Mark Shields from Creators Syndicate Creators Syndicate is an international syndication company that represents cartoonists and columnists of the highest caliber. en Sat, 24 Mar 2018 00:27:08 -0700 Mark Shields from Creators Syndicate 5fe3566cc82594a612471d02be65a737 Liberal Conscience AWOL? for 03/24/2018 Sat, 24 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>In one of the most closely watched 2018 congressional campaigns, avidly followed nationally as a potential predictor of November's midterm elections by both increasingly apprehensive Republicans and guardedly optimistic Democrats, there was only one candidates debate, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, between the challenger &#8212; the favorite of many national liberal groups, which generously backed her candidacy &#8212; and the more conservative seven-term incumbent, supported by the unions of cops, firefighters and steelworkers.</p> <p>During the debate, the liberal challenger, first-time candidate Marie Newman, made her case against incumbent Dan Lipinski with this remarkable assertion (which went almost totally uncovered by the press and uncriticized by the challenger's liberal allies) about the solemn responsibility of a member of Congress: "We can't vote our own conscience as (Lipinski) likes to say. We have to vote how our constituents want us to vote."<p>Updated: Sat Mar 24, 2018</p> dffda5fdb13afd3510d1da64a4d4c2e0 Losers Blame the Voters for 03/17/2018 Sat, 17 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>On Nov. 4, 2008, American voters faced the happy task of choosing between two popular presidential nominees, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, both of whom, according to the last pre-election Gallup Poll, about 3 in 5 Americans regarded positively. In stark contrast, the 2016 Election Day exit poll of voters revealed an electorate forced to pick between, as one Democratic wiseguy put it, "the evil of two lessers." Voters in 2016 gave Democrat Hillary Clinton a 55 percent unfavorable rating and just a 43 percent favorable rating, but even more negatively regarded was Republican Donald Trump, who received just a 38 percent favorable rating and a 60 percent unfavorable rating.</p> <p>It is fair to say that <span class="column--highlighted-text">in the 2016 election, if Trump had been running unopposed on the presidential ballot, he would have lost</span>. The only reason he won is that he was running against Clinton. Nearly 1 in 5 voters in 2016 admitted they held unfavorable feelings toward both Trump and Clinton. So Trump won the White House by carrying 60 percent of those voters who did not like him personally but who apparently liked Clinton even less.<p>Updated: Sat Mar 17, 2018</p> 5e61717473de9cb5ae3457d8b6a16a66 50 St. Patrick's Days Ago for 03/10/2018 Sat, 10 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>After a lifetime spent in the company of the rogues, the rascals and, yes, the phonies of politics, I have concluded that American voters are searching for one of two presidential types: a warm conservative with a generous heart or a tough liberal with a steel backbone. As the late wise conservative leader Jeffrey Bell once said admiringly of Robert F. Kennedy, who began his tragic run for president on the eve of St. Patrick's Day a half-century ago, since RFK, "no liberal leader has come close to uniting blacks and northern working-class whites."</p> <p>Never was that special Kennedy appeal more visible than on May 6, 1968, when RFK, in an open convertible, was cheered by crowds on the streets of Gary, Indiana, a city that was no stranger to racial tensions. On one side of the candidate sat the hometown hero to so many in Gary's Eastern European community, former middleweight champion Tony Zale, and on the other was Richard Hatcher, the city's first African-American mayor.<p>Updated: Sat Mar 10, 2018</p> b6947d553d10e33c10bf2afa8723ea2b Ronald Reagan and Nancy Pelosi: 2 Real Professionals for 03/03/2018 Sat, 03 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p>Former President Ronald Reagan is hands down the most electorally successful American politician of the post-World War II era. As the outsider nominee of the nation's then-decidedly minority party, nobody has ever come close to matching his back-to-back 44-state and 49-state landslide White House victories. Acknowledged as a conviction conservative, Reagan succeeded in forging alliances, as governor and as president, by practicing what he preached: "Remember, the fellow who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is your friend and ally, not 20 percent traitor."</p> <p>The Gipper understood completely: A wining political party is not an exclusive private club with its own admission and litmus tests that a person must first pass to join. No, a successful party, by definition, is a coalition of many different people who come together to support policies on which they mostly agree. But liberals and many Democrats (whose party is now weaker in the Washington minority and state capitols than at any time since 1928) insist that unless someone is an uncritical supporter and endorser of legal abortion, he or she cannot be a Democrat in good standing.