Mark Shields from Creators Syndicate Creators Syndicate is an international syndication company that represents cartoonists and columnists of the highest caliber. en Sun, 28 Aug 2016 19:58:18 -0700 Mark Shields from Creators Syndicate 48ee73671058a0adc4b60f1e4cada404 Missing Jerry Ford in 2016 for 08/27/2016 Sat, 27 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>During my more than a half-century of living and working in Washington, D.C., in my semi-humble opinion, Gerald Ford was the most emotionally secure president I have observed. To support that position, allow me to tell you about President Ford's 1976 campaign against his Democratic challenger, former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter.</p> <p>Ford, who had assumed office after the forced resignation of the disgraced Richard Nixon, trailed Carter in the late summer in national polls by more than 20 percent &#8212; or some 16.5 million votes &#8212; when Stu Spencer, his savvy and blunt-spoken deputy chairman for political organization, went to see the president in the Oval Office.<p>Updated: Sat Aug 27, 2016</p> df6b258b0d3695a0fed1e98f0e169493 Happy New Year for 08/20/2016 Sat, 20 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>As regular readers may remember, I have long insisted that Jan. 1 &#8212; smack in the middle of winter and completely overshadowed by Christmas, just a week earlier &#8212; makes no sense as to when to begin the year. Labor Day &#8212; the first Monday in September, when days grow shorter and weather cooler, when vacations end and schools reopen and summer gives way to autumn &#8212; is the more logical New Year's Day.</p> <p>If Labor Day is to become the real New Year's Day, then it will need some resolutions, predictions, even semi-reflections.<p>Updated: Sat Aug 20, 2016</p> c6d2741f972bb0fa40b2932b2fda2679 In the Company of Heroes for 08/06/2016 Sat, 06 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0700 <p>Air Force Col. Bud Day, having already fought in World War II and the Korean War, was flying his 65th mission over Vietnam, when his plane was shot down and he, after bailing out, suffered a broken arm and injuries to his back and eye. Captured by North Vietnamese soldiers, he was beaten up before becoming that conflict's only U.S. prisoner of war to escape his captors. After wandering dazed in the jungle for days, Day was captured by the Viet Cong, and he eventually ended up in the infamous Hanoi Hilton, where his bravery and leadership, while enduring 5 1/2 years of relentless torture and starvation, resulted in his later becoming the only American ever to be awarded both the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest citation, and the Air Force Cross.</p> <p>During his own 6 1/2 years in that same Hanoi hellhole, Marine pilot Orson Swindle, who had been shot down as he was flying his 205th mission, would lose 75 pounds while being subjected to physical and mental torture. Navy Cmdr. Everett Alvarez, another captured pilot, spent 8 1/2 years, more time in captivity than any other American during the Vietnam War, in the brutal custody of his Hanoi jailers.</p> <p>I met all three of these remarkable American heroes in early 2000 in New Hampshire. All three were there on their own nickel, volunteering on behalf of the campaign of a fellow former POW, a former Navy pilot whose character they had seen up close during his own 5 1/2 years of suffering in the Hanoi Hilton and who was running for president, Sen. John McCain.<p>Updated: Sat Aug 06, 2016</p> 07272ca95ff699129f819af93f12ec99 Another Iwo Jima Memorial for 07/30/2016 Sat, 30 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0700 <p>In 1945, Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn, the first Jewish chaplain in the history of the United States Marine Corps, was asked by his senior Protestant colleague to deliver the sermon at a single, interdenominational service dedicated to the fallen after the historically bloody Battle of Iwo Jima &#8212; which cost the lives of nearly 7,000 Marines, including 150 Jewish Marines. But there was opposition from other religious quarters, both to the ecumenical nature of the service and to a rabbi's giving the sermon over overwhelmingly Christian graves. Many boycotted the event.</p> <p>To his everlasting credit, the senior Protestant chaplain, Warren Cuthriell, insisted that Rabbi Gittelsohn speak. Gittelsohn ended up giving a sermon at a Jewish memorial service on Iwo Jima for the Marines; however, his words were widely circulated. This is what Gittelsohn said: "Here lie men who loved America because their ancestors, generations ago, helped in her founding, and other men who loved her with equal passion because they themselves or their own fathers escaped from oppression to her blessed shores. Here lie officers and enlisted men, Negroes and whites, rich men and poor, together. Here are Protestants, Catholics and Jews. ... Among these men, there is no discrimination. No prejudices. No hatred. Theirs is the highest and purest democracy. ... Whosoever of us lifts his hand in hate against a brother or thinks himself superior to those who happen to be in the minority makes of this ceremony and the bloody sacrifice it commemorates an empty, hollow mockery."