Advising Hillary about advising Obama

Weren’t they so cute, Mary Matalin and the bald guy, circa Election 1992, political advisers and marital partners, swinging for opposite teams, both obviously high-roller clever wits. It could have made a sitcom. Did it? I remember a Mork-n-Mindy-esque book cover. Mr. and Mrs. Smith of political hit-making, presumably. Now I hear there’s another Carville-Matalin academic dream pair advising the Democratic rivals. Christopher Edley and Maria Echaveste. He for Obama, she for Hillary. Isn’t that cute? Now wait a minute.

Are we to believe the stakes are so high, and political acumen such a rarity, that married couples have to divide their energies between political campaigns? Out of our entire population, or out of the small pool of “experts” consulted by the networks, the political campaigns have to hire professors whose partners are otherwise indisposed with the other side?!

In any other line of work, it would be called a conflict of interest. But in politics we’re supposed to think it’s a matter of tomayto or tomahto. Nothing you can’t resolve after the 9 to 5. At the end of the day, which candidate wins is a wash.

Probably we’re encouraged to make this comparison. But do you know any couple to survive even a mismatched allegiance to sports teams? The only way I know to stomach a partner’s at-odds political views is to have separate abodes. I’m thinking that elections have indeed become so sophisticated that in order to collude effectively, you have to have intimately briefed operators. What are they called? Bed fellows!

Competing businesses can’t even be caught meeting in the same hotel room without drawing an investigation into price fixing. Election fixing, even with Diebold’s collusion, has got to be quite a tenuous balancing act. You can’t have a Rove type working on both sides simultaneously, attending the meetings at least. But if you’ve got dueling advisers, perhaps they can coordinate the tempo, mood and fiddle, lest one side or the other fall out of step.

If you were being considered for a consultancy, wouldn’t you recuse yourself if your wife was already advising the competitor? If you didn’t offer up the info voluntarily, you could be liable for civil damages if it was found out.

But when it concerns politics, what? Never mind that your wife works for the other side. We need YOU. Oh, and you can tell us what she’s up to, without letting her in on the game. And make certain she isn’t playing you for the same. Or, your recruiters could make this pitch: The public loves a team couple. It dispels the wacky idea that politics have to do with class, or social differences.

Americans are such romantics. They believe (1) love conquers all, it even settles differences of opinion, and (2) that married couples are ultimately faithful to each other above all. One person playing double agent between rivals, betrays both naturally. But two people? They’re kept honest because they can’t lie to each other. Dirty politics become sanitized by Ward and June, each too much a patriot to betray each other.

Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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