</p> <p>Forget that when the Gallup Poll asked, as it does each year, whether people "personally believe that in general it is morally acceptable or morally wrong" to have an abortion, 49 percent of Americans answered "morally wrong" &#8212; almost identical to the 2008 response, the year Barack Obama won the presidency. The reality is that after dramatic changes in the public acceptance of same-sex marriage and gay rights, Americans' conflicted ambivalence on abortion continues to be simultaneously pro-choice and anti-abortion. Voters, sensitive to the painful decision a pregnant woman might make after consulting her conscience, her pastor and her physician, have no appetite for criminalizing the woman for her choice. But those same voters also know that an abortion is not a tonsillectomy, that what is involved here is either potential or actual life. Nobody is going to win a contested election in 2018 on a platform of "what this country needs is more abortions."<p>Updated: Sat Mar 03, 2018</p> ddd3ecb798cdb9f0fffef7c6932840f9 Underestimating the Voters' Intelligence -- and Paying for It for 02/24/2018 Sat, 24 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Politics can be both cruel and unsentimental. Consider the case of Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., known on Capitol Hill &#8212; since his first election to Congress in 1972 &#8212; for his civil and amiable treatment of others, irrespective of party, and, as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, for securing federal billions for his small, poor state. Having recently been hospitalized twice and confronting multiple health challenges, Cochran, 80, has learned that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, his colleague for 33 years, has admitted to The New York Times' Jonathan Martin that though it's "premature" to analyze a possible Mississippi special election to replace Cochran, McConnell and President Donald Trump have separately met with Mississippi's Republican governor, Phil Bryant, to urge Bryant &#8212; should the Cochran seat become vacant for any reason &#8212; to appoint himself to the Senate.</p> <p><span class="column--highlighted-text">Here's my unsolicited advice to Bryant: Do not, in your own self-interest, appoint yourself to the Senate.</span> As my sainted precinct committeewoman used to tell us, "do not overestimate the factual knowledge of voters, but never underestimate the intelligence of voters." Voters who are not able to list the member nations of NATO are still wise enough to see through any staged, counterfeit ritual in which a governor "resigns" his office only to have his hand-picked successor then appoint him to a vacant Senate seat.<p>Updated: Sat Feb 24, 2018</p> 3c2bf3458d84d3301eafb40bae8cd25d Finally, a Unifying Theme for 2018 for 02/10/2018 Sat, 10 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Democrats whom I talk to confess privately that despite President Donald Trump's unpopularity and the fact that nearly all polls show their party with a lead over Republicans when it comes to the upcoming midterm elections, they are increasingly nervous about 2018. Fueling the Democrats' anxiety is the growing perception that their party is without any overarching and unifying vision or theme. The Democratic Party too often is seen as a bizarre collection of single-cause or special interest groups, with the whole actually being less than the sum of its parts.</p> <p>You want evidence? How about your self-consciously inclusive Democratic event that features only gluten-free, vegan-friendly appetizers and especially welcomes all agnostic cross-dressers who prize sensitivity to an earnest community that remains smoke-free, salt-free and humor-free? To spare members of what was long known as the party of Jefferson and Jackson (before both erstwhile Democratic heroes were expelled retroactively for not championing same-sex marriage and other policy positions unbecoming to a 21st-century liberal) from their increasingly joyless search for an elusive galvanizing idea, here is a nationally unifying theme for 2018:<p>Updated: Sat Feb 10, 2018</p> 42623deef1f35f963b5240d1efa24f7b False Humility Is Better Than None at All for 02/03/2018 Sat, 03 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p>Thanks to the reliable American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara, which keeps careful track of such information, we know that in 2000, President Bill Clinton gave &#8212; at one hour and 28 minutes &#8212; the longest State of the Union address. In marked contrast, to deliver his own 1986 State of the Union, President Ronald Reagan took only an estimated 31 minutes. President Donald Trump's 2018 address, which, according to CBS News research, drew 110 rounds of applause and more than 70 standing ovations, took just over one hour and 20 minutes, making it the second-longest in history.