</p> <p>Remember that this was in 1945, when the entire U.S. military and too much of the nation was segregated by race and when to be white, Protestant and male was the ticket to privilege and power. War is a cruel teacher. The lessons learned are painful: Death and pain are truly democratic; sacrifice and suffering are not the exclusive franchise of any faith or nationality.<p>Updated: Sat Jul 30, 2016</p> 20e35e448e6142eaf969fd2eab251162 It's Midnight in America for 07/23/2016 Sat, 23 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0700 <p>In 1984, Hal Riney, a San Francisco advertising man, wrote and narrated "Morning in America," which became the signature television commercial of Republican Ronald Reagan's winning re-election campaign. In Riney's calm and reassuring voice, the script began: "It's morning again in America. Today more men and women will go to work than ever before in our country's history." It went on to celebrate the rise in home sales, inspired by lower interest rates and reductions in inflation, contributing to a rebirth of native American confidence.</p> <p>To listen to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's acceptance speech at the Cleveland convention is to conclude that in 2016, it is now midnight in America &#8212; that our homeland is under relentless invasion by foreigners who come not for a better life for their families but rather to commit crimes and threaten our nation. And let us never forget that it's always darkest just before everything goes pitch-black.</p> <p>The Republican National Convention was conspicuous for its nearly total absence of humor.<p>Updated: Sat Jul 23, 2016</p> 05fc588a0fe9593c4f71e5a0a06c87cf A Steppingstone to Oblivion for 07/16/2016 Sat, 16 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0700 <p>The first very first "presidential" test in public for every nominee for the White House is the selection of a vice presidential running mate. Right after the 1968 Miami Beach convention where he had won the Republican nomination, Richard M. Nixon explained why he chose his running mate: "There is a mysticism about men. There is a quiet confidence. You look a man in the eye and you know he's got it &#8212; brains. This guy has got it. If he doesn't, Nixon has made a bum choice."</p> <p>Thus did Nixon explain his unfortunate choice of the man who would become the only U.S. vice president in history to be forced, in order to escape certain criminal conviction and incarceration, to resign the office &#8212; Spiro T. Agnew.</p> <p>In spite of the immediate celebrity, the media attention and the Secret Service protection it brings, the honor of a vice presidential nomination often turns out to be a steppingstone to political oblivion. Think about recent VP candidates who, encouraged by the inflated poll numbers attributable in part to their elevated name recognition, tried to run in the next cycle for the White House and failed even to compete for their party's nomination &#8212; Democrats John Edwards in 2008 and Joe Lieberman in 2004.<p>Updated: Sat Jul 16, 2016</p> 053c861fbf0bff5fdfd53428806d7a55 The Campaign Post-Comey for 07/09/2016 Sat, 09 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0700 <p>Even though Democrat Hillary Clinton continues to lead Republican Donald Trump in nearly all major public polls, the answer to one question in the most recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll had to trigger panic attacks throughout the entire Clinton campaign. Respondents were asked whether Trump or Clinton "would be better" on "being honest and straightforward." Trump, a man not widely recognized as an ethical giant, was the choice of 41 percent of voters, whereas a meager 25 percent of voters on the central issue of integrity preferred Clinton.</p> <p>Thus, even before FBI Director James Comey declared that as secretary of state, Clinton &#8212; through her unauthorized use of private homebrew email servers &#8212; and her colleagues "were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information," the Democratic nominee-in-waiting was already overdrawn in her underfunded public trust account.</p> <p>Here are some things we can take away from the ordeal:<p>Updated: Sat Jul 09, 2016</p> 69dd3c923f6badb0f4d5fa11c1c26504 The 'Death' of the GOP for 07/02/2016 Sat, 02 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0700 <p>In 1986, some 34 years after he had first been elected to the U.S. Senate from Arizona, Barry Goldwater, the hero of the conservative movement that made possible the eventual election of Ronald Reagan, retired. As Sen. Goldwater cleaned out his Capitol Hill office, I was privileged to listen as he reminisced about the 1964 presidential contest that would never take place: "Jack Kennedy and I had agreed that if we ran against each other in '64, we would travel on the same day to Denver or Detroit," for example, to speak to the same crowd on the same subject, whether it be "education or Social Security." Then, with his characteristic candor, Goldwater added: "(JFK) probably would have kicked my ass." But their entirely different "campaign would have been good for the country."