Mark Shields from Creators Syndicate Creators Syndicate is an international syndication company that represents cartoonists and columnists of the highest caliber. en Tue, 30 May 2017 05:38:01 -0700 Mark Shields from Creators Syndicate 9185609b50c388ff26e5c1793c31c2b8 The Praying Mantis Explains Today's Politics for 05/27/2017 Sat, 27 May 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>To understand the bizarre political era in which we live, let us recall the mating rituals of the praying mantis. In their amorous encounter, the male mantis approaches the female &#8212; which is the physically larger and stronger of the two &#8212; and, if permitted, mounts the female from the rear. In the frenzy of the pair's passion, the female will often turn her head completely around and, unromantically, bite off her male partner's head. After the femme fatale's act of sexual cannibalism, the headless male's decapitated torso continues to remain fully engaged &#8212; his little hips somehow managing to grind even faster and longer.</p> <p>Today's Republican Party agenda, embraced most recently by President Donald Trump, bears a striking resemblance to the headless male mantis. Proving that there is nothing more enduring than an idea that once led to a White House victory, the GOP now stands for tax cuts for the most advantaged (only, of course, to encourage job creation) and improving the moral fiber of our American citizens by shrinking character-eroding government "handouts" &#8212; such as students' school lunches, children's health programs, the elderly's Meals on Wheels and family food stamps &#8212; all while proposing to increase U.S. defense spending, which by itself is already greater than that of the combined defense budgets of the next eight biggest-spending nations in the world, by some $52 billion.<p>Updated: Sat May 27, 2017</p> 3787a4c2f71f0d365c4ff3455a3a1d77 Self-Pity Can Be Politically Fatal for 05/20/2017 Sat, 20 May 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>In polls of American historians conducted over the past 17 years by C-SPAN, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt have consistently ranked &#8212; along with George Washington &#8212; among the three best U.S. presidents. Yet President Lincoln was vilified in life, referred to in print as "the Illinois ape," "the Ourang-Outang at the White House," a baboon, a gorilla, a murderer and a traitor.</p> <p>American historian-author William Manchester has recorded, in his classic "The Glory and the Dream," how FDR's political enemies, soaked in the bile of anti-Semitism, reviled him as "only a Jew anyway, descended from Dutch sheenies who changed their names, nothing but a New York kike" who "had caught gonorrhea from 'El-ea-nor.' (A Negro had infected her.)" Harsh and hateful treatment indeed for these two American heroes.<p>Updated: Sat May 20, 2017</p> 226f4a6d63c15391928a8b4cf9cbeaf9 3 Memorable American Presidents and the Truth for 05/13/2017 Sat, 13 May 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>There have been three memorable American presidents, the story goes. President George Washington could never tell a lie. President Richard Nixon could never tell the truth. And President Donald Trump cannot tell the difference. At a White House news conference, Trump referred to his November 2016 victory, in which he received 304 electoral votes, as "the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan," who was re-elected in 1984. Wrong. After Reagan and before Trump, Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama each won many more electoral votes than did Trump. When NBC's Peter Alexander pointed out Trump's misstatement to him, the president responded: "I don't know. I was given that information. Actually, I've seen that information around."</p> <p>The changing explanations for President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey &#8212; in a way calculated to publicly and personally humiliate the director through his learning about his termination over cable TV news while he was in Los Angeles thanking FBI employees &#8212; remind us again of the president's only intermittent flirtations with candor.<p>Updated: Sat May 13, 2017</p> 79ef10c8948635ed9f1fb7e732f8c3a7 Democrats' Dumb Move From 'Pro-Choice' to 'No Choice' for 05/06/2017 Sat, 06 May 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Just eight years ago, there were 256 Democrats in the U.S. House. Today there are just 193. Then, there were only 40 Republican U.S. senators; today the GOP Senate majority numbers 52. During that same span, Democrats have suffered a net loss of 947 state legislative seats, and today in only five states &#8212; Rhode Island, Connecticut, Oregon, California and Hawaii &#8212; do Democrats control both chambers of the state legislature and the governorship. (Republicans hold such control in 24 states.) In the most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, when voters were asked whether they "think the Democratic Party is in touch with the concerns of most people in the United States today," only 28 percent answered "in touch," whereas a thumping 67 percent judged the Democratic Party to be "out of touch."