</p> <p>The reactions to Trump's speech were mostly predictable. Unsmiling Democrats, many of whom were captured on TV cutaway shots looking as if they were suffering from an outbreak of dyspepsia, were not impressed, while euphoric Republicans appeared to love it. But what most post-mortems of the speech have overlooked were Trump's own obviously positive reactions to the very speech he was delivering. This was repeatedly evidenced by the president's enthusiastic willingness to initiate &#8212; or to happily join in &#8212; applause for the particular point he had just so tellingly made. This, let it be noted, is a genuine presidential first; all of the previous 41 chief executives who gave a State of the Union speech apparently lacked either the self-confidence or the self-sufficiency to be able to do.</p> <p><span class="column--highlighted-text">If only President Abraham Lincoln had dared, after so eloquently speaking of this "new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal," to pause, turn to those in his Gettysburg crowd and urge them to "give it up for all men being created equal!"</span> Isn't it too bad that President Franklin Roosevelt, in his first inaugural address, after testifying to his "firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself," somehow lacked the sense of history to insert "everybody put your hands together"? President John F. Kennedy's exhortation to his fellow Americans to "ask not what your country can do for you (but) what you can do for your country" would have worked so much better if a more self-assured JFK had then instructed his audience, "Let's have a big hand for self-sacrifice."<p>Updated: Sat Feb 03, 2018</p> f120dbac8b9c93d412b5e47533271bc2 Patriotism On the Cheap for 01/27/2018 Sat, 27 Jan 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>For the first two centuries of U.S. history &#8212; while Americans were proudly winning a war for independence, founding a nation, abolishing slavery, settling a continent and winning two world wars &#8212; the patriot was that admirable fellow citizen willing to sacrifice his own individual well-being for the common good or to sacrifice her own personal security for the security of the nation. Patriotism was earned, not just asserted.</p> <p>That definition would effectively be altered in 1973, when President Richard Nixon, who had just won a landslide re-election victory but was facing rising public opposition to the U.S. war in Vietnam, became the first American president to wear an American flag in his lapel. Nixon got the idea, according to historian Stephen E. Ambrose, from H.R. Haldeman, his chief of staff, "who had seen it done in a movie called 'The Candidate.'" Nixon then had the word passed to his staff: Seeing as he was wearing a flag, many of them might want to do the same to show their support for him and the country. Gerald Ford, who succeeded the disgraced and resigned Nixon, had earned 10 battle stars as a World War II naval officer and was apparently comfortable in dropping such "flag lapel patriotism."<p>Updated: Sat Jan 27, 2018</p> 246fe9eaea130f8bd7e6ae14cb73d82e 'Always Proud He Was My President' for 01/13/2018 Sat, 13 Jan 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, who created the international scholarship program that bears his name and that has produced 59 Nobel Prize winners among its estimated 360,000 alumni, was not, for entirely legitimate reasons, a humble man. Admitted to the University of Arkansas at 15, he would become a star halfback on the school's football team and a Rhodes scholar. He also studied at Oxford for three years before being named president of his alma mater at 34.</p> <p>By the time of his last Arkansas campaign, in 1974, when I worked for Fulbright, he had already won national attention as an outspoken critic of Sen. Joe McCarthy's anti-communist witch hunts and for, longer than anyone in U.S. history, chairing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where he conducted, much to the anger of President Lyndon B. Johnson, nationally televised hearings opposing the U.S. war in Vietnam. During that 1974 campaign, Fulbright chatted late one evening about the six U.S. presidents who had served with him. What I remember today was Fulbright's description of John F. Kennedy: "Whenever I went to the White House for any occasion during his administration, I was always proud, as an American, that Kennedy was my president."<p>Updated: Sat Jan 13, 2018</p> f6dd8eba119cb5e467374917752ca683 A Prophet Who Deserves a Little Honor for 01/06/2018 Sat, 06 Jan 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Anyone who cannot resist the temptation to offer public predictions about public events invites and can expect public ridicule.</p> <p>Even pre-eminent 20th-century American columnist and public intellectual Walter Lippmann, who was courted by presidents and prime ministers, is regularly remembered for dismissing in print then-New York Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt for being "no tribune of the people." Lippmann wrote: "He is no enemy of entrenched privilege. He is a pleasant man who, without any important qualifications for the office, would very much like to be President."<p>Updated: Sat Jan 06, 2018</p> 222cca1ae095337ff2813db4d6022f60 Our Sore President for 12/30/2017 Sat, 30 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>During his winning campaign to capture the White House, Democrat Barack Obama was harshly critical of the White House record of his predecessor George W. Bush. But once in office, Obama &#8212; like nearly all presidents before him &#8212; heeded the sage advice of a great chief executive also from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, who, when faulted for speaking kindly about the South during the Civil War, countered, "Madam, do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?"