carville is a hard-core-ultra-left-wing-dem-strategist, he says the dems need to "become" patriotic
Carville: Democrats Have a 'Disease'
Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2006
Political strategist James Carville believes the Democratic Party "has a disease" that must be rectified –- and soon -– if the party has a chance of gaining back the White House or the Congress.
In an exclusive interview with NewsMax, Carville is touting his latest book, co-authored by CNN's Paul Begala, titled "Take It Back: Our Party, Our Country, Our Future." Both are savvy strategists who helped Bill Clinton earn a come-from-behind victory that brought him from Little Rock, Ark., to the White House in 1992. Later, the pair were architects of Clinton's successful 1996 re-election.
Today, they have changed roles from insider Beltway operatives to pundits who are warning that their party -– today out of power in every branch of the federal government -- needs emergency resuscitation. Surprisingly, both authors argue that the party needs to change its dogmatic thinking on abortion rights, gun control and environmental concerns.
"We think the problem with the party is anatomical," a direct result of outdated beliefs, such as that supporting health care for everyone must also mean support for late-term abortions, Carville tells NewsMax.
With plenty of his famous Cajun spirit still directing barbs at Republicans and President Bush, Carville's book is notable in that it is not simply a polemic against the Republican Party, but one that doesn't hold back on fellow Democrats whom he and Begala have severely criticized for failing to learn lessons from past elections.
Carville and Begala's "Take It Back" is fast becoming required reading for Democrats. Interestingly, it has developed Beltway "buzz" among Republicans who see it as a must-read for understanding how Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton may position herself in the 2008 race.
With Hillary, D-N.Y., already the presumptive Democratic nominee for 2008, Carville makes clear he is ready to join her 2008 crusade.
Last week Carville told radio host Don Imus, "I'll do anything in the world for Mrs. Clinton." As for her presidential ambitions, he playfully said, "I'm sure she'll tell us what her intentions are sometime."
There is little doubt that Carville's "Take It Back" could be the Democrats' -- and Hillary's -- playbook for the next two years.
Changing the Party
Without naming names, Carville says there's too much dead wood in his party.
"There's a significant part of the Democratic Party that doesn't want to reform anything. We call them the 'Remainderists.' OK?
"Remainderists are people who say that if you hate them (the GOP) enough, then we're what remains and then people will vote for us and then we can have our people at the Capital Grill (a popular power restaurant a few blocks from the Capitol). And then we can get more golf trips and bigger steaks."
That's got to change, Carville says.
And it'll happen with a new cadre of "challenging candidates" willing to reform Washington down to its core, Carville argues.
"That's what I'm waiting for" -- to give the old lions in Congress some competition on ideas.
"The problem is not that the Democrats don't have any ideas," Carville candidly admits. "They got too many ideas."
For example, if "you ask any Democratic think tank or Democratic politician what you think you ought to do about (fixing things), they've got eight ideas!"
In fact, he says, the "central Democratic problem is that we lack a narrative. You hear a Democratic speech and you hear that 'I stand for a woman's right to choose, a person's right to health care, a nationalist foreign policy, a cleaner environment,'" Carville says.
Such lists just "produces a litany" of ideas that "sounds like something we're for. But it doesn't mean anything."
Carville reiterates his thesis: "The damn problem is that they have far too many things spread all over the map."
To help bring focus, Carville thinks he's hit on a GOP-inspired theme that will work to unite his faltering party -- one that needs "to start with a real hard-core return to reform."
‘Wrap Ourselves in the Flag'
"We actually believe, and we have a chapter in (the book) on it, that the Democrats should embrace what we call 'Progressive Patriotism.' We should wrap ourselves in the flag just like Republicans have done so successfully post-9/11 and even back to 1994 when House Republicans developed their 'Contract with America.'"
Carville says Democrats –- such as Sen. John Kerry in 2004 -- don't seem to understand that just because they've got a large supermarket with all these nifty products, "that ain't a gourmet café."
Still missing is that "narrative" he thinks the GOP has artfully mastered.
"See, Bush says, 'I was a shiftless drunk, I was transformed by the power of Jesus Christ, I was further transformed by 9/11 and I will protect you from the terrorists in Tehran and the homos in Hollywood.' And he sticks with it!"
Carville and Begala argue that moving "somewhere on the ideological scale" is not the key to changing the Democrats from a losing party to a winning party.
