All's Fair: "Love, War and Running for President"

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Simon and Schuster, 1995 - Political Science - 509 pages
James Carville and Mary Matalin, lifetime political consultants, met and fell in love. They shared a dream: to direct a campaign for President of the United States. And then their dreams came true. Problem was, they had to campaign against each other. Welcome to All's Fair: Love, War, and Running for President, a political memoir like no other, written by the ultimate insiders. It's unquestionably the most provocative look at the running of a contemporary national election campaign in America. It is also a revealing account of how two political professionals managed to maintain their romance - and sanity - in the face of the most competitive of situations. Carville's and Matalin's strategies for Bill Clinton and George Bush unfold through unforgettable anecdotes and surprising portraits of the candidates, their staffs, and the more-powerful-than-ever media stars. How was the Gennifer Flowers affair defused? How did Pat Buchanan manage to sidetrack an incumbent President's reelection? How did Dan Quayle survive as the GOP's vice-presidential nominee? How did the Democrats inadvertently confirm the Republican charges that Clinton widely raised taxes in Arkansas? How did both Bush and Clinton judge - and then misjudge - Ross Perot's influence? Why was Carville called "Serpenthead"? And how did Matalin initiate the Sri Lanka Conga on Air Force One? The answers to such campaign mysteries large and small are found in All's Fair, a groundbreaking, breathtaking tour of the new universe of electronic electioneering and the old world of rivalry and romance. Written with the wit and outspokenness for which Carville and Matalin have become justly celebrated, their memoir provides a page-turningaccount of how the Republicans lost, the Democrats won, and love, eventually, triumphed over all.

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User Review  - Schmerguls - LibraryThing

5498. All's Fair Love, War, and Running for President, by Mary Matalin and James Carville with Peter Knobler (read 10 Sep 2017) Ths book was published in 1994, and is an account of the Clinton-Bush ... Read full review

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User Review  - caycespeck - LibraryThing

I read this for a report in high school and LOVED it. Juicy, informative, compelling... it's difficult to put it down! Read full review

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About the author (1995)



It was another lost day, another disaster. We had a message to get out, to tell the good people of the state of New Hampshire who Governor Bill Clinton was, what he stood for, and why they should vote for him in this leadoff primary. But were we doing it? No. We''d spent almost a month dogged by Gennifer Flowers and the press hounds on the trail of the smoking bimbo. The Republican party had played no small part in that parade of trash and now, when we had almost put it to rest, all of a sudden ABC News shows up with this twenty-two-year-old letter from Bill Clinton to the head of the University of Arkansas ROTC program. Now how the hell did they get that?

Mark Halperin of ABC said, "We have this letter that Clinton wrote to Colonel Eugene Holmes in 1969. We want to show the letter to the governor, do an interview, and get his comments."

It was the Thank-you-for-saving-me-from-the-draff letter. When George Stephanopoulos read it he said, "That''s it, we''re out of the race, we''ll never survive." But that''s George, he has a strong streak of pessimism that he''s got to run through before he kicks into gear.

I read it and said, "Partner, this is a hell of a letter. This letter is our friend, this letter will save us. This is a torn man. People will understand this.

"We have to want questions on this letter," I said. "We''re going to publish this letter. We are going to be very aggressive about it --"

"Oh, man..."

"Look, I''m telling you, if you let them take excerpts out of this thing it''ll kill us. If you read this letter in its totality you say, ''Geez, I want a president who could write a letter like that when he was twenty-one years old.''"

ABC didn''t go with the story on Monday, which was fine with us. We had spent the night in western New Hampshire, away from our headquarters in Manchester. Tuesday morning on our way back I was driving on a highway with George and my partner, Paul Begala, and we got beeped.

Our van was cruising in a major-league hurry for a telephone. We passed the Hillbrook Motel in Bedford, New Hampshire, but it didn''t have a pay phone. We needed privacy. "Look, just give us a phone. How much is a room? Ninety bucks? Here''s the money, here''s the credit card, just give us the room, I don''t care what it costs." This was a phone call worth the price of a motel room. Ted Koppel had gotten the letter from another source and was talking about going with it on Nightline.

The governor called Koppel the next morning and they had a discussion about the letter. Nothing got resolved. We weren''t sure what Koppel was going to do.

But each of us knew what the results would be. Very soon that letter would get out and all hell was going to break loose. Was the media going to tell the voters about Bill Clinton''s position on health care or what he could do to strengthen the economy? Of course not. All the networks and local stations would lead with another take on "Slick Willie." That was all you''d be reading about in the papers or hearing on talk radio. It would be another day, couple of days, or a week off message. If things kept on the way they were going we''d never get our message out; we''d never talk about anything important or anything that could help Bill Clinton get elected president.

Governor Clinton asked, of course, but Koppel wouldn''t say where he''d gotten the letter. He wasn''t going to reveal his sources. But Koppel did tell the governor that he was under the impression the letter had come from somebody at the Pentagon.