</p> <p>Those are the numbers of a party in serious trouble. <span class="column--highlighted-text">We know from American history that a thriving, expanding political party seeks and welcomes converts to its ranks. A stagnant, shrinking party hunts down and banishes heretics who dare to deviate from some party dogma.</span> Because an American political party is a coalition of people who agree on most issues (in contrast with a religion, which has a fixed doctrine to which one subscribes), the party exists to win elections in order to promote policies. The last thing struggling Democrats need in 2017 is a litmus test fight over who qualifies as a real Democrat. But that's what they've gotten themselves when it comes to the historically divisive issue of abortion.<p>Updated: Sat May 06, 2017</p> 6d5a77a15ce116320bdd95133692d7c1 Missing Kate O'Beirne for 04/29/2017 Sat, 29 Apr 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>My adopted hometown of Washington has been accused, not always unfairly, of being a city full of scheming climbers who are frantically courting the company and the favor of the powerful. In this and so many respects, Kate O'Beirne &#8212; the conservative leader and writer who died too soon, at 67 on April 23 &#8212; was anti-Washington. Kate was not about making contacts (although the powerful, especially Republicans, regularly sought her approval). She was always about making &#8212; and about keeping &#8212; friends.</p> <p>To watch her at some Washington reception was to see a blond, stylish 6-footer seeking out and introducing herself to the nervous newcomer back in the crowd, whom Kate would then deliberately make feel welcome, comfortable and interesting. Kate never had to have the spotlight; she was the spotlight.<p>Updated: Sat Apr 29, 2017</p> be0d81668d2f0d49c5de32b23195dd9b Can Special Elections to the US House Predict Our Political Future? for 04/22/2017 Sat, 22 Apr 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Is there an emerging national pattern to be found in special House elections, such as the one that just happened in Georgia to fill the reliably Republican House seat once held by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, most recently held by the current secretary of health and human services, Tom Price, and for which, in the first round of voting, a rookie 30-year-old Democrat finished first, 28 points ahead of the Republican former Georgia secretary of state?</p> <p>When considering whether special U.S. House election results can predict what's going to happen in national general elections, I think of one of my favorite American humorists, the late Pat Paulsen, who ran several mock-serious campaigns for president featuring the slogan, "If elected, I will win." Paulsen said he was often asked why he spent long days and nights campaigning in hard-to-get-to places. "Is it because of my dedication to my fellow citizens or concern for the nation's future," he asked, "or is it for the money, the limousines and the pretty girls?" The answers, Pat revealed, were, "No, no, yes, yes, yes."<p>Updated: Sat Apr 22, 2017</p> 1f5e4e233faaaf49350f668610f516f2 One (Restrained) Cheer for Washington for 04/15/2017 Sat, 15 Apr 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>We've all heard the tiresome and discouraging refrain: Washington, our beautiful capital city, is broken. Dysfunctional D.C. does not work. Even with majorities in both the House and the Senate, congressional Republicans could not pass a resolution commending Mother's Day.</p> <p>But wait. We do have an actual example of the heeding of the people's voice and the prevailing of their will in our national government. Here is the evidence: Cellphone calls will continue to be banned on airline flights. This is one small step for sanity and civility, but it deserves to be celebrated.<p>Updated: Sat Apr 15, 2017</p> 260d29285ba206807b065e9bee9ac765 Doesn't Look as if He's From Around Here for 04/08/2017 Sat, 08 Apr 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p></p><p>When John McCain, after graduating from Annapolis and spending 22 years in the Navy, made his first run for Congress from Arizona, he was challenged by a Republican primary opponent for not having lived long in the state. McCain, who, as a POW for 5 1/2 years, had been tortured by the North Vietnamese, effectively countered, "The place where I've lived the longest is Hanoi."