Mark Shields from Creators Syndicate Creators Syndicate is an international syndication company that represents cartoonists and columnists of the highest caliber. en Sat, 25 May 2019 18:21:09 -0700 Mark Shields from Creators Syndicate 7064e90547764a863204d49de07dce62 Remember: American Politics Is Very Imitative for 05/25/2019 Sat, 25 May 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p>It's a better than even bet that in Massachusetts today there is more than one ambitious young Democratic candidate running for local office who is deliberately pronouncing the word "again" so that it rhymes with "a pain." Why, you logically ask? Because that's how the martyred John F. Kennedy pronounced "again." American politics and campaigns are frankly imitative.</p> <p>Half a century ago, in 1968, then-presidential candidate Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, discarded his suit jacket, rolled up his shirtsleeves and waded into the campaign crowds who came to see him. The unspoken message was clear: <span class="column--highlighted-text">This leader in shirtsleeves was a regular guy, unpretentious, ready to go to work and even, if pushed too hard, prepared to defend, mano a mano, the less powerful against the Rich Bully.</span></p> <p>How many times have we seen the candidate in her campaign TV spot listening attentively to children or to retirees signaling to us voters that this candidate truly cares about the next generation and also honors the older generation? Then there are the obligatory images of the candidate of the people (who may actually be on his way to a high-number fundraiser with hedge fund managers) smiling comfortably and respectfully in the company of blue-collar workers in hard hats or firefighters or cops; I'm a regular Joe at home with ordinary Americans who, unlike me, actually shower after work instead of before.<p>Updated: Sat May 25, 2019</p> dc613fa708797ffa3c109fc91bf93785 Democrats' (Not Entirely) 'Bleak Prospects' for 05/18/2019 Sat, 18 May 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>In my line of work, I run into more than a few Democrats whose mood swings of late are frankly semi-wild. Last November, when their party won 41 Republican U.S. House seats and took the House majority from the GOP, Democrats were almost giddy, increasingly confident that voters in 2020 would see the error of their ways and make Donald Trump the first American president to be rejected for reelection since George H.W. Bush in 1992.</p> <p>Lately, however, Democrats are less bullish. The economic news, even with talk of a trade war with China, has been exceptional: The nation has its lowest unemployment rate in a half-century. Hourly earnings are up by 3.2% over last year, and U.S. economic growth as well is up by 3.2% as in the last quarter. In the Gallup poll, some 91% of Republicans approve of President Trump. <span class="column--highlighted-text">You're almost tempted to say to Democrats nervous about next year's election, "Cheer up. Eventually, things will get worse."</span><p>Updated: Sat May 18, 2019</p> bac54d051d0a9e7d7687149c0783b048 A Story 'Too Good to Check' for 05/11/2019 Sat, 11 May 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Shortly after the cooling of the earth, when I was working for The Washington Post, I more than once heard a grizzled editor skeptically caution a younger reporter who was sure that he, alone, had gotten a stop-the-presses exclusive scoop that was going to lead the paper and, quite possibly, change the world: "If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out." </p> <p>Another sage warning for reporters was to always question "the story too good to check out" &#8212; of which there has never been a shortage. See the conservative Breitbart's certifiably bogus report that Nobel Prize-winning liberal economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman had filed for personal bankruptcy. That was totally untrue, and in time, Breitbart so acknowledged.<p>Updated: Sat May 11, 2019</p> ff03c95f975f87753f1a6ca83e1a195a A Uniquely American Story for 05/04/2019 Sat, 04 May 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Feb. 19, 1942, was not President Franklin Roosevelt's finest day. Some 10 weeks after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, FDR signed Executive Order 9066, which violated the legal rights of some 120,000 Japanese Americans. In short order, people of Japanese descent were given just 48 hours to dispose of their homes, their farms, their businesses. Their investments and their bank accounts were expropriated.</p> <p>Let us listen to the painful memories of a 10-year-old American citizen: "My own family was sent first to Santa Anita racetrack. We showered in the horse paddocks. Some families lived in converted stables, others in hastily thrown together barracks." That boy and his family were sent for three years to what FDR himself conceded was a "concentration camp" at Heart Mountain, Wyoming.