Jamie, We Hardly Knew Ye

Mary Matalin and James Carville are two American political consultants and television commentators.  Carville is a hope-to-die Democrat and former member of Bill Clinton’s brain trust; Matalin is a lemon-sucking Republican and former Deputy Political Director to George H. W. Bush.  Ideologically, they are miles apart; politically, they are nominal foes; financially, they are both millionaires; conjugally,  they are husband and wife.

And ethically—if we want to put a bow on this thing—they’re about the lowest and most cynical form of ideological huckster you’re ever likely to see.

When Matalin and Carville get asked—which they inevitably do, repeatedly—how a pair of such politically disparate folks could ever fall in love and wind up as husband and wife, their oh-so-cute answer is, “We never talk politics at home.”  That’s their standard reply, their pat answer.  And, from all indications, they actually expect us to believe that.

In truth, these people’s political “principles” are about as important to them as which baseball team they root for.  In fact, baseball is the perfect analogy here.  Matalin and Carville are like the Chicago couple who meet, begin dating, fall in love, get married, and who, despite all the faux-friction and good-natured ribbing, remain fans of their respective home teams—he a dedicated Cub fan, she a lifelong White Sox booster.  That’s the extent to which ideology actually matters to these two hucksters.  “Go Democrats!” shouts James.   “Yea Republicans!” cries Mary….and they fall laughing into each other’s arms.

We’ve all known married couples whose views on politics don’t coincide.  It’s not rare.  Typically, they either got married when they were very young, before they had any heavy-duty political discussions, or, over time, their political views simply changed, shifted in one direction or the other.  It happens.  Similarly, we’ve all known married couples whose views on religion aren’t especially compatible.  Again, it happens.

But it doesn’t happen the way it happened with Matalin and Carville.  Besides already being full-grown adults with long histories and lots of baggage, these people were, putatively, stone opposites—polar opposites—not just in regard to which candidate they preferred or how they voted, but in how they made their living.  Each was a professional operative, working a different side of the street.

If they had truly believed in the political principles they espoused (indeed, principles which they loudly professed on national television), there wouldn’t have been a romance in the first place.  Their beliefs wouldn’t have allowed it  A deeply devout evangelical Christian doesn’t date, continue to date, and eventually marry a self-avowed, scorched-earth atheist, and an animal rights proponent doesn’t marry a vivisectionist.  Yes, people change over time, and yes, weird juxtapositions have been known to occur, but that didn’t happen here.

What happened here was the stripping away of phony images .  What happened here was the triumph of opportunism and financial gain over integrity.  If these two wildly ambitious people hadn’t been political “hired guns,” they would’ve run like hell from each other.  Instead, they got married.  Which tells us all we need to know….not about love, but hypocrisy.

David Macaray is a playwright and author, whose latest book is How to Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows: Weird Adventures in India: Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims When the Peace Corps was New. Everything you ever wanted to know about India but were afraid to ask. He can be reached at: dmacaray@gmail.com. Read other articles by David.