<p>Updated: Sat Apr 08, 2017</p> 4fc9c47bf817c732f4c00923fe2bce9c Discovering the Lost Art of Letter Writing for 04/01/2017 Sat, 01 Apr 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Like so many good stories, this is an old one. But if this April somehow&#160;<span style="background-color: initial;">does turn out to be "the cruelest month" politically, this old story could even be&#160;</span><span style="background-color: initial;">timely.</span></p> <p>Here's the story: The brutal Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, realizing that his&#160;<span style="background-color: initial;">failing health meant that his days were numbered, summoned his eventual&#160;</span><span style="background-color: initial;">successor, Nikita Khrushchev, to a very private meeting. After telling Khrushchev&#160;</span><span style="background-color: initial;">what a lonely life it was at the top, Stalin confided: "I'm leaving two letters for you&#160;</span><span style="background-color: initial;">in the bottom drawer of my desk. These two letters contain the wisest counsel&#160;</span><span style="background-color: initial;">only I can give you. Do not open the first letter until the problems you face are so&#160;</span><span style="background-color: initial;">completely overwhelming that you really do not know what to do. The second&#160;</span><span style="background-color: initial;">letter should be opened only when everything has gone wrong, you have no idea&#160;</span><span style="background-color: initial;">what to do and you are in despair."</span><p>Updated: Sat Apr 01, 2017</p> a19cb669bfe2ea130006630b1824ba61 We Americans Need to Know Each Other for 03/25/2017 Sat, 25 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Let's admit it: America has become a land of strangers. Even before headphones, PCs and smartphones &#8212; all of which were heralded as breakthroughs in human communication but have turned out to be instruments of further isolation &#8212; we had begun disconnecting from each other.</p> <p>More and more, we have chosen to reside near and associate, almost exclusively, with people who look the same as we do, live the same as we do and think the same as we do. Polls tell us that today's Americans do not know their neighbors as well as their parents knew theirs, and that Americans trust each other less than did earlier generations. <span class="column--highlighted-text">In spite of all the public posturing about celebrating diversity, we Americans have increasingly self-segregated into our own social and political comfort zones and demographic niches.</span><p>Updated: Sat Mar 25, 2017</p> e3857b8906d9c1e14395e43387d5ff06 The Serious Matter of Political Humor for 03/18/2017 Sat, 18 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the only American elected president four times, had an often overlooked strength that both sustained him under the torrent of abuse he endured and served to thwart his dyspeptic political opponents: FDR could laugh at the jeers directed at him. He framed and showed off one cartoon from Esquire magazine showing a little girl, an obvious tattletale, telling her mother that her brother had just written a dirty word on the sidewalk &#8212; "Roosevelt."</p> <p>A later U.S. president who had himself proudly voted for FDR all four times, Republican Ronald Reagan, had the same gift. Criticized by captious members of the press corps for his leisurely work schedule, which rarely began before 10 a.m. and almost always was over before 5 p.m., President Reagan responded at a Washington press dinner: "It's true hard work never killed anybody, but I figure, why take the chance?"<p>Updated: Sat Mar 18, 2017</p> 64863edf83c877086c759dfb5f75fa34 Why the Cuban Missile Crisis Matters Today for 03/11/2017 Sat, 11 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Gen. Charles de Gaulle, a French hero and statesman who did not lack for self-esteem, once stated, "When I want to know what France thinks, I ask myself." In October 1962, after U.S. charges that the Soviets had installed offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba &#8212; just 90 miles from the American mainland &#8212; the United States and the Soviet Union teetered on the dangerous brink of World War III. President John F. Kennedy sent former Secretary of State Dean Acheson to share America's secret intelligence with French President de Gaulle and to secure France's support.</p> <p>After the private briefing, Acheson told the French leader that Kennedy had personally authorized him to show the general the then-top-secret surveillance photographs the White House possessed. But de Gaulle waved off Acheson's offer: "No, no, no, no. The word of the president of the United States is good enough for me."