<p>Updated: Sat May 04, 2019</p> b48dada60a0372ec5d5fa1b3ffbc5173 America's Urgent Need for Baseball Today for 04/27/2019 Sat, 27 Apr 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p>In America today and in its capital city of Washington, D.C., we see, sadly, that with enough money and influence, the fix can be put in. A widely used passenger plane model &#8212; whose safety standards were certified by the manufacturer &#8212; had to be grounded after separate crashes took 346 lives. According to the sworn testimony of the president's personal attorney, in the closing days of the last White House campaign, a six-figure hush money payoff went to the current president's alleged mistress. Citizens learn that the game is not on the level. </p> <p>Nor is the fix limited to Inside the Beltway. Without rich, connected, corrupt parents willing to bribe college coaches and officials to get their unqualified offspring enrolled at prestigious schools, hard-working, qualified high school students receive letters of rejection rather than acceptance from those corrupted universities. Why? Because the fix was in. </p> <p>In the summer of 2019, America urgently needs baseball because, as team owner and American original Bill Veeck accurately observed: "Baseball is almost the only orderly thing in a very unorderly world. If you get three strikes, even the best lawyer in the world can't get you off." Veeck was right. <span class="column--highlighted-text">In baseball, it doesn't make any difference how big a six-figure soft-money check you anonymously wrote to a powerful public official if you can't hit a curveball.</span> Social connections and private school pedigrees count for nothing in the bottom of the ninth when the tying run is on third base.<p>Updated: Sat Apr 27, 2019</p> 90766880408f572ee614a8903e60c2b2 What Will We, Voters, Be Looking For in Our Next President? for 04/20/2019 Sat, 20 Apr 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>We Americans have a predictable reaction when a president in his performance or his conduct disappoints us: We almost always go looking for a successor presidential candidate who, we think, possesses the very qualities of character and talent we unhappily learned were missing in the president who has just let us down.</p> <p>Think about the pattern: After the criminality and the corruption of Watergate and the failed presidency of Richard Nixon &#8212; arguably, having served in the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate and two terms as vice president, the most experienced president ever elected &#8212; we cheered the White House arrival of the emotionally very healthy Gerald Ford. But like Nixon and Nixon's flawed predecessor &#8212; the enormously experienced Lyndon Johnson, who had taken the nation into an unwinnable and nationally divisive war in Southeast Asia &#8212; Ford had been a career Washington politician and party leader.<p>Updated: Sat Apr 20, 2019</p> ccd96072631fa35f7874ad264dbd6f00 He Actually Was a Great Man for 04/13/2019 Sat, 13 Apr 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>He was the most uncommon presidential candidate. Most of them, disappointingly, flatter every group of voters they appear before by telling them what they're confident they want to hear. Candidates, to put it bluntly, verbally caress the erogenous zones of the body politic. But not so with one presidential candidate, then-Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, D-S.C., whom I knew I liked and admired. He candidly told voters what he believed, which was often what the group did not want to hear.</p> <p>The campaign year was 1984. A popular President Ronald Reagan was running for reelection. Hollings was the longest of long shots. <span class="column--highlighted-text">But on Nov. 4, 1983, when he went to Dartmouth, a prestigious Ivy League school in the historically important primary state of New Hampshire, Hollings, a decorated World War II combat veteran, spoke heresy, shocking the privileged students: "I want to draft everyone in this room for the good of the country."</span><p>Updated: Sat Apr 13, 2019</p> 48bc7ee6bed9b909057d1eb1b0058098 The Powell Doctrine Has Been Repealed for 03/30/2019 Sat, 30 Mar 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Long before he would become America's 65th secretary of state, Colin Powell was a young Army officer who served two combat tours in Vietnam. There, Lt. Powell held in his arms a young American soldier whose body had been blown apart &#8212; and whose life would, in a few hours, be ended &#8212; by a land mine. Colin Powell understood the responsibility and the pain of comforting the dying, and of then writing a personal letter to the parents of the soldier whose remains would be coming home in a pine box, because powerful and important men in Washington had determined it was necessary for young Americans to fight and to die in the rice paddies of Vietnam in order to stop international communism.