</p> <p>President Obama said about Bush: "To know the man is to like the man, because he's comfortable in his own skin. He knows who he is. ... He takes his job seriously, but he doesn't take himself too seriously. He is a good man."<p>Updated: Sat Dec 30, 2017</p> 30c771cc5d5c9cd7ca11ae807a7f0595 Resolutions and Predictions for 12/23/2017 Sat, 23 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>The calendar reminds us that it's that special time of the year to make reckless predictions and fleeting resolutions. So let us do a little of both.</p> <p>I predict that with history and national poll numbers warning them daily that 2018 is shaping up as a truly bad year electorally for Republican candidates, there will be a sharp increase in the number of GOP incumbents announcing that rather than seek re-election, they have decided to spend more time with their families. Before doing so, each would be wise to check with David Letterman, who, having retired after his career as the longest-tenured late-night host in TV history, explained that he was now leaving his two-year retirement to return to work: "Here's what I have learned: If you retire to spend more time with your family, check with your family first."<p>Updated: Sat Dec 23, 2017</p> 67d2849c67f062c4ea509fbe3e9a5bbf Normal Speech for 12/16/2017 Sat, 16 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Contrary to what my beloved junior high coach taught us, defeat does not build character. However, defeat can often reveal character. So, too, can victory reveal character, as it seemed to do late on a December Tuesday night in a raucous ballroom at the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel.</p> <p>There we saw a happy winner who declined to pump his fist in self-congratulatory pleasure but rather insisted on giving credit to others. He would not stop thanking &#8212; by name &#8212; family members, friends and campaign staffers for the win. He was optimistic, repeating his belief that he and all those either listening or not have more things in common than they have issues that divide them, adding, "This campaign has been about common courtesy and decency and making sure everyone in this state, regardless of which ZIP code you live in, is going to get a fair shake in life."<p>Updated: Sat Dec 16, 2017</p> 87b34630301e6c037df8298064eb7f1d Francisco Franco and the 2018 Republicans for 12/09/2017 Sat, 09 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>To understand the discouraging plight for Republicans heading into the 2018 midterm elections, it might help to recall a joke popular in Spain in 1975, when Generalissimo Francisco Franco, that nation's long-ruling and ruthless dictator, lingered for endless weeks on his deathbed.</p> <p>Alejandro: "There is good news, and there is bad news."<p>Updated: Sat Dec 09, 2017</p> 271d401cc876d0e57a3646e017cada1f Understanding Republicans for 12/02/2017 Sat, 02 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>It's important for us to remember that even though President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat, successfully lobbied the nation and eventually signed into law the historic civil rights laws a half-century ago, a higher percentage of congressional Republicans than congressional Democrats voted for those bills. By then, the Republican Party, which was born to preserve the union and abolish human slavery in the United States and had elected Abraham Lincoln, had come to stand for smaller, less intrusive government, lower taxes and balancing the federal budget.</p> <p>Then came 1980 and a charismatic Republican presidential nominee from California, who offered a painlessly appealing prescription for the nation's malaise: He would double defense spending, cut Americans' taxes by one-third and balance the federal budget. A 10-term Republican congressman, John B. Anderson of Illinois, also ran for president in 1980, first as a Republican and then as an independent. Anderson chose candor over cant and effectively burned his bridges with fellow Republicans who preferred to believe in the "tooth fairy" approach to political policy when, in a nationally televised debate, he dared to say: "How do you balance the budget, cut taxes and increase defense spending at the same time? It's very simple. You do it with mirrors."<p>Updated: Sat Dec 02, 2017</p> 98dac604e5ef5ec603e632890259160d 'Punching Up' Is American; 'Punching Down' Is Not for 11/25/2017 Sat, 25 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Americans have traditionally responded more positively to humor that "punches up" rather than "punches down." To "punch up" means to make a joke at the expense of those who have more power, privilege or property than the audience or the humorist. "Punching down" is the opposite &#8212; mocking or disparaging someone or some group that is less influential, privileged or affluent than are the mocker and his audience.