<p>Updated: Sat Mar 11, 2017</p> 45e2c8427315ff48960660b07df3d1ec Leadership Washington Could Learn From for 03/04/2017 Sat, 04 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p></p><p>Hollywood's critics, of which there has never been a shortage, have long accused that California village of being the national home office of insincerity and shallowness. Two great 20th-century American wits memorably made that case. Fred Allen wrote, "All the sincerity in Hollywood you could stuff in a flea's navel and still have room left to conceal eight caraway seeds and an agent's heart." Oscar Levant added, "Strip away the phony tinsel of Hollywood and you'll find the real tinsel underneath."<p>Updated: Sat Mar 04, 2017</p> 3f280c3666ba53152371dc0a87cc1347 Shirts vs. Skins 2017 for 02/25/2017 Sat, 25 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Back before kids sports &#8212; with their pricey equipment, expensive coaches and summer camps &#8212; had become a major American industry, American boys, when playing pickup basketball on a neighborhood court, would simply separate themselves into competing teams, the Skins (without their T-shirts) and the Shirts (with their T-shirts).</p> <p>American political parties, in trying to figure out what to do after badly losing a national election, generally follow a similar pattern of splitting between the Shirts and the Skins. The Skins' argument goes like this: "We lost because we wavered and strayed from our party's core beliefs and founding values. What we must do now is obvious. We must, without compromise, recommit to our party's true faith and return to the glory days."<p>Updated: Sat Feb 25, 2017</p> a356fec9c285b81cd3eefcfac1636a2d The End of the Cold War and 2017 American Politics for 02/18/2017 Sat, 18 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>In 1988, a full year before the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet empire broke up, Georgy Arbatov, a Soviet expert on the United States, offered this prophetic prediction about how the end of the Cold War would change the United States: "We are going to do a terrible thing to you. We are going to deprive you of an enemy." He was right. Without the concrete threat of the Soviet Union, U.S. national policy would indeed lose both its organizing principle and its national consensus.</p> <p>He has long gone to his eternal reward, but Arbatov would have been able to explain what is going on in political Washington in the winter of 2017 by reminding us that an American presidential campaign &#8212; before Election Day &#8212; also provides a convenient "enemy," in the form of a common Opponent who, because that Opponent represents a threat to all the values and traditions Our Side holds dear, must be stopped at all costs.<p>Updated: Sat Feb 18, 2017</p> 47a0f2624ff00a6c0e8612c17fd9fbbe No Man Is Above the Law for 02/11/2017 Sat, 11 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Do you remember Zoe Baird? In 1993, President-elect Bill Clinton nominated Baird, a prominent lawyer, to be the first female U.S. attorney general. Baird had told the Clinton transition team that she had, in violation of the law, employed a couple, both undocumented immigrants, to work for her family as chauffeur and baby sitter and that she had not paid their Social Security taxes. In a year when the median household income in the U.S. was $30,404, Baird was earning $500,000 annually, and a public outcry against the actions of this privileged scofflaw persuaded the Clinton White House to back away from Baird's nomination.</p> <p>In place of Baird, Clinton nominated for attorney general federal Judge Kimba Wood, who &#8212; before passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which prohibited the hiring of undocumented immigrants &#8212; had legally employed as her full-time baby sitter an undocumented immigrant, whose Social Security taxes Wood had fully paid. Bowing to White House fear of renewed political and public protest, Wood withdrew her name from consideration.<p>Updated: Sat Feb 11, 2017</p> 6941202fbe3a03cd08cc29f17e25ab76 Exposing Republican Code-Speak for 02/04/2017 Sat, 04 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>In his first television interview since taking office, Vice President Mike Pence, with apparent sincerity, emphasized to "PBS NewsHour's" Judy Woodruff just how committed he and the White House are to "working right now with the Congress," "working very closely with leaders of the House and Senate" and earning "bipartisan support." If Pence were sincere about reaching across the aisle, he would not be using insulting Republican code-speak to insult Democrats.