</p> <p>From such painful, personal experiences would come, a quarter-century later, when he was serving as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush, the "Powell doctrine," which argued that the United States should only as a last resort, and only after all other nonviolent options had been tried, send our men and women into combat. Powell insisted that before such action, our vital national security interest be threatened by the identified adversary, and that we take action only when the U.S. forces were overwhelmingly disproportionate to the forces of the adversary; and only after the mission was fully understood by and strongly supported by the American public; and only when the U.S. mission had real international backing. Finally, before any such an action was launched, there had to be a coherent and agreed-upon exit strategy for the U.S. troops.<p>Updated: Sat Mar 30, 2019</p> a1d40e8462d7d6ea9a938e768cc21b83 Hearing the President Speak for 03/23/2019 Sat, 23 Mar 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>In Marine Corps boot camp at Parris Island, as a humble private, I was taught that at the very top of the chain of command stood the president of the United States, who was then Dwight D. Eisenhower. As supreme commander of the Allied forces in Europe, Gen. Eisenhower had made the fateful decision on June 6, 1944, to send 159,000 Allied troops onto the beaches of Normandy to liberate Western Europe from the Nazis' iron grip.</p> <p>In anticipation of personally accepting the responsibility for the very possible failure of that historic invasion, Eisenhower, in his own hand, wrote this speech he never had to give: "Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone."<p>Updated: Sat Mar 23, 2019</p> a4c5e5a4c21c59eccc30148ee19f05fc Memo to Democrats: 2020 Is Not 2018 for 03/16/2019 Sat, 16 Mar 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Midterm elections have been generally unhelpful to U.S. House candidates of the sitting president's party. From 1918 to 2016, according to political scientist Jacob Smith's study for Ballotpedia, the president's party lost an average of 29 House seats in midterm elections. In 2018, Democrats did better than average, capturing 40 House seats from the GOP.</p> <p>But before Democrats start picking out their inaugural ball outfits for Jan. 20, 2021, they would be wise to remember that two years after President Bill Clinton lost 52 Democratic House seats in his first midterm, he became the first Democrat since Franklin Roosevelt to win a second term. Ronald Reagan had earlier bounced back after a midterm in which Republican congressional candidates won barely 43 percent of the national vote and only 38 percent of House seats to win a smashing 49-state re-election landslide victory just two Novembers later. Before winning re-election in 2012 (becoming the first president since Eisenhower to win over 51 percent of the popular vote in successive victories), Barack Obama in his first midterm painfully watched the Democrats lose 63 House seats to the Republicans.<p>Updated: Sat Mar 16, 2019</p> 49acabbbbc28ce05f90302d2f836d8fe Sherrod Brown Will Be Missed for 03/09/2019 Sat, 09 Mar 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Why should it be of any importance or interest that Sherrod Brown, the third-term U.S. senator from Ohio, announced this week that he will not run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination? For one reason, unlike many recent would-be national leaders who belong to his party &#8212; a list that includes Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John Kerry, John Edwards, Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid and Joe Lieberman, for starters &#8212; Brown had the political guts and the good judgment to vote against George W. Bush and Dick Cheney's immorally ignorant decision for the United States to invade and to occupy Iraq.</p> <p>How has that worked out, you rightly ask?<p>Updated: Sat Mar 09, 2019</p> a3235c1eb9f4fb36221a5fb709661915 Peace Begins With a Smile for 03/02/2019 Sat, 02 Mar 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>"Peace," we were told by Mother Teresa, "begins with a smile." Smiles have been very scarce in American political life lately. What follows is a modest attempt to encourage a smile or two.</p> <p>Former Vice President Joe Biden, who first ran for president in 1987, has been publicly struggling, for close to four years, with a decision about whether to run again in 2020. The Los Angeles Times' respected Janet Hook reminds us that "Mario Cuomo was known as 'Hamlet on the Hudson' for his endless agonizing about running for president in 1992." Joe Biden, she says, is "Indecisive on the Delaware." A Biden spokesman denied that the former VP said, "Some people do say I'm indecisive, but I'm not so sure about that."