Home | Opinion | James Carville

Carville: Clinton vs. Bush: The real debate

Getty Images

OPINION l This past Sunday I joined a panel of distinguished pundits on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” and to the surprise of no viewers we spent a considerable amount of time discussing the prospects of a presidential race between Hillary Clinton, former secretary of State and former first lady, and Jeb Bush, former Florida governor and brother to former President George W. Bush, in 2016. A debate ensued about how each candidate might overcome or utilize their respective last names to their advantage.

The one thing that I know — and I’m sure Secretary Clinton knows — is that come 2016, the voters will not really be looking for an election to rehash old debates. It is not going to be about former President Bill Clinton’s record, just as it is not going to be about Bush 43’s record. Frankly, as highly regarded as Bill Clinton’s presidency was, it was better than you think. Similarly, the way we loathed George W. Bush’s time in office, it was worse than you think.

ADVERTISEMENT
Any long discussions of these issues will turn voters away in droves. Believe it or not, given the trauma of the finance-induced horrific recession, voters are going to be looking for an election about their lives and about their futures. The truth of the matter is that there is an actual shovel-ready message for Secretary Clinton on how we can make Washington work to rebuild America’s devastated middle class.

Rarely has there been a coming presidential campaign with such an obvious and effective message available to a candidate. We can continue to list what this will be about — Bill Clinton; George W. Bush; the attach in Benghazi, Libya;Monica Lewinsky; Whitewater; the IRS political targeting scandal — but none of that is going to matter one half of an inch outside of the right-wing echo chamber. Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, said in February that Republicans will have a “truckload” of material to use against Secretary Clinton. Well, I will help Reince drive those trucks and show him where to park. It isn’t what matters, and it is not what voters care about.

To a large extent it is going to be less about President Obama and what happened during his administration than people think. The Democrats and our nominee presumably — and hopefully, Secretary Clinton — will say the following: “Obama had a huge task, he had to wind down wars in the Middle East, he had to rescue the American auto industry, and, by the way, he had to fix a very broken healthcare system. And you know what, he did those things, but the task ahead of us is difficult and necessary.”

The task ahead is about growing and expanding the middle class. It is about creating the conditions where people who play by the rules and work hard can get ahead. The message is about expanding economic opportunity for the American people.

Carville is a political contributor for Fox News. He also serves as a professor at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he lives with his wife, Republican strategist Mary Matalin. Their book Love and War is in stores now.

More in Columnists

James Carville: Nuclear deal with Iran a game-changer

Read more »