Mary Matalin abruptly ended her brief stint as a strategist for Bob Dole’s presidential campaign Friday, saying criticism of her marriage to Democratic operative James Carville was a distraction Dole did not deserve.
Matalin had signed on just this week and was slated to play a major strategic role in the Dole effort, as she had in the 1988 and 1992 George Bush campaigns.
But her 1992 romance and subsequent marriage to Clinton campaign strategist Carville has made her a traitor to some Republicans - and several voiced displeasure that she was to join the Dole campaign.
After being besieged with media inquiries Wednesday and Thursday, Matalin decided Friday afternoon to quit. She informed the Dole campaign in a three-paragraph memo to campaign manager Scott Reed.
Matalin wrote that “to my great consternation,” her decision to work for Dole on a volunteer basis had proven an instant distraction to the Republican candidate in “the most important election in a lifetime.”
“Our country needs him, not distracting inquiries about his volunteers,” Matalin said in the memo, which was obtained by The Associated Press. “It was an honor to be invited to join Senator Dole’s effort. I appreciate your understanding my desire to leave your outstanding team. … My continued presence will continue to be a distraction to the campaign.”
Asked about Matalin’s departure, Dole campaign spokeswoman Christina Martin said, “We respect the decision Mary has made. We realize she has done so in an attempt to curb any distractions to the campaign, and we appreciate her thoughtfulness.”
Dole said he did not think the criticism of Matalin was justified, but he didn’t know much about her resignation. He said she still might help the campaign in some informal way.
Just a few hours earlier, Dole had defended Matalin against the criticism.
“Mary Matalin is a friend of mine,” Dole told reporters. “She will do a good job. We are going to win.”
Asked if he was bothered because Carville worked for Clinton, Dole smiled and said, “He has to work somewhere, I guess, or else he’d be unemployed.”
Carville and Matalin drew media attention for their 1992 romance, and wrote a best-selling book about their competing campaign experiences. She left GOP politics after the 1992 election and was working as co-host of a CNBC program, “Equal Time,” and recently began a CBS radio program. She had planned to quit “Equal Time” to join the Dole campaign full time.