</p> <p>No Americans old enough to remember ever forgot where they were when they heard the news that the president had been shot and killed on that terrible Friday in Dallas. For Goldwater, already organizing for the upcoming campaign, the assassination and Lyndon B. Johnson's succession to the Oval Office all but sealed his political fate. American voters, in a state of shock and sadness, were not of a mind to have three different presidents in the space of 14 months.</p> <p>But Goldwater did run in 1964. He ran as an unapologetic conservative who was on record as being for giving NATO commanders authority to use nuclear weapons, withdrawing the U.S. diplomatic recognition of the Soviet Union, selling the Tennessee Valley Authority and making Social Security voluntary. During that memorable year, Goldwater was one of just six Senate Republicans who voted against the historic Civil Rights Act &#8212; which outlawed nationally racial segregation and discrimination, then legally sanctioned in the states of the old Confederacy. In the election that November, Goldwater won 87 percent of the vote in Mississippi &#8212; an astounding Republican breakthrough &#8212; but carried only Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia and his home state of Arizona while getting just 38 percent of the national vote.<p>Updated: Sat Jul 02, 2016</p> 846259cd902b5c40bafeb3c7cb058f07 Pennsylvania to Washington: The 2016 Election Is Not Over for 06/25/2016 Sat, 25 Jun 2016 00:00:00 -0700 <p>"Everyone in Washington wants to write that this election is over," cautions respected pollster Peter D. Hart, that Republican Donald Trump &#8212; after six weeks of highly public unforced errors &#8212; has effectively shattered his chances of winning the White House. Hart, after conducting a two-hour focus group of 11 blue-collar and service industry voters in the Pittsburgh area Tuesday night, had news for the press and for his fellow Democrats who are now so overwhelmingly overconfident: "This 2016 election is still very much ahead of us."</p> <p>These Pittsburgh voters (six of whom support Trump, four of whom favor Democrat Hillary Clinton and one of whom is undecided between Trump and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, a former New Mexico governor) make $50,000 or less a year and struggle daily in an unwelcoming economy. In the words of Dara Held, 40, who is self-employed selling purses and jewelry, their "middle class is left out, sort of a stepchild." Optimism is scarce; only three in the group believe that their children will be better off than they are.</p> <p>A political focus group &#8212; in this case a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania &#8212; is intended to capture the idiom of voters, to hear how they express their feelings and their ambivalence. It does not, unlike a national poll of a thousand people, offer a statistically reliable snapshot of the nation. What a focus group provides are the color, nuance and context of how voters feel.<p>Updated: Sat Jun 25, 2016</p> 4307333194c0a7c88349a5a72de4df0b American Elections and the 'Biblical Imperative' for 06/18/2016 Sat, 18 Jun 2016 00:00:00 -0700 <p>History offers little encouragement to either major American party this election year. Sobering for Republicans is the fact that in the past 87 years, no GOP ticket that did not have on it either a Bush or a Nixon has won any presidential election. Democrats live with their own distressing jinx: In the past 179 years, their party has won a third consecutive White House term exactly once, and that was when their nominee was a charismatic, historic leader, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In 2016, two questions will be answered: Can a Nixon-less, Bush-less GOP ticket break the losing streak? Or will the Democrats, with no FDR, somehow win three in a row?</p> <p>My personal preference for trying to understand how we Americans choose our presidents is to think in terms of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, which is so full of "begets" and "begats."</p> <p>Think about U.S. elections over the past half-century. With the U.S. mired in an unpopular war in Vietnam and afflicted with civil unrest at home, Richard Nixon won on a platform of peace abroad and law and order at home. Instead, he extended the war and conducted a criminal conspiracy in Watergate, which forced him, in order to escape a prison term, to resign his office. Nixon &#8212; who had served earlier in the House, in the Senate and as vice president for eight years and was arguably the most experienced man ever elected president &#8212; effectively ended up giving experience a bad name.<p>Updated: Sat Jun 18, 2016</p> 7e5238f37abec6cb420cb0d12d7bf6bf History Is Watching for 06/11/2016 Sat, 11 Jun 2016 00:00:00 -0700 <p>On Nov. 30, 1967, I stood in the caucus room of what is now called the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill and heard Sen. Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota announce that he would indeed challenge the renomination of Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson. His issue was the U.S. war in Vietnam. "I am concerned that the administration seems to have set no limit to the price which it is willing to pay for a military victory," he said, and he supported "an honorable, rational and political solution" to the war.</p> <p>To McCarthy's underdog, long-shot cause came thousands of young people who volunteered in New Hampshire and Wisconsin and were willing to shave their beards and cut their shoulder-length hair &#8212; to be "clean for Gene." On March 12, 1968, McCarthy shocked the political world by winning 42 percent of the New Hampshire primary vote to LBJ's 49 percent. Four days later, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy of New York, himself an opponent of the U.S. war in Vietnam (and for whom I proudly worked in that campaign), entered the presidential race, and 15 days later, President Johnson announced that he would not seek renomination.</p> <p>McCarthy, even his severest critics acknowledged, was a man of the mind. He rationed praise, and his wit was often cutting. He generally inspired more admiration than affection. But make no mistake about it: Eugene McCarthy was a man whose courage would change American history and the way Americans nominate their presidents.<p>Updated: Sat Jun 11, 2016</p> 24c741b77c5ed9c4a4788f8173da2713 Iron Rule of Politics for 06/04/2016 Sat, 04 Jun 2016 00:00:00 -0700 <p>Having worked, as a younger man, in three losing presidential campaigns and having been lucky enough to cover the past 10 presidential campaigns as a journalist, I have been forced to learn a few semi-iron rules of politics that might even be helpful in trying to understand our bizarre presidential year of 2016.</p> <p>The most reliable test I know for determining whether a political party is growing or shrinking is whether that party (or its candidate's campaign) is busy seeking out and welcoming converts to its cause or whether, instead, it is devoting time and effort to uncovering within its ranks any heretics and then banishing them to some outer darkness.</p> <p>Recall 1980, when Republican Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign was openly &#8212; and successfully &#8212; courting and enlisting so many converts, who were then greeted as "Reagan Democrats." In his own 2008 victory, Democrat Barack Obama was able to convert many Republicans, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld (today the Libertarian Party's nominee for vice president) and President Reagan's last White House chief of staff, Ken Duberstein.<p>Updated: Sat Jun 04, 2016</p> d5f82268fb6d1644962fc78a268cbe1f Character Truly Is Destiny for 05/28/2016 Sat, 28 May 2016 00:00:00 -0700 <p>It turns out that Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher, knew exactly what he was talking about some 25 centuries ago when he wrote: "Character is destiny." Consider American presidents who have disappointed, even failed, in office &#8212; theirs were not failures of intellect or education. Most almost certainly aced their SAT tests. Almost without exception, they were instead failures of character.</p> <p>American voters intuitively grasp that truth. That's why we look at our presidential nominees' records in public office, to see if they have demonstrated &#8212; in the causes they dared to lead or in the roll-call votes they had to cast &#8212; courage, constancy, vision and character. Americans have also prized courage and character in wartime in selecting their national leaders &#8212; consider Generals George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses Grant and Dwight Eisenhower, Colonel Teddy Roosevelt, and Lieutenant John Kennedy.</p> <p>But for the first time in history, one of the nominees, real estate billionaire Donald Trump, has no record of public service to consider. Trump has never held any elected or appointed office. He has never served in the nation's military. He didn't join the Peace Corps. So while Donald Trump is more than eager to tell voters what he has made, how are voters, more importantly, supposed to find out what Donald Trump is made of?<p>Updated: Sat May 28, 2016</p> 3d79ffb0dd5becd9b2ae34c14cb8d1d9 Bernie Sanders Deserves Space and Respect for 05/21/2016 Sat, 21 May 2016 00:00:00 -0700 <p>You're Bernie Sanders, and you'll turn 75 on Sept. 8. You are gruff and, even your greatest admirers concede, no charmer. The Wise Guys sneered when, barely 12 months ago, you began your long-shot presidential campaign. The polls were discouraging. Hillary Clinton was the preferred candidate of 65 percent of Democrats, while only 3 percent backed you. But on that first day, you, the unyielding critic of Wall Street banks and of the destructive influence of big money in the nation's politics, made a pledge: "We're going to build a movement of millions of Americans who are prepared to stand up and fight back." Promise made; promise kept.