"Progressive Patriotism" is the operating philosophy since "everything fits under this rubric." For example, the wealthy can give up their tax cuts, because we're all in this together. Or so Carville thinks.
That's what we need; we're all in this together.
Of course Congress is going to have to reform itself, he says. Of course we're going to wean ourselves from the special interest groups.
Of course we're going have to change things. We can't ask everybody in America to be part of patriotism and have our leaders not be part of it, too.
Carville's ideas on restoring his party to power come from GOP successes.
He credits former GOP Rep. Newt Gingrich's takeover of Congress in 1994 and the "Contract With America" with offering a similar approach.
"I admired that. And I've talked to Gingrich at length about this," he says of Gingrich's strategy. He notes that the House Republicans failed to seize the momentum of their success.
Carville's thinking flies in the face of "the cocktail party circuit" and the cable TV crowd who say Democrats stand for nothing.
"We say no, they stand for too much, and that it doesn't fit into America," he says.
Stop the Pillow Fighting
"It's like my uncle used to say to me, 'Go up there and tell those kids to stop the pillow fighting.' And when I took the first step my intention was to tell them that my uncle told them to stop the pillow fighting. But by the time I got there in the room, there I was grabbing a pillow and joining the pillow fighting.
"My intention at the bottom of the stairs was fine, but once I saw the fun and games that were going on I jumped in."
The same thing happens to people coming to the Congress, Carville says. "I do think that to a large extent we put good people in a bad system and we make them not as good people as when they started.
"There was actually a good Eddie Murphy movie about a scammer who comes to Washington. There was a lot more truth in that movie than most people realize," Carville notes. "There are good people in the lobbying community and in Congress. But you know what?" he says ruefully: "Good people do bad things."
People like Jack Abramoff, the disgraced former Republican lobbyist who allegedly has implicated up to 80 members and congressional staff and executive branch senior aides with possible wrongdoing.
Carville acknowledges that some Democrats will be tainted by the ongoing scandal -- one that's "gonna get a whole lot worse."
Still, the Abramoff scandal may get lost on the public, who won't see the distinction that mostly it's Republicans caught in wrongdoing, Carville argues.
And that's one of the key problems for his party -- to get its voice heard as though from a narrative story instead of just a bunch of worn-out litanies.
"Nobody has been able to communicate through a litany, only through a narrative. But we're a party of litanies," he says.
To fix this nagging problem Carville suggests Democrats seize on two pressing problems: First, energy, and second, hard-core reforms across a broad array of issues and topics.
"Everything should be on the table of reforms," he says. "We have to change how we drive, how we are consuming energy, deal with deficits and exploding health care costs. And the first people we've got to deal with are the people in Congress, because they have to set the example."
On other matters, including getting misty-eyed when mentioning his wife, GOP strategist Mary Matalin, Carville says:
Democrats' foul treatment of Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito was nothing more than unpleasant politics so that the Chuck Schumers and Ted Kennedys of his party "will be able to say we told you so" in the future when, for example, Alito works to overturn Roe v. Wade on the first case before the Supreme Court.
Congress needs to dramatically overhaul campaign finance and lobbying laws -- and make it all 100 percent public. He thinks that challengers to sitting members should be able to raise as much money as they can.
America should shift to much more use of nuclear power and even drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge if need be.
New Orleans should become the first "Green City" in America, making it a showcase of what can be done.
Salaries for members of Congress should be $350,000 a year instead of an average $150,000. "You've got somebody making $150,000 a year hanging out with millionaires and with $800-an-hour lobbyists. It's a system designed to be at best corrosive and at worst corrupting."
Community colleges will be the way of the future with respect to creating the needed opportunities for the disadvantage and elderly to make progress through learning new skills.
Immigration reforms are needed, but ones that are realistic. For example, he chides President Bush's idea of sending people back to their home countries after five years. But, he added, "the Democrats just don't get it" too with silly ideas like amnesty.
Has Carville, the fiery Ragin' Cajun who vociferously defended the Clintons during the 1990s, become a voice of new moderation for his party?
We queried if his wife was mellowing the maverick political strategist's zeal.
Carville chuckled. Not denying the suggestion, he said he has grown to dislike labels.
"I think I am, deep down inside, an economic liberal and a social traditionalist."
But then, he added, perhaps just to prove his unpredictability, "But where I do break is that I'm completely pro-gay. Why do I care? It doesn't mean a rat's ass to me."