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Political sparring partners visit Gainesville

Carville, Matalin bring speaking tour to Brenau

POSTED: April 30, 2008 5:01 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

Mary Matalin, right, shares a laugh with the audience while she and husband James Carville, left, socialize with students Friday afternoon at Brenau University's Yonah Hall.

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James Carville and Mary Matalin never play on the same team - except when it comes to their personal lives.

Matalin, a former head of the Republican National Committee and aide to both President Bushes, says she and her husband, Carville, the man who helped Bill Clinton become President Clinton, try not to sway their children to the political left or right.

"We don't indoctrinate them. They live in a very hard, competitive place as it is," Matalin said.
Brenau University was the most recent stop for the couple as they tour the country with their presentation, "All's Fair: Love, War and Politics." They also met with students prior to Friday night's event at Pearce Auditorium.

The couple has decided to take their children to New Orleans, far away from the "one industry town" of Washington D.C., "because it's just too hyper," Matalin said.

Yet, as the spawn of two political powerhouses, albeit from two different sides, would have to be, Matalin says both daughters, Matty and Emma, are interested and knowledgeable about the political scene that swirls around them.

"They're very curious, they're very interested in what's going on," Carville said in a separate interview. "They have opinions that sometimes mirror my own and sometimes their mother's, but more often than not are neither one of our opinions."

"I think that's good."

Carville claims that he and Matalin are the type of parents who encourage their children to think instead of teaching them what to think.

Matalin calls her daughters her "focus group," because of the freshness with which she thinks they see the world.

"They do watch all this stuff, they watch all the debates ... they see things, you know, they will see phoniness," Matalin said. "They will see those character things, and my eye is so jaded for that and they'll get it."

What's most important to Matalin and Carville is that their children understand the importance of their civic responsibility to participate in government, and to make sure they learn all the facts before making their decisions.

"They happen to be kids that march to the beat of their own drummers, and that's a good thing, and I don't want to put them in any box," Matalin said.

Outside the cozy confines of home, however, the pair dwell in two very different political domains.
Most recently, Matalin worked on Fred Thompson's presidential campaign until he dropped out of the race early this year. Carville served as an advisor to Sen. Hillary Clinton in her efforts to become the Democratic presidential candidate and acted in a Jesse James flick with Brad Pitt.

They even hold themselves differently. Standing in front of a crowd at Brenau's packed Pearce Auditorium, Matalin looks polished, almost stately, while her 6-foot-plus tall 63-year-old husband slouches in a chair, rolling his head from one side to the other, fidgeting like a child. In a later interview, he played with his shoes, using the floor to kick one off and twirl his foot around before sliding the foot back in.

Not surprisingly, one usually becomes part of the other's joke. Carville tells his Republican wife that she uses Fox News "like a drunk uses a lamp post," Matalin told a crowd Friday at Brenau University.

And Matalin gets her jibes in by introducing her bald husband to the Brenau crowd as "Cpl. Cueball," a reference to Carville's service in the Marines.

"He's the zen master of sound bites, because he has a 30-second attention span," Matalin said.

In order to keep the peace in their marriage, she has stopped listening to Carville on the radio, watching him on television and has refused to read his half of the book they wrote together, Matalin told the Brenau crowd.

But both are able to agree on one other subject than their family life: this year's election is like nothing the United States has ever seen before.

And in a discussion on how the "best" candidate will win this year's election, Matalin said the candidates' approach to this election will have to be different than in elections past.

"There's nothing worse than another textbook campaign in a nontextbook year," she said.

Later in their schtick, Carville seemed to echo his wife's sentiments. "The things that are happening here are things that have never happened before," Carville told the Brenau audience. "American presidential politics are just not going to be the same again."



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