, 2002, Richard Pachter, review of Buck Up, Suck Up—and Come Back When You Foul Up, p. K6610.
Library Journal, January, 1999, Thomas J. Baldino, review of —and the Horse He Rode in On, p. 128; February 1, 2000, Karl Helicher, review of Stickin', p. 103; January, 2002, Karl Helicher, review of Buck Up, Suck Up—and Come Back When You Foul Up, p. 119; January, 2004, Michael A. Genovese, review of Had Enough?, p. 135.
Nation, March 18, 1996, Robert Scheer, review of We're Right, They're Wrong, pp. 25-28.
National Review, December 27, 1993, p. 80.
New Republic, November 22, 1993, p. 26.
Newsweek, November 11, 1991, p. 30; September 12, 1994, pp. 33-43.
New York, September 26, 1994, Walter Kirn, review of All's Fair: Love, War, and Running for President, pp. 100, 102.
New York Times, February 23, 1993, p. D1; September 15, 1994, p. C16.
New York Times Book Review, September 18, 1994, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, review of All's Fair, pp. 1, 24, 26; March 17, 1996, Phil Gailey, review of We're Right, They're Wrong, p. 10; October 18, 1998, Jonathan Lear, review of —and the Horse He Rode in On, p. 10; February 27, 2000, Robin Toner, review of Stickin', p. 7.
People, April 1, 1996, review of We're Right, They're Wrong, p. 39; November 9, 1998, Francine Prose, review of —and the Horse He Rode in On, p. 45; December 1, 2003, "James Carville: Political Strategist," p. 113.
PR Newswire, January 14, 2004, "James Carville to Publish Children's Book with Simon & Schuster."
Publishers Weekly, January 31, 2000, review of Stickin', p. 20; December 17, 2001, review of Buck Up, Suck Up—and Come Back When You Foul Up, p. 78; November 3, 2003, review of Had Enough?, p. 65.
Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO), January 9, 2004, Laurence Washington, "Carville Shoots from Lip in Fighting," p. D27.
Rolling Stone, November 15, 1993, p. 126.
Tikkun, July, 2000, David Silver, review of Stickin', p. 63.
Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), January 11, 2004, Susan Larson, review of Had Enough?, p. 6.
Washington Monthly, March, 1996, Molly Ivins, review of We're Right, They're Wrong, pp. 42-43; January-February, 2002, Michael Crowley, review of Buck Up, Suck Up—and Come Back When You Foul Up, p. 49; December, 2003, Jamie Malanowski, review of Had Enough?, pp. 47-48.
BookPage, http://www.bookpage.com/ (March 25, 2004), Eve Zibart, "Interview with James Carville."
CBS Online, http://www.cbsnews.com/ (October 10, 2003), Matthew Continetti, "Making 'K Street' Special."
Desert Sun Online, http://www.thedesertsun.com/ (January 20, 2004), "James Carville Pens Children's Book."
George, http://georgemag.radicalmedia.com/ (June 15, 2002).
GGC/NOP, http://www.greenbergresearch.com/ggcnop/ (February 7, 2004).
James Carville Official Web Site, http://www.carville.info (February 7, 2004).*