Veteran CBS News White House Correspondent Bill Plante is the host of CBSNews.com's Smoke-Filled Room. Each week, Bill will bring a top political expert into the Smoke-Filled Room to answer your questions. This week's guest is James Carville, one of the Democratic Party's top political consultants.
Carville, 55, was the chief strategist for Bill Clinton's successful presidential bid in 1992. He later emerged as one of Mr. Clinton's most outspoken defenders during the White House sex scandal and impeachment trial. Carville's views on affaire Lewinsky can be found in his book, Stickin': The Case for Loyalty. Carville is married to GOP political strategist Mary Matalin.
Plante: Several viewers asked if, as a Democratic strategist, you are concerned that a McCain-Gore race would drain Democrats away from Gore and to McCain?
Carville: Sure. But, I think IÂ'm concerned about everythingÂ…But I also feel like it probably would depress Republican turnout, tooÂ…it could be a bad or good thing right now.
Plante: So, just on that same note, would it better for Gore to run against Bush or McCain?
Carville: You know, be careful what you wish for in politics, you might get it. You know, IÂ've studiously avoided that question becauseÂ…I honestly donÂ't know. It seems that most of the politicians donÂ't like the idea of running against McCain. Most of the consultants I talked to like it a little better, but I donÂ't know if thereÂ's a real consensus there.
Plante: Questioner Beth Brotherton has a theory about George W.Â's popularity and wants to know if you think that sheÂ's out in left field. She asks Â"are some Americans willing to embrace G.W. because they feel guilty about ousting his father?Â"
Carville: Some, but not many, I think most of the people, that are for him, were for his father. I mean, most them were Republicans. But, uh, I donÂ't think heÂ's gonna get many election votes to speak of, because people felt guilty about what happened in Â'92Â…These people were gonna vote Republican anyway, from the get go.
Plante: So it wouldnÂ't be Republicans trying to right what they see as a wrong?
Carville: Right, they would. The folks that would say that would be folks that would vote Republican anyway and voted republican in Â'92. I mean if heÂ's (Bush) gonna win the general election heÂ's gonna have to get everybody whoÂ's voted Republican in Â'92Â…
Plante: All right, Janiece Adams, self-described loyal Democrat, asks if Al Gore - her candidate, by the way - is being over-advised, which gets him into trouble. Â"ShouldnÂ't they just let Al Gore be Al GoreÂ" she wonders?
Carville: Well, I would say IÂ've never seen a presidential candidate or campaign that ever suffered for a lack of advice.
Plante: So, IS Gore being over advised?
Carville: I donÂ't think so. It dosnÂ't matter how much advice you give someone. It matters how much the candidate takes. And I think heÂ's been a lot improved and lot more disciplined than he was earlier.
Plante: So, letting Al Gore, be Al Gore, what do you think?
Carville: I think heÂ's done, sort of much better. I think he runs on adrenalin. I think they have him out there doing things, that heÂ's enjoying himself, that heÂ's doing a lot better job. But again, I go back to my point, that all the campaigns, particularly presidential campaigns, are all over advised. But the question is how much advice the candidate takes and if the advice he listens to is the real thing.
Plante: The next questioner, Nick Perrone, heard you say in a Cherry Hill, New Jersey speech that the most positive or optimistic candidate would win the election. So after hearing from the four principal candidates who fulfills that criterion?
Carville: Well, what I said in the Cherry Hill speech was thatÂ's something that developed over the period of the campaign. ItÂ's too early to tell, but I think Bush started out and was pretty much knocked off of his game. Right now I guess itÂ's McCain and Gore, a little bit that are doing it, but you canÂ't tell this early in the campaign. ItÂ's something that becomes instinctive over the period of the campaign.
Plante: A viewer named Nathan wants you to address what he describes as the Â"right-ward drift of the Democratic Party.Â" He gives as an example a Pentagon budget being increased at the expense of programs to assist the unfortunate and adds that the largest public works project in the nation is massive incarceration and prison construction.
Carville: I think that, thereÂ's no doubt that the PartyÂ's moved somewhat to the center, but I think thatÂ's one side of the story. The other side of the coin is that the Republican Party has moved massively away from the right since 1994 and the truth of the matter is I think the American people by and large are moving away. I thinkÂ… (Clinton) has done a really good job of repositioning the Party.
If you look at whatÂ's happening in the McCain candidacy, (McCain is) actually questioning the premise of the Republican Party. The President doesnÂ't question the premise of the Democratic Party, but he did question some of its policies and moved it towards more balanced budgets and the death penalty and that type of thing. ThereÂ's no doubt about that.
Plante: How could Bradley make a comeback at this point?
Carville: ItÂ's kind of late now. I think he should have made his campaign more about people and less about himself. And, would probably have done better to exhibit greater vigor and passion in talking about the things he wanted to do. I think the election got away from him, because it got very personal to him.
And he also suffered a little bit of bad luck in McCain. Given the nature of the country and the press, you now kno, we now know itÂ's pretty hard to sustain more than one insurgent. ItÂ's news budgets, and everything. A reporter from a major, major newspaper, just before I spoke to you, told me that thereÂ's just three press people with Bradley -- thatÂ's because the story is McCain.
I mean, McCainÂ's earned it by, you know, getting, winning by 19 (in New Hampshire). I mean thereÂ's not, I donÂ't think itÂ's a conspiracy or anything. ItÂ's just the way it is.
Plante: But it is the way it works?
Carville: Yes, it is the way it works.
Plante: WhoÂ's the ideal choice for VP for Gore? McCain? Bush?
Carville: Bob Rubin (former Treasury Secretary) is my candidate for Gore. I think if you want to remind people about the recovery you do it in the least subtle, most obvious way you can.
Plante: How about McCain or Bush?
Carville: You know, Bush has got to go with a senator I think. He needs to go with somebody, with a little (experience in) Washington. McCain: the question here is does he pick another insurgent? Â…My guess is heÂ's being pulled a little bit. McCainÂ… may be the first nominee that weÂ've seen since Goldwater (in 1964) that doesnÂ't run toward the center. You have to run to the right. Which would really be odd. He may need to reassure these republicans to get Â"them back on the reservationÂ" here.
Plante: WhoÂ'd be good for that?
Carville: Maybe somebody like Dan Coates (former Indiana senator)Â…I donÂ't think youÂ'd go with a Fred Thompson (Tennessee senator). Or he might go with a big Bush supporter. He may go with a John Engler (Michigan governor) to repair any divisions he may have in the party.
Plante: Ed Brown and Melissa Bowman want to know if you are going to play any role in HillaryÂ' senate race?
Carville: IÂ'm going to support her, but not in any professional role.
Plante: There were questions from Tim Main, Scott Hines and others who wanted to know if you and Mary were going to write another book about the Clinton years and also about how you put up with each otherÂ's politics.
Carville: No plans, and sheÂ'sÂ…with me right now. We have no plans to write another book. Sometimes sheÂ'll say itÂ's hard to put up with my politics, and IÂ'll say itÂ's hard to put up with her politics. But weÂ're doing all right. WeÂ've been together nine years, seven years married.