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Carville Rages at GW

James Carville appeared at the old CNN Crossfire studio at George Washington University’s Jack Morton Auditorium. Photo courtesy of Aaron Miller.

"That's a silly-ass position," said Democratic strategist James Carville as he stood in front of the image of a donkey and lambasted Republican ideology. ”What do you call denial of global warming?  That’s a silly-ass position.”  Dressed in a modest black t-shirt, blue jeans, and gray and red sneakers, Carville, also known as the “Ragin’ Cajun," used the old CNN Crossfire studio at George Washington University’s Jack Morton Auditorium, as a bully pulpit.

A senior strategist behind Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign, Carville took the stage at the George Washington College Democrats’ behest (they started asking in June, and a GW student works for Carville as an intern). A lead pundit in the now-defunct cable show, thanks in part to Jon Stewart's roasting of the show as “bad for America,” Carville still embraces what he describes as “healthy debate.”  

“Maybe there are two sides of global warming I should recognize,” he joked in an effort at bipartisanship. “Maybe I should say the earth is 5,000 years old.”

But, of course, he didn’t. 

After doing his best to discredit Republicans, Carville switched from attacking to embracing and described a program he dubbed “Progressive Patriotism.”

“The more you got, the more patriotic you can be,” said Carville. In his utopia, the wealthy would give up a slice of their tax cuts, and every single man, woman, and child in America would donate their time to political pursuits. “Most young people I know wouldn’t mind it,” he said to student applause. “Do not succumb to cynicism,” he warned. “You can do something, and don’t ever forget that.”

And, of course, students wanted to know what he would do if he were contributing in the ‘08 presidential election.  When asked which ‘08 candidate he would be most willing to manage or consult, Carville initially abstained.

“I’m 62, so I’ve had my shot." Pause. "Bill Clinton."

Later, when asked about Iraq, Carville speculated that Hillary Clinton’s Iraq strategy would leave behind a “minimum of damage.” But Carville held no great hope for the region. “Three people have a good plan for Iraq. They are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”

Nor is Carville optimistic for a revival of New Orleans under the Bush administration. “The White House has forgotten about it,” he said as he wished Iraq spending could be preserved for reconstruction efforts.  “You could build a levee for $8.1 billion dollars, and it would never break."   

As became clear, Carville dislikes half measures—especially in politics. Continuing a rant of many months, he roasted Howard Dean’s 2006 election strategy, not because it diverted money to long-shot races—some of which Democrats ended up winning—but because it ended with money in the bank.  “Dean ended up on election day with $6 million in credit and $4 million in the bank. That’s idiotic. You spend it all,” he said. “Borrow money, end up in debt, and get the furniture out there,” he said, adding, “If I had money left at the end of it, I would be insulted.”

But nobody in the auditorium insulted Carville; instead students gave him a standing ovation and crowded up stairs for a reception.  Carville shook hands and smiled for pictures until the student throng subsided. As one student said, “I disagree with 95% of what he says, but I like the way he says it."

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