Pol­i­tics get too per­sonal in his/her mem­oir

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS - Re­viewed by Christo­pher Adams

Tthough less suc­cess­ful, fol­lows the same for­mula as be­fore, with brief sec­tions writ­ten al­ter­nately by each au­thor on what hap­pened af­ter their mar­riage in 1993. In this way we con­tinue to get Matalin’s pro-Repub­li­can per­spec­tive fol­lowed by Carville’s Demo­cratic views, while the two also ban­ter with each other re­gard­ing life les­sons and pol­i­tics. While the writ­ing for­mula works for All’s Fair be­cause they had a num­ber of in­ter­est­ing things to say about na­tional pol­i­tics, per­son­al­i­ties, the me­dia and how to run a pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, Love & War is more de­voted to per­sonal is­sues such as par­ent­ing, the friends they miss, their views about mar­riage, house hunt­ing and ex­pe­ri­ences when mov­ing from Wash­ing­ton to New Or­leans. The most in­ter­est­ing chap­ter is only 12 pages. It con­cerns the be­lated di­ag­no­sis of Carville’s at­ten­tion deficit hy­per­ac­tiv­ity dis­or­der (ADHD), which in­flu­enced both his pro­fes­sional ca­reer and their mar­riage. Matalin re­ports that the di­ag­no­sis helped her un­der­stand some of the is­sues aris­ing in their mar­riage, in­clud­ing com­mu­ni­cat­ing with each other. To help deal with his dis­or­der, Carville rig­or­ously ad­heres to spe­cific daily habits, in­clud­ing an af­ter­noon run­ning ses­sion, re­gard­less of what he is work­ing on or where he is trav­el­ling. Only briefly is ADHD re­ferred to else­where, which is sur­pris­ing in light of its im­pact on their lives. Of its 352 pages, Love & War’s most in­ter­est­ing seg­ments in­clude dis­cus­sions about New Or­leans pol­i­tics, the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina, Carville’s ADHD and Matalin’s re­la­tion­ship with Ge­orge Bush Sr. af­ter his de­feat to Bill Clin­ton. Yet their up­dated per­sonal story makes for te­dious read­ing. Do we re­ally need Matalin to tell us that hav­ing a baby is “an all-en­gross­ing, com­pletely ful­fill­ing, never end­ing mir­a­cle”? That “an­i­mals con­nect us to some­thing time­less and heal­ing, life-em­brac­ing and deep”? Or, from Carville, who is usu­ally the more in­ter­est­ing of the two, that dough­nuts are “an in­di­ca­tion of a cul­ture in de­cline”? Most dis­ap­point­ing is how, in con­trast to their ear­lier work with many ex­plicit in­sider de­tails from the cam­paign trail, the au­thors make vague ref­er­ences to what might be in­ter­est­ing to the reader. For ex­am­ple, we are told that af­ter the 1992 elec­tion, Carville launched a ca­reer in in­ter­na­tional po­lit­i­cal con­sult­ing, yet they say very lit­tle about the specifics of this type of work, such as that fea­tured in the in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed doc­u­men­tary Our Brand Is Cri­sis, which shows his in­volve­ment and in­flu­ence on the 2002 Bo­livia elec­tion. Else­where, Matalin refers to a “scream­ing match” and “less-than-sober late-night” con­ver­sa­tions with jour­nal­ists, but says nei­ther who was in­volved nor what was dis­cussed. She also de­tails long lists of those deemed to be “trust­wor­thy” me­dia and jour­nal­ists (in­clud­ing Fox News!) but re­fuses to say who is “un­trust­wor­thy.” In­stead, she tells us, “I am not go­ing to name them here; I won’t give them the sat­is­fac­tion.” Which raises the ques­tion: What about sat­is­fy­ing the reader? WO decades have passed since U.S. politi­cos James Carville and Mary Matalin wrote their best­seller All’s Fair: Love, War, and Run­ning for Pres­i­dent. Their first co-au­thored work was a grip­pingly de­tailed look from in­side op­pos­ing cam­paigns in the 1992 U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, which brought Bill Clin­ton to power. Adding to the ear­lier work’s chem­istry was the ro­mance be­tween these se­nior cam­paign direc­tors, which in­ter­twined with the day-to-day work­ings of a ma­jor elec­tion, even­tu­ally lead­ing to their 20 years of mar­riage. The cou­ple’s new se­quel, Love & War: Twenty Years, Three Pres­i­dents, Two Daugh­ters and One Louisiana Home, Christo­pher Adams is a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist and rec­tor of St. Paul’s Col­lege at the Univer­sity of


Love & War Twenty Years, Three Pres­i­dents, Two Daugh­ters and One Louisiana Home By Mary Matalin and James Carville Blue Rider Press, 352 pages, $33

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