All right. Now we had some evidence that they were monkeying with the election here. Now I had an enemy. Something out of his files? They''d taken something out of Bill Clinton''s files? Those are confidential. I called Koppel and said, "We''ve got to blow this damn thing up about the Republicans using the Pentagon."

Nightline didn''t go with the letter on Tuesday, which was a big break for us. We wanted to be there with the news first.

So Wednesday at noon we held a press event in an airport hangar in Manchester and released the letter ourselves. After it was over there was a spin session and the media just went crazy. So did I.

"What is the Pentagon doing leaking something -- Lemme finish! The larger question here is, What in the world business does the Pentagon have in the middle of a political campaign?"

"Why did the Pentagon release the letter?" a reporter asked.

"Let''s try a case of rocket science," I told him. "Here''s an article in The Wall Street Journal on Friday and here''s a story that looks like it might be going away. And somebody says, ''Aha! Look, we have something that can kick this story an extra day. Because if Clinton is talking about the draft, he''s not talking about the fact that we''ve had the lowest GNP growth under this administration than we''ve had under any administration in the history of this country; he is not talking about the fact that George Bush has had four different positions on the civil rights bill in two months; he is not talking about the fact that taxes have gone up for the middle class while services have gone down....So, what we will do is we will leak this to the press and we will get the microphone in Bill Clinton''s face talking about something that is not particularly advantageous to him...and we will block him out from talking about the things that made him the leading candidate.'' You understand? That''s what''s going on here. And if nobody can see that, I can''t explain it to you."

Of course, as it turned out, I was wrong; the letter came from somewhere else. But, hell, I was angry. And it made the evening news. In fact, as disruptive as that letter was, it kind of turned a corner for us in New Hampshire. It lit a fire, raised the bloodlust, gave us something to fight.


In various corners and offices of campaign headquarters, campaign chairman Bob Teeter, chief strategist Charlie Black, director of research David Tell, field director David Carney, and press secretary Torie Clarke had all been watching CNN. The TVs were on pretty much all day. Not mine. I was on the phone, preoccupied with endless catastrophes. The campaign hierarchy stampeded through my office door like wild elephants.

"Mary, Mary, hang up, get off the phone. Look, you have to see this!"

"What? What''s going on?"

"Your boyfriend has lost his mind! He''s having a nuclear meltdown! Turn on CNN!" They flicked on the television that was perched on top of the little icebox I moved from campaign to campaign.

Of course by the time they got in there we''d missed it, so we had to wait for the replay, which, on CNN, wasn''t very long in coming. All the while they were trying to describe this bizarre scene to me. Finally it reappeared.

They were screaming, "There it is! There it is!"

That was James, all right, in the middle of a ferocious media feeding frenzy. Unshaven. Hair, such as it was, askew. Standing in this ripped-up ratty old Burberry with the torn collar and Frankenstein stitching. Wearing some goofy T-shirt. There were huge dark circles under his eyes and he had the hollow-eyed look he gets when he''s in full rant. His long arms flailing, he was screaming demonically into their faces.

The reporters were all yelling questions at the same time and his head was snapping from side to side like he was getting smacked. David Gergen was leading the inquisition. NBC''s Andrea Mitchell asked him a question and he screamed at her. Syndicated columnist Ben Wattenberg and all these big-time network and political reporters were after him.

"If you let the Pentagon dictate the course of a presidential election," he told them, "you are missing something big."

And from all sides of me my GOP sisters and brothers were laughing. "See him? Oh, my God." "This man has lost his mind. He''s in meltdown." "Mary, we love you but your boyfriend''s imploding!"

Now, Teeter and Carney and Torie and Charlie and Tell had never met James. It was early February 1992; he was just some political consultant I was consorting with that they''d heard about. My assistants, who had come with me to the campaign from the Republican National Committee and who had just run into my office to see what all the shouting was about, knew him better. He was the guy who was in and out of the RNC every day bringing me tuna sandwiches, doting on me, keeping my office stocked with a fresh supply of flowers.

Everybody was standing there huddled around my little TV and I just had to laugh. It had never occurred to me that he could be perceived as a crazy person.

"Look at that face," said the new guys. "He''s a madman. He''s demonic. He''s a serpenthead!"

Okay, as media guru Roger Ailes put it, sometimes Carville does look like a fish who''s swum too close to a nuclear reactor. But he was my man.

I had seen it all before. I had seen James fake a heart attack to get a good table at a chichi restaurant. He can be a little theatrical.

The three women who worked with me at the RNC kept waiting for what it was these guys were seeing as unusual behavior.

"Yeah," they said. "So?"

"That''s how he always is," I said. "But forget how he''s acting, listen to what he''s saying."

We weren''t paying much attention to the Democrats at this point; we had enough trouble dealing with Pat Buchanan and figured we''d just let Clinton and Kerrey and Harkin and Tsongas and Brown beat each other up for a while. We''d get involved when the time cam

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