<p>Updated: Sat Mar 02, 2019</p> 1963c3e196ed43198a41a97e131208e5 Nobody Knows Who Will Be the 2020 Presidential Nominees for 02/23/2019 Sat, 23 Feb 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Peter D. Hart, the respected Democratic pollster who has perfected his trade through his work in the past 15 presidential campaigns, candidly warns against the predictive value of polls taken this far ahead of any presidential election. At this stage, so long before voters actually vote, according to Hart, poll numbers are "written in wet sand at the ocean's edge."</p> <p>History backs Hart up. In 2003, the year before the re-election race of the most recent Republican president, George W. Bush, leading in the polls for the opposition party's nomination was then-Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who skipped the Iowa caucuses to concentrate on the New Hampshire primary, in which he finished a distant fifth, and then, after not having won a single delegate in any of the first eight contests, withdrew.<p>Updated: Sat Feb 23, 2019</p> d1b759a3dff97a53169538e55516e70b Congress Loses a Man of Courage and Decency for 02/16/2019 Sat, 16 Feb 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>As on so many matters, former Republican Senate leader Bob Dole put it best when he said that almost all members of Congress love to make tough speeches; they just don't like to make tough votes. Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr., the North Carolina Republican who died on his 76th birthday, was an admirable exception. Elected to his 12th term in November, he was nobody's idea of a velvet-voiced orator. However, Walter Jones spoke volumes through the eloquence of his political courage.</p> <p>Not surprisingly for a congressman whose eastern North Carolina district included major Marine Corps bases &#8212; including Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point &#8212; Jones was a strong supporter of the United States' 2003 invasion of Iraq. Like majorities in Congress, Jones accepted the Bush administration's argument that Saddam Hussein had chemical, biological and quite possibly nuclear weapons, all of which represented a grave military threat to his neighbors and even potentially to Americans at home. He voted for the authorization for use of military force, or AUMF, which would send Americans to war.<p>Updated: Sat Feb 16, 2019</p> 21c4a464b8c595b2d5ae50a8a9f2bb36 Virginia Unreal for 02/09/2019 Sat, 09 Feb 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Politics is not brain surgery; it's not that complicated. Politics is about addition, not subtraction. Show me a political party that is openly seeking and welcoming "converts" to its side and is finding common ground and I'll show you a growing, healthy and, yes, winning political party. By contrast, <span class="column--highlighted-text">a political party that is dedicated to hunting down and banishing from its ranks to the outer darkness any "heretics" who dare to deviate in the slightest from revealed dogma is guaranteeing for itself two results: ideological purity and electoral defeat</span>. In February 2019, the Democratic Party, especially in the commonwealth of Virginia, has politically organized a firing squad by first forming a circle.</p> <p>Sunday morning in America is the nation's most segregated time of the week. That's when many of us go to churches where, sadly, the worshippers are almost all of the same race. The white Democratic governor of Virginia is different. He belongs to the First Baptist Church of Capeville, which has both a black pastor, the Rev. Kelvin Jones, and a predominantly black membership. Fifteen months ago, when Ralph Northam won the governorship by the Democrats' largest margin since President Ronald Reagan's first term, he did so with the support and endorsement of every African-American lawmaker in the state and while daring to call for universal background checks for gun purchases and openly embracing his "F" rating from the NRA, which spent more than $1 million on TV attack ads and direct mail hit pieces to beat him.<p>Updated: Sat Feb 09, 2019</p> a04d7b568eaa119ebf556d50e8249f1a What America Needs: A Truly Great American Movie for 02/02/2019 Sat, 02 Feb 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>During long, gray, bleak winters &#8212; before the women's and men's college basketball tournaments and before baseball's opening days &#8212; I confess to an embarrassing secret: I thoroughly enjoy watching TV- and movie-related awards shows on TV, not just the Oscars but also the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild Awards and others.</p> <p>Why? To catch the awkward and unscripted acceptance remarks when there are no cuts or retakes. For example, there was an unforgettable moment at the Emmy Awards more than a decade ago, shortly after Liza Minnelli married for the fourth time. (The 850 guests included Elton John and Donald Trump.) Her unlikely groom in the union, which would not survive to celebrate an anniversary, was David Gest, a music producer and first-time groom who, according to friends, had not dated any woman for three decades before Minnelli and chose Michael Jackson to be his best man, while the eight-times-wed Elizabeth Taylor was maid of honor.