We're Right, They're Wrong

'We're Right, They're Wrong!" By James Carville

1. Federal government "kept my feet dry"
2. Took a Moral Stand Against Segregation
3. Educates
4. Government Did Right By Me
5. Saved President Reagan's Life
6. Enables People With Little Resources to Reach Full Potential
7. The Purpose of My Book
8. Is Liberalism Dying?
9. Wake Up, People!
10. Links to other Carville pages
11. Purchase This Book For A 20% Discount

By James Carville

The first person ever to slap me on the ass was a federal employee. He was the Army doctor at Fort Benning, Georgia, who brought me into this world. My daddy was serving there at Fort Benning as an infantry officer, so he and my momma were able to start me off with some fine federal health care.

You'd have to say that the federal government made a big impression on me early in life. I grew up in a town in southern Louisiana by the name of Carville, and that is no coincidence; the town got that name because my family provided the town with its most indispensable federal employee--its postmaster. Three generations of Carvilles served as postmaster, starting with my great-grandmother, Octavia Duhon, who was more properly referred to back then as a postmistress. Believe it or not, working for the federal government was a source of family pride.You see, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WAS NOT CONSIDERED A BAD THING WHEN I WAS GROWING UP.


First of all, it kept my feet dry. Before I was born, the Mississippi River used to overflow its banks every spring and flood the whole town of Carville and many other towns like it. It was a Washington bureaucrat who got the idea that we could build a levee system to stop the flooding, and the federal taxpayers helped us do it. It was the heavy hand of government at work.

Washington bureaucrats also came up with the idea that black children should be able to go to school with white children. Integration was the searing issue when I was a kid. After the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, people in Carville, which was 85 percent black, stopped talking about football and the weather. All they wanted to do was scream about race. I took segregation for granted and wished the blacks just didn't push so damn hard to change it.

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But when I was 16 years old I read To Kill a Mockingbird, and that novel changed everything. I got it from the lady who drove around in the overheated old bookmobile in my parish-another government program, I might add. I had asked the lady for something on football, but she handed me To Kill a Mockingbird instead. I couldn't put it down. I stuck it inside another book and read it under my desk during school. When I got to the last page I closed it and said, "They're right and we're wrong." The issue was literally black and white, and we were absolutely, positively on the wrong side. I've never forgotten which side the federal government was on.EDUCATES

Federal and state governments helped me get an education and a start in life. They offered me all kinds of loans and the G.I. Bill so I could earn myself undergraduate and law degrees at Louisiana State University. They picked up my salary when I served as a corporal in the United States Marine Corps and again when I taught eighth-grade science at a tiny little public school for boys in South Vacherie, Louisiana.

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I'm the first one to admit that fact. No, let's back up for a minute. I don't just admit that fact-I savor it. I hold it up as an example of what government should be in the business of doing-providing opportunity. You will never catch me saying that I am a self-made man. I am not. My parents gave me their love, their example, and the benefit of their hard work. And the government gave me a big hand.


Unfortunately, for a lot of politicians in Washington it just isn't convenient to give the government any credit for anything it does right. Here's one of my favorite examples: Ronald Reagan used to love to talk about a guy named Joseph Giordano. He was the surgeon who saved Reagan's life in 1981, after the President was shot in front of the Washington Hilton. Dr. Giordano was Reagan's perfect human interest story. He was the son of a milkman and the grandson of poor immigrants from Italy. Thanks to his own hard work and the hard work of his parents, Giordano got himself through college and medical school and then went on to become a prominent surgeon at a great hospital and then to save a President's life. The American Dream in spades.

But, you see, Dr. Giordano wasn't too enamored of the way Reagan was telling his life story. He thought Reagan had left a few things out of the picture-like school loans and federal funding for his medical research. Here's what Dr. Giordano said about the matter in the Los Angeles Times under the headline "Facts for the President's Fable" :

"The government social programs enacted over the last 50 years-and so frequently criticized by this President and his Administration-have played a vital role in making this success possible. ... In contrast to the President, who feels that government programs make people so dependent that they lose initiative, I feel that these programs have enabled people with little resources to reach their full potential."

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By telling Dr. Giordano's story and my story, I don't want you to get the idea that this book is just about people who operate on Presidents or about political operators who help them get elected. In the past couple of months, I have had the opportunity to get to know a woman named Sherri Donovan who is a much better case for what good can come from good government.

She's a 27-year-old unwed mother of three who just got herself off Virginia's welfare rolls, graduated from Lord Fairfax Community College with a 3.8 grade point average, and is now going on to the University of Virginia-financed by a heavy helping of school loans and grants. The government didn't tell Sherri Donovan they'd do her homework for her, they just told her they'd lend a hand if she wanted to help herself. No one in her family had ever attended college before. Her daddy, a builder, finished the first grade and went no further.

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we were right when we made investments in the Donovans and Giordanos and Carvilles of the world and that it's wrong to let the Republicans snatch these investments away to pay for tax cuts for those who don't need our help. What I'm talking about here is priorities. I know that dollars are tight and we just aren't growing like we used to when I was a kid. But that should be all the more reason to invest wisely. To my way of thinking, there is no wiser investment than opportunity, no better way to hold this country together than to make sure everybody has at least a chance to get ahead.

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Throughout Washington and around the country, right-wingers are already popping corks and and toasting the demise of the liberal ideology. William Bennett, the former Secretary of Education, has predicted that "under Bill Clinton's watch ... we may see the end of liberalism in our time."

William Kristol, the Republican strategist, would have you believe that liberalism is due to follow communism into the scrap heap of history: "Liberalism is like a huge, condemned building. It is big and impressive, but one well-placed charge could bring down the whole edifice. The world saw this happen in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union in the 1980s."

Hey, I wish I could tell you that these guys are completely off the mark. I really do. But the truth of the matter is that they could be right. The way things are going, liberalism may not be long for this world.

Yes, you heard me right. Liberalism may be on the way out. But make no mistake : If liberalism disappears it will not be because right-wing Republicans have set any well-placed charges under our building-if anything, the right-wingers and have given us the steel girders and support beams we need to shore everything up.

Think about it. Reasonable, clear-thinking Republicans have lost the war of priorities to a band of extremists in their own party. No longer do we have to make slippery-slope arguments about what might happen if the most intolerant, greedy, and short-sighted elements took over the Republican Party. It's happened.

Newt Gingrich, until recently a zealot back-bencher, is the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Jesse Helms, the man who once warned Bill Clinton that he "better have bodyguard" if he tried to set foot on a military base in North Carolina, writes the Senate's foreign relations policy. Rush Limbaugh is the party's loudest spokesman. Pat Robertson and his Christian Coalition are its most powerful interest group. As we saw in Houston in '92, these people can make our case in ways that we never could by ourselves.

So, if liberalism folds we will not have any right to go pointing fingers at the Republican Party. And we sure as hell won't go pointing fingers at the voters.

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That's right. It will be our fault, and ours alone. It will mean that we were mute when we should have been defending what we believe ...


If we liberals don't speak up in our own behalf in a language everyone can understand, how do we expect to survive? It shouldn't take a dim-witted Cajun boy (or man) to point this out. It's just common sense.