</p> <p>When you're president of the United States or even a presidential candidate, you're pretty much at the top of the social heap, which makes it difficult, when being humorous, to punch up believably. The record does show that popular American presidents have effectively used self-deprecating humor to make jokes at their own expense. The message to an audience is clear: I am not self-important; I do not take myself all that seriously; I am one of you.<p>Updated: Sat Nov 25, 2017</p> ee01d159fe6cd9d05d999b4fac2cf3a2 The Powerful Waging War on the Weak for 11/18/2017 Sat, 18 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0800 <p>The story is as timeless as it is ugly. The names of the actors change, but the plot remains the same. The powerful &#8212; whether the undocumented maid's employer, the factory owner who signs the teenage worker's paycheck or the producer who can cast an aspiring actress &#8212; are in control, and the weak are, too often, at their mercy.</p> <p>Henry Kissinger was wrong when he said, "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac." No, instead of being some magical love potion, power has too often been some bulletproof E-ZPass for the powerful, admitting them to the private club of entitlement, where they can sexually exploit less powerful human beings who lack the resources or the status or the self-confidence to stop such abuse. Power has been the powerful's get-out-of-jail-free card.</p> <p>Power has been almost always male. But not always, as I wrote some 36 years in The Washington Post: "The Boss was famous, influential, rich and married. The young woman was none of the above and 23 when she became the Boss's secretary and lover (some nine years earlier). ... There were trips, and there were gifts, and whether there were legally enforceable promises, made by the Boss, may be decided in a courtroom. That's where Marilyn Barnett is seeking financial support from her married ex-lover and ex-boss, Billie Jean King."<p>Updated: Sat Nov 18, 2017</p> a33756181fa2d8405394db0cab740e23 First 'Pre-mortem' of the 2018 Elections for 11/11/2017 Sat, 11 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>American voters, almost invariably dissatisfied with the political status quo, generally endorse change. In 2016, Donald Trump was certainly the candidate of change, and Hillary Clinton, seeking a third consecutive Democratic term in the White House, represented continuity. <span class="column--highlighted-text">Voters' enthusiasm for change, in the abstract, often cools when they're actually confronted with the specific changes that the winning change candidate seeks to impose once in office.</span></p> <p>Recall the smashing and historic 2008 victory of the classic change agent, Democrat Barack Obama, who, as president and with his party in control of both the House and the Senate, pushed hard &#8212; and eventually successfully &#8212; to enact national health care, which his party had long championed but which had never been realistic as long as Republicans controlled at least one side of Capitol Hill. During the 2010 midterm elections, voters, unsure about the economy and the actual changes wrought, gave President Obama only a 44 percent favorable job rating and took 63 House seats &#8212; and the majority &#8212; away from the Democrats.<p>Updated: Sat Nov 11, 2017</p> 8121a6e937625356813b53fd476f79a7 To Be a Great President, You First Have to Like Politics for 11/04/2017 Sat, 04 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>On the consensus list of the most significant American presidents following George Washington, there is a common trait. Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson and Harry Truman &#8212; each of these great leaders was first a very good politician who actually enjoyed politics.</p> <p>Lincoln, who served four terms in the Illinois Legislature, where he helped to move the state's capital from Vandalia to Springfield, conveyed to people that he understood their struggles and he stood squarely on their side, in contrast with Woodrow Wilson, who professed his love for mankind in the abstract but preferred to avoid the company of ordinary human beings, who frequently sweat and burp.<p>Updated: Sat Nov 04, 2017</p> 03c5e47bfaf31ea01d4529d022b61867 An American President and the World for 10/28/2017 Sat, 28 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>The release by the Trump administration of thousands of pages of classified documents related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy brought to mind two anecdotes about the 35th president and his legacy.</p> <p>After the shock of Dallas, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was then an assistant secretary of labor and would later become a significant U.S. senator, said to his friend and fellow Irish-American journalist Mary McGrory, who would become the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for commentary, "I don't think there's any point in being Irish if you don't know that the world is going to break your heart eventually." According to Moynihan, McGrory said, "We'll never laugh again." Moynihan replied, "Heavens, Mary, we'll laugh again. It's just that we'll never be young again."<p>Updated: Sat Oct 28, 2017</p>