In my career writing for business publications and web sites two subjects are never discussed: politics followed closely by religion.
But the speakers at last week’s CEA Washington Forum gave me the perfect opportunity to report about D.C.’s main industry – politics. Republican strategist Mary Matlin and her husband and fellow political operative, Democrat James Carville gave entertaining speeches on the goings on in Washington and their views of the 2008 Presidential Campaign which, if you haven’t noticed, has already started in earnest.
At industry gatherings like this I rarely take scrupulous notes from celebrity speakers. Matlin spoke first and was excellent, but when Carville began to make some observations and predictions about the race to the White House, well I scribbled a few down. (Don’t draw any political conclusions into my note taking, one way or the other.)
Carville made the point that the usual hype of every four years that “this is the most important Presidential election in our lifetime” or that vein of hyperbole is, this time, probably correct. He made a lot of historically accurate observations about this election, such as in 2008 it will be the first time since 1940 that the “presumptive Republican nominee will not get the nomination,” namely Senator John McCain. He said Republicans usually “fall in line behind the front runner” early while Democrats “fall in love” with all the fighting and passion that emotion can create, but that McCain has plenty of negatives among Republicans.
One of his other observations gave me pause - 1976 was the last time someone named Bush or Clinton was not on the Presidential ballot.
Concerning 2008 here are some of Carville’s predictions. He gave a proviso that “I’m not saying they will happen, but I want to give you my thinking on these issues.” He also said that someone should “write this down,” so I took him at his word. Here goes:
* Senator McCain won’t make it to Iowa. Carville said “his energy is down” and he thinks he doesn’t have the desire to make a full-fledged run.
* Either Newt Gingrich or Al Gore “will get into the race” since it is “wide open.” His argument about Gingrich is that the “Republican nominee is not yet in the field.”
* He thinks Jeb Bush will run. (Matlin completely disputed that after her husband spoke.)
* “It’s easy to say that there will be a third-party candidate,” Carville said, “so I’ll say there will be third- and fourth-party candidates. And by that I mean candidates that will get at least 5 percent of the vote.” He suggests such candidates might be “anti-immigration, anti-trade or just anti-Washington and against the status quo.”
* And since he seemed to be way, way out on the limb anyway, Carville made his Vice-Presidential predictions. For the Democrats, Governor Kathleen Sebelius “to get someone on the ticket to attract people from the ‘red states’ ” and for the Republicans Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who Carville cracked, “seems to be the only Republican out there who likes people.”
As for the leading Democratic candidates Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who Carville said some call “Obama and Mama” He went back to his Cajun roots when he noted, “When you cook back home everyone says that a dish needs a little ‘seasoning’ or a little ‘spice.’ Obama needs the ‘seasoning’ and ‘Mama’ needs some ‘spice.’ ”
Among the leading Republican candidates, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Senator McCain are divorced, so Carville quipped that Mitt Romney “is the only one with one wife, and he’s a Mormon!”
Carville agrees with the view that the only way the Democrats can lose the 2008 Presidential Election is to “talk their way out of it… and they are very capable of doing that.” Matlin assuredly agreed.
My only observation on all this political talk is that since the end of World War II Presidential Election years are good for the economy. Among CE executives I’ve spoken with over the years the theory is that, all things being equal, more TVs and related products are sold due to the Summer Olympics, the election and the fact that the party in power usually puts more cash in the economy and their economic gurus spin the endless stats that come out of D.C.
Like Carville’s prediction, mine is now on the record.
As for discussing religion - Happy Passover and Happy Easter.