FCES '13: Carville, Matalin weigh in on D.C.'s gridlock

True to form, political strategists and strange bedfellows James Carville and Mary Matalin couldn't find much to agree on during Sunday's keynote address at the Fast Casual Executive Summit in New Orleans.

The couple — whose resumes include campaign management for Presidents George H.W. Bush (Matalin) and Bill Clinton (Carville), news analysis and other advisory roles — weighed in on the current stagnation in Washington, D.C., Obamacare, immigration reform and more for attendees of the eighth annual summit.

While their viewpoints are sharply divided, there is one theme they agreed on: We are currently witnessing something historic within our government. Of course, Carville and Matalin had differing opinions as to why.

"The internal conflict, the polls ... I'm not sure we're not seeing the crackup of the Republican coalition as we know it. This is historic stuff. We are living in a very different time; unique times," Carville said.

"It's not necessarily Republicans versus Republicans or Republicans versus Democrats. It's Washington versus the country now. These aren't crazy people in government now; these are real people — businessmen, farmers — who are stopping their lives to participate," Matalin said.

In accord, however, both were also "mostly" certain the debt ceiling issue will be resolved before the (Oct. 17) deadline, and that Obamacare will not be defunded.

Obamacare

Obamacare, the conservative Matalin added, is representative of a much larger problem.

"If you're trying to run a small business, or any business, they're (government) in your face at every turn. People who run businesses are being encroached upon. And the spending is unsustainable. It's intergenerational theft and that's immoral," she said.

Carville countered Matalin's opinions by stating that both sides will not be able to compromise if there is a true belief that Obamacare is really "the most evil thing in the world; the end of the world."

"We had this argument and they lost. That's how democracy works and that has to count for something," he said, on the efforts to try and defund Obamacare.

Matalin suggested there could be a more efficient plan that didn't hurt businesses as much; for example, Medicare Part D. Carville responded that there needs to be more time for the pieces to fall into place until we really know if the law is effective.

"This will go through a teething process. You can't change government policy without some of that. This idea was a Republican plan originally, in 1993. It's not new or radical, and if it doesn't work, the Democrats will pay a big price," Carville said.

Immigration reform

On the topic of immigration — one with many implications for the restaurant industry, which employs an estimated 700,000 immigrants — Carville said reform is "dead."

"They (House Republicans) will not bring a vote to the floor," he said. "The majority of the country wants this, but we'll never get to a vote."

Matalin said there would be a vote if the reform was composited differently.

"There's not support for the 'comprehensive' part of it. Not everything has to be 'comprehensive.' We could do some of these (bills) piecemeal," she said.

Change?

Whether or not there will be a change to the current stalemate mentality is tricky to predict. Both Matalin and Carville pointed to the country's situational demographics imposing on such progress.

"We're now too clustered — the Democrats are in the cities and the Republicans are in the suburbs. There are 435 House members and only 40 of them have the chance to lose a general election. That's it," Carville said.

Matalin added that the idea of gerrymandering started getting its momentum in 1980, but that there are other sources of government corruption, namely too many regulations and too many lobbyists.

"But it's not like we haven't been through this before," she said.

Quotable

"Change is certain; progress is not," – Matalin.

"The Federal Government is a giant insurance company with an army," – Carville.

"Journalism now isn't about enlightenment. It's about validation," – Carville.

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