Political odd couple write of life, love

January 13, 1993|By Newsday

NEW YORK -- Bill Clinton against George Bush was a "His" and "Hers" campaign for James Carville and Mary Matalin, the odd romantic couple of American politics. He was the top strategist for the victor; she was the deputy campaign manager for the president.

Now that the ballroom balloons have all burst and the two have finished a European vacation, they are pitching a hotly sought book about the election and the love that survived it.

In a blitz of meetings with New York publishers and editors late last week -- on Thursday, they did business over breakfast, lunch and dinner -- Mr. Carville and Ms. Matalin proposed writing tales from inside their respective bunkers, leavened by recollections of their own relationship on the run. They showed the book people a proposed outline -- but not to keep, lest the dozen or so pages be leaked to the media.

Suitors include Random House, Bantam Books, HarperCollins, St. Martin's Press and others. Among Bantam's representatives was Beverly Lewis, the editor of H. Norman Schwarzkopf's best-selling "It Doesn't Take a Hero."

Participants said that the authors-to-be were just as intent on interviewing the publishers. Ms. Matalin asked about the number of women each contingent employed in high-ranking positions. "She may be a devout Bush Republican, but she's also a devout feminist," one editor observed. And the book proposes to explore the role of women during the campaign.

So which actors should play these modern-day Tracy and Hepburn roles in the movie? Forget about it. At least for now. Mr. Carville and Ms. Matalin indicated they have no interest in a Hollywood re-creation of their story. They apparently fear it would be distorted by filmmakers and apparently intend to retain the screen rights evermore.

Just before Election Day, Ms. Matalin remarked their affection survived their political differences because "we never talk about politics."

"It was obvious that the two of them are just crazy about each other," one publishing house representative said. "They're building a house together, they plan to move in together and marriage was certainly implied." It's this romantic dimension to PTC their unlikely story that quickens the publishers' chase.

"But the two of them are also crazy about the men they worked for," the representative added. Translation: Don't expect them to embarrass Mr. Bush or Mr. Clinton for the sake of book sales.

Various sources say the couple is seeking at least $500,000 for their manuscript -- and may already have been offered as much -- but will probably end up getting much more. As one executive put it, "It's an active situation right now."

In book publishing, there are no sure best-sellers, but the excitement of Campaign '92 and the expectation that these two would work well on a promotional tour go a long way toward minimizing the risk.

Mr. Carville and Ms. Matalin were accompanied in New York by Washington attorney Robert Barnett, who in recent years has become a door-opener to the book world for capital players such as Sam Donaldson, Geraldine Ferraro and Robert H. Bork. He's also representing James A. Baker III as the secretary of state seeks a publisher for his own memoirs. It is said part of Mr. Barnett's charm is that he charges clients by the hour, instead of taking the customary agent's fee of 15 percent.

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