Sunday, April 6, 2008

Politics Far From Usual

Today's keynote speakers were the national political duo James Carville and Mary Matalin. While many people scratch their heads in wonder over their red state/blue state relationship, it quickly became clear why these two work so well together: they have razor-sharp wits and sincere respect for one another. As a result, attendees at today's NAESP afternoon keynote session were not disappointed.

Matalin and Carville's professional experience read like a who's who of 20th (and 21st) century politics and mass media. Bush I, Bush II; Bill and Hillary Clinton; Meet the Press; Fox News and on and on. She's an unapologetic conservative and he's an unabashed liberal. They have two school-age daughters and now look at education through the lens of a parent rather than as campaign strategists and consultants. Speaking to the audience today, Matalin noted:
"You [principals] are at the epicenter of the most political issue of all political issues...There is nothing more important in the lives of families than what you do."
Carville and Matalin took turns addressing the audience, both exchanging friendly fire with one another while sharing their thoughts on the 2008 presidential races, politics and their own relationship. Carville likened the Democratic ticket to a game of blackjack or "21". Obama, Carville said, holds cards that amount to 20 and Hillary is holding at 15. In the world of gambling stats, Obama has the better hand, he said. But stay tuned -- both he and Carville said this race is unprecedented in American history. Both predicted a busy fall leading up to the election.

It was hard to keep up with the verbal barrage, but here are some of my favorite quips from today:
  • Matalin on the question of her bi-partisan marriage: "You know how this works: He has selective husband thinking and I tell him I'm out of estrogen and have a gun!"
  • Carville on the D ticket: "On the D side, we like to say we have the Mamma and Obama."
  • Matalin on the 2008 campaign: "It is good for all of watch the horserace. No matter who is elected, it will be a fascinating presidency."
  • Carville on the campaigns: "The theater of the whole thing is just staggering...You can't keep your eyes off this thing."
  • Matalin on Hillary: "I can relate to a Yankee who has a big-mouth Southern husband who doesn't know when to shut up..."
  • Carville on education: "The impact as a human being of their first educational experience stays with that person for the rest of their lives...They're going to take these experiences with them deep into their lives."
I'm not even going to try to capture the stories they told about one another -- how they met, their fallout after a November appearance on Meet the Press. But it's clear both are passionate about each other, their families and the American political system. This session gave everyone a little something to chew on and laugh about.

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