<p>Updated: Sat Feb 02, 2019</p> 18410d239743cbe9a01e1b3dbfd94b2a Campaigns Do Matter and Can Change History for 01/26/2019 Sat, 26 Jan 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>In 1960, when John F. Kennedy was running for the White House against Richard Nixon, winning Democratic presidential tickets still depended on the backing of segregationist party colleagues in the Southern states.</p> <p>In October of that year, when Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested and sent to jail on a trumped-up traffic charge in Georgia, his wife, Coretta, then five months pregnant, was legitimately worried about her husband's safety and survival. Kennedy's Southern backers told him not to intervene. But after the persistent advocacy of Harris Wofford and Wofford's close friend Sargent Shriver (JFK's brother-in-law), Kennedy &#8212; ignoring the arguments of his own campaign leadership, including his brother Robert &#8212; called Mrs. King to offer his comfort and sympathy to her and to say he would do whatever he could to see that justice would be done.<p>Updated: Sat Jan 26, 2019</p> ee43fd1f2082bd698e888cb1b9c76007 Weeding Out the 2020 Presidential Candidates for 01/19/2019 Sat, 19 Jan 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>How do we determine which governor or senator, celebrity or capitalist has what it takes to become a serious presidential candidate? Not that long ago, legendary New York Times columnist Russell Baker wrote that there was somewhere (almost certainly in the press section) a mysterious authority &#8212; whom Baker called the "Great Mentioner" &#8212; who made those calls. We would read or hear that Gov. Billy Bigbody had been "mentioned" as a presidential possibility or that people were "mentioning" Sen. Sandy Smith for the national ticket.</p> <p>Rather than wait around hoping to be noticed by the Great Mentioner, Democrats interested in the White House (who seem by now to include the majority of their party's national officeholders) are busy nominating themselves. At last check, I counted eight current U.S. senators, two former Cabinet officers, four present or past governors, five U.S. representatives, four big-city mayors and one former vice president with varying cases of White House fever.<p>Updated: Sat Jan 19, 2019</p> 1218bd9b69460cd675e2ab3de4c68f6e Donald Trump Is No Earl Long for 01/12/2019 Sat, 12 Jan 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Shortly after the cooling of the earth, I was privileged to be given a firsthand look at a Louisiana statewide campaign. It was then that I learned about former Louisiana Gov. Earl Long, who was portrayed by Paul Newman in the movie "Blaze," which allegedly told the story of the married governor's public relationship with the then-famous stripper Blaze Starr. What the movie did not emphasize was that Earl Long, Huey Long's younger brother, was an early champion of civil rights who expanded minority voting rights, expanded the state's school lunch program and raised schoolteachers' salaries.</p> <p>In 1956, the year Long won the second of his three nonconsecutive terms as governor, as I was told the story, with the advent of television, movie theater attendance had fallen dramatically. Just 10 years earlier, when the U.S. population was just 141 million, an average of 90 million Americans had gone to the movies every week. But movie admissions had fallen by 50 percent.<p>Updated: Sat Jan 12, 2019</p> c2f6167c9bcf506815a1002bd3f645f5 The Massachusetts Curse for 01/05/2019 Sat, 05 Jan 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts became the first 2020 Democratic White House challenger to announce her "exploratory committee," a legal device that allows candidates to receive donations and to hire staff in preparation for a full-fledged presidential candidacy. Make no mistake; presidential exploratory committees are always composed of unreconstructed optimists who invariably discover that millions of Americans the pollsters have somehow missed are openly yearning to support the candidate-in-waiting.</p> <p>Sen. Warren more than meets a couple of tests every candidate faces. She has a compelling personal story. A native of Oklahoma, she grew up in humble circumstances. She was a young single mother of two who, with no family connections, went to law school and would become not just eventually a Harvard Law School professor but the champion of America's struggling middle class and the scourge of Wall Street, as she successfully advocated for the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Maybe even more importantly, Warren knows more than most presidential candidates ever do just what she believes and why.<p>Updated: Sat Jan 05, 2019</p>