The Herald-Times

Carville, Matalin spar at Ivy Tech O'Bannon Institute dinner

By Mike Leonard

April 8, 2011

If the sizable audience at the annual Ivy Tech O’Bannon Institute fundraising dinner Thursday night came to watch fireworks, their time would be better spent at the Picnic with the Pops celebration of Independence Day on the community college’s campus this summer.

The husband and wife team of James Carville and Mary Matalin are not only master political strategists but skillful public speakers, playing off of their perceived polar opposite views. There were ample quips and bon mots at the Bloomington/Monroe County Convention Center event, but no real tension between the Democratic and Republican media figures, who have been married since 1993.

They expressed views on the issues of the day: the Republican presidential primary field, public unions, the nation’s debt and the stalemate on the federal budget. Both hewed closely to their party’s mainstream positions.

For about half of their hourlong discussion, moderated by Ivy Tech Chancellor John Whikehart, Carville and Matalin agreed about the importance of education, community colleges, public service and the linkage between higher education and real-world jobs and employers.

As expected, Carville claimed the best joke of the night. It came in the context of discussing the Republicans lining up to challenge President Barack Obama in 2012. “Looking at the Republican field is like asking, ‘What do you think of the IU football program?’” Carville quipped to groans and laughter.

Carville, a top campaign adviser to former President Bill Clinton, professed his love for all of the current frontrunners in the GOP field. Matalin confirmed her husband’s glee. “He talks more about (Michele) Bachmann and Sarah Palin than he thinks about me,” she said.

Matalin, who served as an adviser to former President George W. Bush, said: “Full disclosure? I’m for Mitch Daniels.”

She went on to tacitly acknowledge the perceived weakness of the Republican field to date and emphasize her belief that Daniels’ intelligence and record as Indiana’s governor would best serve the Republican Party and the country.

Carville kept up the digs on the GOP presidential field. “Michele Bachmann is not cerebral. I’m crazy about her,” he said, grinning.

But, turning serious for a moment, he said, “Look, it’s going to be (Mitt) Romney. Who else could it be?” Carville said that from 1944 to 2008, the “obvious frontrunner” has prevailed in primary contests. “It’s always the oldest white guy,” he said.

Matalin challenged the premise of her husband’s book, “40 More Years: How the Democrats Will Rule the Next Generation.” Carville argues the premise that changing demographics will move the country toward the Democratic Party. He points out that Obama took 80 percent of the nonwhite vote and 43 percent of the white vote, and the number of nonwhite voters is just going to increase.

Matalin said Carville assumes too much in favor of the Democrats, particularly outside of the reliable African-American vote. “There is something historic going on here,” she said on a couple of occasions, suggesting that concern over deficit spending and social values will prove her husband’s theory wrong.

Both speakers took time to praise Ivy Tech and community outreach programs such as the O’Bannon Institute for Community Service. “Nobody believes in the mission of these community colleges more than I do,” Carville said.

“Young people are so fearless, and they don’t know what they don’t know,” Matalin said, suggesting a bright future for community-engaged young people.

Whikehart gave each a handsome plaque and presented Carville with a huge plastic jar of Miracle Whip, to recognize the Democratic strategist’s recent foray into commercial endorsements. He asked Carville to “inscribe” the jar and said it will be put on display at the Ivy Tech main building on Bloomington’s west side.

Community service awards presented

Ivy Tech kicked off its three-day O’Bannon Institute for Community Service program Wednesday night by handing out a variety of awards for community service to organizations and individuals.

Chancellor John Whikehart said the community college’s Bloomington campus recorded about 35,943 volunteer hours over the past year, which equals nearly $633,000 in economic contributions to local communities.

Political strategists Mary Matalin, left, and James Carville, right, agree to disagree during a discussion moderated by Ivy Tech Chancellor John Whikehart, center, as part of an Ivy Tech O’Bannon Institute fundraising event Thursday night at the Bloomington/Monroe County Convention Center. Jeremy Hogan | Herald-Times

Copyright: 2011