</p> <p>One year later, you are one of three presidential candidates still standing and the only one whom the nation's voters uniformly rate favorably. In every major poll, you &#8212; not Clinton &#8212; decisively trounce billionaire developer Donald J. Trump, the almost certain Republican nominee. And yes, while raising nearly $200 million &#8212; mostly in small contributions &#8212; you have continued to best Clinton in the May contests, winning Indiana, West Virginia and Oregon and losing only Kentucky.</p> <p>Now is the time for the alleged leadership of the Democratic Party to give Bernie Sanders the respect he has earned and the space and time he deserves, not to try to strong-arm him into prematurely bowing to the inevitability of a Clinton nomination.<p>Updated: Sat May 21, 2016</p> 1d14ff7f78db5c4f3e81db2706b9f2bf No Negative Mandate To Govern for 05/14/2016 Sat, 14 May 2016 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>On the eve of the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City, I asked former GOP chairman and then-Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour who would win that year's presidential campaign. Barbour said, "Mark, if this election is about John Kerry, then George W. Bush will be re-elected." I then asked, "But what if the election instead were about Republican President George W. Bush?" "In that case, Mark," he replied, "George W. Bush will carry Mississippi."</p> <p>The 2016 election is even more so a referendum on the likely opponents. In the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey, registered voters were asked to identify whether or not they "could see (themselves) supporting" a certain candidate for president in 2016. Just 41 percent of those polled could see themselves supporting Clinton in November, while 58 percent, a sizeable majority, said they could not support her. For Trump, the numbers were even worse: Only 31 percent of voters could see themselves supporting the New Yorker for the White House, and a smashing 68 percent answered they could not see themselves supporting him. Let it be noted that a plurality of voters (49 percent) said they could see themselves supporting Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for president.<p>Updated: Sat May 14, 2016</p> a1e9832458ec4c1d6e4ce7084a40dd52 The Crackpot Idea of Free College Tuition for 05/07/2016 Sat, 07 May 2016 00:00:00 -0700 <p>Prominent opinion-leaders and leading American politicians have roundly rejected the unrealistic and impractical idea, championed by a member of Congress from Vermont, to provide a four-year college education at no, or very low, tuition cost to every American high school student who qualifies for admission.</p> <p>What many of the critics either have forgotten or never knew is that this frankly radical notion is not new. In fact, the Vermonter who originally advocated this major federal intrusion was not a socialist named Bernie Sanders, but a Republican named Justin Smith Morrill. Sen. Morrill sponsored the law and President Abraham Lincoln signed it in 1862, in the middle of the Civil War when more Americans died than in all other U.S. conflicts combined.</p> <p>The Morrill Land Grant Act gave each northern state 30,000 acres of federal land for the number of its congressional seats. Some states used the funds from the sale of the land to establish new colleges that would provide an education for the industrial classes. These were the children, not of the aristocracy, but of the farmers and laborers who previously never had the opportunity to study engineering or agriculture or liberal arts.<p>Updated: Sat May 07, 2016</p> 4b6ddfccc2a3b006157e256aac859397 No Pander Bear for 04/30/2016 Sat, 30 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0700 <p>At the tricky art of pandering &#8212; a candidate's seeking the support of a specific group of voters by telling them what the candidate calculates that group wants to hear &#8212; nobody in 2016 has been more blatant than Sen. Ted Cruz's recently named running mate, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. Competing in this year's first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses and on the eve of the Rose Bowl game between the University of Iowa Hawkeyes and the Cardinal of Stanford University, Fiorina, a previously loyal Stanford grad, tweeted, "Love my alma mater, but rooting for a Hawkeye win today."</p> <p>Just for the record, in this year's Rose Bowl, Iowa, even with Carly in its corner, was crushed 45-16 by Stanford, and in the Iowa caucuses, Fiorina herself did even worse, finishing a distant seventh in the GOP field.</p> <p>Contrast this with the story of the only American other than Franklin D. Roosevelt to win the national popular vote in three consecutive presidential elections, Grover Cleveland, whose two White House victories were actually separated by an Electoral College loss to Benjamin Harrison, whom Cleveland would defeat four years later.