In the Crossfire: Jeff Nussbaum ’97

By Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers / January / February 2004
June 8th, 2007

BAM What drew you into political work?
Jeff Nussbaum I came into the political stuff through writing, as a columnist for the Brown Daily Herald. I interned in Vice President Gore’s speechwriting office in the summer of 1995. That was also Monica Lewinsky’s intern class. We were acquaintances; she plopped down next to me at orientation and began chatting away. My friends joke that a constitutional crisis could have been averted if I had simply gone on a couple of dates with her.

BAM The Carville book is characteristically feisty. What was your raw material like?
Nussbaum My initial challenge was getting the guy to slow down enough so that I could understand what he was saying. I planted myself in front of James for four months and peppered him with questions, usually playing devil’s advocate until he would get irritated. That’s when I started getting the best material.

BAM Did you tag along at his TV appearances?
Nussbaum I have felt at times more like a groupie than a collaborator. I found myself often on the set of Crossfire—where, by the way, Kate Farrell ’97 is a producer. My friends who are women are more jealous that I spent time on the set of K Street, the HBO show, which is produced by George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh.

BAM I know that Carville’s wife, Mary Matalin, worked for Dick Cheney until recently. Did you find yourself in the midst of any marital disputes?
Nussbaum People have asked me, “Is their marriage a sham? Is it a publicity stunt?” The truth is, their marriage is completely strong. They are celebrating their tenth anniversary and have two daughters. You know, James was actually named one of the sexiest men alive in People magazine—truly mind-boggling because his wife refers to him as “serpent head.”

—Interview by Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers

Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers ( is a contributor to NPR’s All Things Considered and the author of three books on music.

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January / February 2004