Yes, We Can All Just Get Along
MM: She's an über-Catholic.
DB: If I could have gotten my way at an early age, I would have entered the priesthood, but my mother informed me that I could not become a priest because I was a girl. It really was the biggest blow to my ego, because it was my calling. When she told me I'd have to be a nun, I looked at her and said, "I'm not following anyone." But I continued to go to church, sometimes two, three days a week. In fact I'm going to the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception today.
So how can you argue so vigorously for issues like birth control, abortion rights, and same-sex marriage, which go against the teachings of your church?
DB: You know, once upon a time, mainline Christian churches believed slavery was divined by God. So many things about being a Christian comport with my value system, but there can also be contradictions in people of faith. And I think most people at church are like me. They have strong moral views but also have contradictions and their own principles that guide them.
MM: I think we share the opinion that you don't use the Bible to justify or validate any particular policy. Donna and I talk deeply about policy and race and faith, but we're drinking wine and we're trying to learn something. We're not trying to humiliate the other guy.
You are also united in your distaste for insta-pundits.
DB: You know what constitutes a Democratic strategist these days? Somebody who wakes up and declares himself a Democrat. We've worked on a gazillion campaigns. I spent time in my basement yesterday going through all these buttons, and I have Geraldine Ferraro and Jimmy Carter and Jesse Jackson and Dick Gephardt. I've got all of them. And these kids just wake up one day and say, "I want airtime."
Why do you think the country has become so polarized, politically?
DB: I think it started after the 2000 presidential campaign [resulting in the Supreme Court decision to halt the Florida recount]. People didn't have faith in government anymore. After 9/11 the country came back together. We didn't see partisanship; we just saw that we were all Americans, and we'd been attacked. Then we started coming apart again. People don't trust government, they don't trust Wall Street, they don't trust the church, they don't trust the media.
MM: There's another reason: When we first came to D.C., politicians moved here with their families. That was a civilizing force. The wives of people from opposing parties were friends, their kids went to school together.
DB: Politics was based on relationships and trust. Now we have members of Congress who don't know each other. They come in on Tuesday, leave on Thursday, vote for three hours each day, and go home. It's drive-by government.
And partisan differences run deep. Aren't you ever frustrated with your friend's point of view? Like when you're discussing who's the better candidate for women? Your parties are so divided on that issue.
DB: Well, take birth control. It's one of those issues most Americans would rather not have a conversation about. The reason we had to discuss it was that it's part of the Affordable Care Act, which allows people who use their prescription-drug benefit for these pills, these lifesaving pills, to not have to pay for them. It's now considered preventive medicine, so it's free, just like my mammogram is free.
MM: This is why we don't talk about this. If you ask who's best for women, consider that you can get birth control for $9 a month. But it costs me $90 a week to fill my gas tank. Why I became a feminist is to get equal pay and equal access; I can handle my own birth control. Furthermore, we're talking about a small segment of the population for which everybody's insurance has to go up. And it's not just for birth control pills. It's the morning-after pill, too, girl.
So sometimes it gets heated between you two.
MM: But you see, even though we don't agree on the issues, I never question Donna's motives. I can listen to what she's saying and I think about where she's coming from because I know she's being true to herself. As opposed to people who are just holding a view because of groupthink, because they can't think for themselves or haven't bothered to. Donna and I know who we are and what we are. I feel like I can walk in her moccasins, and I think she can walk in mine.
DB: This year we both found ourselves deployed to Des Moines, Iowa, and Manchester, New Hampshire, for the Republican primaries. I mean, I was covering Mitt Romney! It's often lonely when you're out on the road surrounded by people who don't share your viewpoint, but with Mary it didn't matter. I had someone who shared my outlook on life.
MM: And it was freezing outside....
DB: Yeah! We had to do a live outside shot at night, in Des Moines, freezing. We were miked up and just had to stand there, not knowing when CNN would come to us.
MM: So cold, our mouths couldn't move.
DB: And we were like, hey, we must have 100 political campaigns between us, and we're the ones standing out here while others with so little experience stay warm in the studios? What did we do wrong in our lives? Then we had to buy our own drinks and pizza back at the hotel.