Paul Edward Begala (born May 12, 1961) is an American political consultant and political commentator, best known as the former adviser to President Bill Clinton.
Begala was a chief strategist for the 1992 Clinton–Gore campaign, which carried 33 states and made Clinton the first Democrat to occupy the White House in twelve years. As counselor to the President in the Clinton White House, he coordinated policy, politics, and communications.
Begala gained national prominence as part of the political consulting team Carville and Begala, along with fellow Clinton advisor James Carville. He was a co-host on the political debate program Equal Time on MSNBC from 1999 to 2000, and a co-host on the similar debate program Crossfire on CNN from 2002 to 2005. He now appears regularly on CNN as a Democratic pundit. He is an Affiliated Professor of Public Policy at Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy.
Early life and education
Begala was born in New Jersey, to an Irish American mother, Margaret "Peggy" (née Cass), and a Hungarian American father, David Begala. He was raised in Missouri City, Texas, where his father was an oil-field equipment salesman. In 1979, Begala graduated from Dulles High School in Sugar Land, Texas.
He earned both his Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctor from the University of Texas at Austin, where he taught briefly. While at the University of Texas, Begala was a candidate for student government president. However, he finished second to a write-in campaign for Hank the Hallucination, a character from the campus comic strip Eyebeam. Following his loss, Begala wrote a tongue-in-cheek complaint for the Daily Texan, arguing "I cannot help but feel Hank's platform is illusory at best...I must say that the candidate himself lacks substance". Begala was declared the winner, following a ruling that imaginary characters could not hold the position.
Begala, along with business partner James Carville, helped then-Governor of Arkansas Clinton win the 1992 presidential election. Begala was a chief strategist for the 1992 Clinton–Gore campaign. Clinton carried 33 states and became the first Democrat elected President since 1976. Begala later served as a counselor to the President in the Clinton White House, where he coordinated policy, politics, and communications.
Begala opposed Gore's nomination for vice president. Instead, he favored Senator Harris Wofford. Begala had worked on Wofford's campaign during a 1991 special election for the Senate.
Aside from the 1992 presidential election, Begala and Carville had other well-known political victories including the 1991 Pennsylvania U.S. Senate victory of Harris Wofford, the 1988 re-election campaign of incumbent New Jersey U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg, and the gubernatorial victories of Robert Casey in Pennsylvania in 1986, Wallace G. Wilkinson in Kentucky in 1987, and Zell Miller in Georgia in 1990. Begala later revealed he had favored his former client, Pennsylvania senator Harris Wofford, over Al Gore as Bill Clinton's running mate in the 1992 presidential election.
He was a contributor to John F. Kennedy, Jr.'s political magazine George in the late 1990s.
From 1999 until its cancellation in 2000, Begala co-hosted the political debate show Equal Time with Oliver North on MSNBC. From 2002 until its cancellation in 2005, he co-hosted the political debate show Crossfire on CNN, alternating with Carville as the left-wing host, while the position of right-wing host alternated between Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.
As an author and co-author, Begala has written five political books: Is Our Children Learning?: The Case Against George W. Bush; Buck Up, Suck Up and Come Back When You Foul Up (with James Carville); It's Still the Economy Stupid; and Third Term: Why George W. Bush (Hearts) John McCain.
On January 12, 2008, Begala appeared on NPR's radio show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, playing the game Not My Job. He won by answering two out of three questions correctly.
Begala was a consultant in the service of mortgage lender Freddie Mac, an arrangement that ended in September 2008.
Begala is currently a CNN political commentator and a research professor of public policy at Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy.
He is a member of the board of directors of Democratic Majority for Israel, an organization that promotes U.S.-Israel cooperation and whose political arm, DMFI PAC, ran attack ads against Senator Bernie Sanders candidacy before the 2020 presidential election.
Looking back at his career and the U.S. political scene, Begala has remarked that a "presidential campaign is like a film. It never comes together until it's scored and tracked".
Begala and his wife, Diane Friday, have four sons. They currently live in Virginia.
Begala is Roman Catholic.