<p>Updated: Sat Apr 30, 2016</p> 24bccb2657ce68c731c9b38f4a4e398a Sanders Makes History for 04/23/2016 Sat, 23 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0700 <p>Before ever running for the White House, our typical presidential candidate has already won and held high public office, having served as a governor, mayor or member of Congress. These candidates have almost always known previous political success before nearly every one of them fails in the presidential quest and leaves the campaign. And it is often the case that they are deep in debt, with their personal stature and public record diminished.</p> <p>But not Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who, regardless of the outcome of his contest with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is guaranteed to leave the 2016 campaign with his political power and influence enormously magnified and with his position in political history secure.</p> <p>Yes, in New Hampshire, he did become the first Jewish American to win a presidential primary, no minor achievement. But more importantly, at a time when the Democratic Party has rationalized its own growing dependency on six-figure contributions &#8212; often from the same business interests that have financed the Republicans (Dems couldn't afford to "unilaterally disarm" against the GOP) &#8212; and muted its economic justice traditions, Sanders, a democratic socialist, liberated the party of FDR from tin-cupping outside the corporate suites by his ability to raise more than $182 million, including $46 million in March alone, in some 7 million individual gifts.<p>Updated: Sat Apr 23, 2016</p> 906c92bf7e880b610c8968fd39ad6742 The 'No-Nonsense' Negotiator for 04/16/2016 Sat, 16 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0700 <p>In addition to winning more primaries, more convention delegates and 2 million more votes than any other Republican presidential candidate running this year, billionaire developer Donald Trump has won a significant national following with his repeated pledge, as a shrewd negotiator, "to beat China, Japan and Mexico at trade." Trump offers a simple explanation for the problem: "Their leaders are much smarter than our leaders." But they're not smarter than the no-nonsense negotiator Trump: "I beat China all the time."</p> <p>If that is true, then why has candidate Trump been so publicly whining and griping about his campaign's having been cheated by the unfair delegate selection rules of the Colorado Republican Party? "The system, folks, is rigged. It's a rigged, disgusting, dirty system," Trump complains.</p> <p>Let's get this straight: The previously unintimidating Colorado Republican Party &#8212; which in the past 42 years has managed to elect exactly one GOP governor and which twice lost to Democrat Barack Obama &#8212; by simply awarding its 34 national convention delegates to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, has hoodwinked Trump, the man whose election, he himself has assured us, would be guaranteed to make both Beijing and Tokyo go nervous in the knees.<p>Updated: Sat Apr 16, 2016</p> cd845e34a05cbc68757bc67bfeb4863f The Fatal Flaw for 04/02/2016 Sat, 02 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0700 <p>Shortly after the cooling of the earth, I happily spent many years working on political campaigns. One of my least favorite campaign duties was asking rich people to contribute to my candidates. In fact, raising money politically made me into anti-Calvinist, persuaded that God gave money to the least interesting and least appealing of her creatures. This may sound harsh, but believe me: Having to feign interest while listening to another wealthy individual's wacky theory about how an unnoticed cabal of left-handed Presbyterians were plotting to destroy America by imposing the metric system or increasing his family's tax rate on capital gains would drive you, as it often did me, to drink.</p> <p>These encounters did convince me that, as Fitzgerald wrote, the rich "are different from you and me." Those with a lot of money are paid an unearned respect and deference by people (e.g. yours truly, while chasing campaign funds) seeking their favor. The opinions of the rich &#8212; even those that are foolish and without merit &#8212; are almost always greeted with apple-polishing approval and praise. But if we don't challenge one another's errors, facts or flawed logic, then it's a good bet we'll think we are a lot smarter than we really are. And because we are so obviously "knowledgeable," our natural curiosity will wither.</p> <p>Which brings us to the 2016 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. The front-runner Donald Trump has a fatal flaw: He is a man who has been unchallenged by flatterers and sycophants for so long, that by now he is almost terminally uncurious. How else can we explain Trump being so unaware than by referencing MSNBC's Chris Matthews' determined questioning of Trump on the nation's 40-year unresolved debate over abortion? Did he ever consider that over the past decade, Gallup has asked Americans every year "do you consider yourself pro-abortion or pro-abortion rights?" and the nation has been almost evenly split every year?<p>Updated: Sat Apr 02, 2016</p>