James Carville and Mary Matalin: Their 20 years in ‘Love & War’

December 18, 2013

As Democrats and Republicans leave Washington for the holiday break, it’s a good time for politicians to rest, renew and reflect on whether they can ever work with those nut jobs on the other side of the aisle.

James Carville

Which brings us to “Love & War,” the upcoming memoir from Mary Matalin and James Carville which shares, among other things, how to co-exist and occasionally thrive while holding sharply different political views. The two political strategists — she a GOP loyalist, he a rabid democrat — fell in love and married after working on opposite sides of the 1992 presidential campaign. They were Washington’s Romeo and Juliet, and their romance and wedding in 1993 made them political and media darlings.

(Heather Wines/CBS via Getty Images) (Heather Wines/CBS via Getty Images)

But here’s the thing: Twenty years and two children later, they’re still together, still in love (most of the time) and have renewed their wedding vows twice. “I understand why people are curious how our polar-opposite politics affect life at home,” writes Carville. “As with any marriage, part of the trick is understanding that you can’t change your spouse even if you wanted to, and it’s simply better to let her be who she is.”

When they tied the knot, a lot of people thought it was a stunt marriage but “this never was a lark for us,” he writes. “We knew what we were getting into, and we stuck with it. A lot of people have eaten a lot of crow about that over the years.” A few tips from their mixed marriage:

— Their biggest fights: About money, pets and air-conditioning, although they barely spoke for months after the 2000 election recount. “For the entire duration of the recount, we were like two nuclear silos waiting for a button to be pushed,” Matalin writes.

— How to work a room, learned from Bill Clinton: “The moment you walk in, you pick the most vulnerable, least powerful person and you go talk to that person first and foremost,” according to Carville.

— Stuck talking to a political enemy? You can never, ever go wrong saying nice things about people’s children or grandchildren, as Carville found out when seated next to Barbara Bush:“You can go as overboard as you want, be a flattering as you want, and people are going to believe every word of it and like you for it.”

— They moved to New Orleans five years ago to escape the relentless 24-7 of power politics. But they take exception with the depiction of “what’s-in-it-for-me” Washington in Mark Leibovich’s “This Town”: “People enter public service and politics for many reasons — and quite a lot of them are good. And friendships created in D.C. are not all transactional.”

And their secret to a happy marriage? Clear vision and open heart: “I knew Mary was nuts a long time ago,” writes Carville. “But I loved her in spite of it — and probably because of it.”


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