WASHINGTON — JAMES Carville, who served as Bill Clinton's campaign strategist in 1992, says the Whitewater controversy may finally be ebbing.
Mr. Carville told a Monitor breakfast meeting with reporters that the ``cycle is coming back our way right now,'' even though ``a lot of goofy people have blown this all out of proportion.'' When it's over, Carville says Americans will see President and Hillary Rodham Clinton the way he does - as ``honest, decent'' people trying to help the country with positive programs like health care.
Carville, dressed in jeans and a pullover sweater, delivered his message to reporters in his typical effusive, arm-waving style. Nicknamed the ``Ragin' Cajun'' because of his Louisiana roots, he ridiculed press coverage of Whitewater, as well as Republican efforts to exploit it.
He charged that Rep. Jim Leach (R) of Iowa, the GOP's point man on Whitewater, ``totally discredits himself'' by spreading falsehoods, including accusations that the Clintons didn't lose money on Whitewater.
Politically, Carville says Democrats will emerge the winners if Republicans keep hammering on Whitewater. ``You be the Whitewater Party and we'll be the Health Care Party,'' he said to Republicans. ``That is what they have established is their priority.''
Looking ahead to fall elections, Carville says both parties confront a difficult challenge. Voters are volatile. When Ross Perot got 19 percent of the vote in 1992, it was ``a huge event'' that indicated a major shake-up in American politics, he says. Yet Carville predicts Republicans may be unable to exploit either Whitewater or volatility. The GOP ``is a party without definition,'' he says, divided between factions led by Jerry Falwell, Jack Kemp, William Bennett, William Weld, and others with sharp differences.
Turning back to Whitewater, Carville says he resents the media criticism directed at Arkansas. ``I don't think Washington needs to be making fun of the ethical standards of anyone else,'' he says. ``All the people in Watergate and Iran-contra, they weren't from Arkansas. And the people that get all these tax breaks up on [Capitol] Hill, they aren't from Arkansas. But you can beat up on Arkansas or Louisiana or any place like that, and ... I resent [it]'' because ``any type of stereotyping is bad.''