Politics is a “rough and tumble business” and candidates should “toughen up” and stop whining about comments that are to be expected in a hard-fought campaign, according to Democratic strategist James Carville.
In an article appearing in The Financial Times, Carville points to Barack Obama adviser Samantha Power, who was forced to “commit political hara-kiri” and resign after she referred to Hillary Clinton as “a monster” in what was supposed to be off-the-record remarks.
He cites former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who called for the resignation of Clinton’s communications director Howard Wolfson for comparing Obama campaign tactics to those of former independent counsel Ken Starr.
Carville refers to Clinton volunteer Geraldine Ferraro, who had to resign after expressing some “bar room logic” and saying Obama owed his campaign’s success to the fact he is an African-American.
And Bill Shaheen was forced to resign as co-chair of Clinton’s campaign in New Hampshire for bringing up Obama’s admitted teenage drug use, notes Carville, a CNN political contributor and talk host on XM Radio.
“This sort of hyper-sensitivity diminishes everyone who engages in it, both the candidates and the media,” Carville maintains.
“Politics is a rough and tumble business, and yet there seems to be an effort by the commentariat to sanitize American politics to some type of high-level Victorian debating society.”
Carville notes that as recently as 1992, when he was Bill Clinton’s campaign manager, Carville’s colleague Paul Begala called Clinton rival Sen. Paul Tsongas a “son of a bitch” – and the story “lasted one day.”
In that same campaign, Republican political strategist Mary Matalin — now Carville’s wife — called Clinton “a philandering, pot-smoking draft dodger.” She disregarded calls for her to resign and “we all got a good laugh,” Carville recalled.
Then-president George H.W. Bush called Clinton and Al Gore “two bozos” during the campaign, but that was viewed as “part of that entertaining, rough and tumble endeavor we know as politics.”
Carville concludes: “Politics is a messy business, but campaigning prepares you for governing. It prepares you to get hit, stand strong and, if necessary, hit back.
“So our candidates need to buck up, toughen up, and recognize that time spent whining and sniping is time not spent addressing the real concerns of the people.”
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