</p> <p>Three different times in his interview with Woodruff, the vice president deliberately used language to needle those political adversaries to whom he was allegedly extending an olive branch. <span class="column--highlighted-text">Instead of calling people in the other party what those people, correctly and grammatically, call themselves and speaking of "Democratic" colleagues, Pence resorted to partisan semantics by dropping the last syllable and referring to "Democrat" senators," "Democrat" leaders and "Democrat" members.</span><p>Updated: Sat Feb 04, 2017</p> d67d06ba132f929b66d9e7b36d226e74 It's the White House Calling for 01/28/2017 Sat, 28 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>In this era of tweets and texts, the White House of President Donald Trump, ever respectful of tradition, is bringing back the personal phone call. For example, Steve Bannon, the president's chief strategist, by telephone told The New York Times' Michael Grynbaum that his paper and "the elite media got (the 2016 presidential election) dead wrong, 100 percent dead wrong." After a full-throated condemnation of the "mainstream media," Bannon, designating Grynbaum as the representative of his profession, added: "You're the opposition party. Not the Democratic Party. You're the opposition party. The media's the opposition party."</p> <p>Because it is journalism's responsibility to dare to speak truth to power and to correct the record when the powerful are wrong, let us also admit when the powerful &#8212; Bannon, in this case &#8212; are right. The Democrats took a collective shellacking during the eight years of Barack Obama's presidency. There are today, compared with January 2009, 63 fewer Democrats in the U.S. House, nine fewer Democrats in the U.S. Senate, 12 fewer Democratic governors and 958 fewer Democrats holding state legislative seats. Before Election Day, Democrats controlled the governor's office and both chambers of the state legislature in just seven states, which was the lowest number since the Civil War. After Nov. 8, in only five states &#8212; California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Oregon and Rhode Island (no state in the 2,554 miles between Hartford and Sacramento) &#8212; were voters willing to give Democrats complete control. By contrast, 25 states &#8212; including the battleground states of Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin and Ohio &#8212; have a GOP governor and a legislature controlled by the GOP.<p>Updated: Sat Jan 28, 2017</p> 1bbd7ac166555b7d99e2961ed33c183f The Opposition's Very Wrong First Step for 01/21/2017 Sat, 21 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan instructed Haley Barbour &#8212; his White House political director and a future Republican Party chairman and governor &#8212; on building a winning coalition: "The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally &#8212; not a 20 percent traitor." By practicing what he preached, the Gipper carried 44 states the first time he ran and 49 states the second while helping create a new electoral group, Reagan Democrats.</p> <p>A successful political party is not some exclusive social club with its own admissions test that people must pass to be accepted. No, a successful political party is, by definition, a coalition of different people who come together to work to win elections in order to enact policies on which they mostly agree. The first major event in opposition to the brand-new Trump administration, the Women's March on Washington, imposed a litmus test and officially excluded the 46 percent of Americans (including 43 percent of women) who, when asked by the Gallup Poll about the issue of abortion, identified themselves as "pro-life" rather than "pro-choice." For the record, 47 percent in the same survey self-identified as "pro-choice."<p>Updated: Sat Jan 21, 2017</p> 88e0a7f7b9a63b0544cce78d8254ebcd Challenge Us; Don't Coddle Us for 01/14/2017 Sat, 14 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>The late William Safire, a certified wordsmith who had been a speechwriter for President Richard Nixon before becoming a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The New York Times, concluded, after reading 56 of them, that there had been only four great presidential inaugural addresses: Abraham Lincoln's first and second, Franklin Roosevelt's first, and John F. Kennedy's only.</p> <p>As a low-ranking private first class in the United States Marine Corps then, I listened to the Kennedy speech and still remember being moved by his summons to the responsibilities of citizenship: "So, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." Sensitive to his narrow popular-vote victory over Nixon just two months earlier, Kennedy was careful to avoid any partisan domestic issues and instead spoke of our collective commitment to the survival of our nation's security and liberty, for which he pledged, "We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe."<p>Updated: Sat Jan 14, 2017</p>