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Disloyalty That Merits An Insult

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Not really. I was saying what I felt as an individual who -- with no encouragement from the Clintons but as someone who is proud to consider himself a friend of theirs -- thought that Richardson had done something deeply disloyal.

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Earlier this month I decried the political environment in which, by whining about every little barb, candidates seem to be trying to win the election through a war of staff-resignation attrition. Politics is a messy business, but campaigning prepares you for governing. It prepares you to get hit, stand strong and, if necessary, hit back. I've worked on enough campaigns to know that the most aggrieved candidate rarely emerges victorious. And for all of the hypersensitivity we're seeing this cycle, this campaign has not been particularly negative or nasty compared with previous elections.

Fully aware of this supercharged environment in which the slightest slight is elevated to the most egregious insult, I waded in -- okay, dove in -- by demonstrating what constitutes a real insult.

I believe that loyalty is a cardinal virtue. Nowhere in the world is loyalty so little revered and tittle-tattle so greatly venerated as in Washington. I was a little-known political consultant until Bill Clinton made me. When he came upon hard times, I felt it my duty -- whatever my personal misgivings -- to stick by him. At the very least, I would have stayed silent. And maybe that's my problem with what Bill Richardson did. Silence on his part would have spoken loudly enough.

Most of the stuff I've ever said is pretty insignificant and by in large has been said off the cuff and without much thought to the potential consequences. That was not the case in this instance. Bill Richardson's response was that the Clinton people felt they were entitled to the presidency. In my mind, that is a debatable hypothesis. But, even more than that, I know that a former president of the United States who appointed someone to two Senate-confirmed positions is entitled to have his phone calls returned.

If Richardson was going to turn on the Clintons the way he did, I see no problem in saying what I said. Because if loyalty is one virtue, another is straight talk. And if Democrats can't handle that, they're going to have a hard time handling a Republican nominee who is seeking the presidency with that as his slogan.

James Carville, who managed Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign, is a political commentator for CNN.


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