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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
6 Feb 2016
Cracking the Code of Campaign-Speak

"Do you ever get the feeling," asked humorist Robert Orben, "that the only reason we have elections is to … Read More.

30 Jan 2016
Is There Only One True Progressive?

Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. In our polarized politics, the … Read More.

23 Jan 2016
The Man Who Drowned Democracy With 'Sewer Money'

Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. This week marked the anniversary of … Read More.

How Many 'Walks of Life' Are There?


Tom Corbett is the Republican attorney general of the state (to be more precise, the commonwealth) of Pennsylvania and a candidate for governor. According to his campaign, Corbett deserves a look because he has protected Pennsylvanians "from all walks of life."

Hispanic Heritage Month, we are told by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is the time "to highlight the accomplishments of Hispanic Americans from 'all walks of life.'"

To read my daily newspaper is to learn that the citizens who came to the Washington, D.C., Tea Party to protest federal government policy, and their fellow Americans who came to rally in support of the public health care option in the current legislation, as well as the membership of the American Motorcyclist Association, all have one thing in common: They come "from all walks of life."

It is obvious that regardless of our political, personal or philosophical preferences, we Americans like to brag that support for the cause, position or activity we back goes beyond people like us and, instead, enlists and appeals to diverse folks from all walks of life.

Of course, as you already knew, nobody knows precisely just how many "walks of life" there are in American political life.

The last administration was conspicuous for its leader's (over)confident strut. Most losing campaigns are cursed by the public stumble or misstep. Voters do not much like the political tiptoe, especially when it is used to duck a controversial question. Nobody on our side of a campaign ever lurches or skulks. Those forms of perambulation are reserved exclusively for individuals with whom we disagree.

The current president has brought back the lope, which his admirers insist is rather a (semi-purposeful) stride.

In terms of political popularity, amateur survey research concludes that the amble is still much preferred to the prance or the mince. When it comes to the long tramp of crafting and passing legislation, plodding still works.

The Reagan administration was famous, among its fans, for Walking Tall. Come to think about it, no political cause or candidate has ever boasted about Walking Short. Heightism remains one of this society's most serious and deliberately unaddressed prejudices.

Which illogically raises something that continues to bother me. Reagan was the first president, when boarding or leaving the Marine helicopter, who saluted the Marine enlisted man standing outside. To be fair, the Gipper looked good doing what was never required or endorsed by military custom.

Saluting is generally not prescribed when one's head is uncovered, as the non-saluting Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy and Gerald Ford knew from their own wartime experience in military service.

Ever since Reagan, every chief executive has felt obliged to salute, and frankly they look silly doing it. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have never appeared natural or comfortable doing it. It is time to drop it and return to the appropriate ways of Ike and JFK.

Back to the walks of life. There is a lot less public consumption of alcohol in official Washington than there was a generation ago. This has resulted in the marked reduction in politicians staggering under the influence of white wine, but they're still understandably being staggered by bad poll numbers.

Let us hope that regardless of which walk of life we come from or prefer, that we can somehow learn to finally walk humbly together.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at




2 Comments | Post Comment
Always enjoy your columns with a moral and a laugh. Thanks.
Comment: #1
Posted by: alf1052
Sat Sep 19, 2009 1:25 PM
Sir;...It is so seldom that we can find anyone who outlives their usefulness by 89 years, yet I would like to nominate Irving Kristal for the associated honors...How does anyone tell such flunkys that conservatism is a neutral and natural state because everyone who is happy wants to hold onto the present while professional conservatives want to throw reality into reverse without so much as putting on the brakes... I just watched Mr. Kristal on C-span Book TV say he had a lot of ideas about a book on democracy, but that he could not get his ideas to cohere into a book..What sort of fool admits that as a writer on politics and economics, that his ideas were too incohernet to book???..We could all write a book on our experience of 'democracy' but it might be too raw to read... Rather than facing a life crisis in admitting that all our ideas of democracy are false to the reality we have before us, Mr. Kristal instead put the book aside, and one would presume, put his ideas aside well... Perhaps democracy as a relationship cannot be conceived of ideally..Perhaps democracy may be touched, and never grasped...Perhaps the reality of democracy is that where ever it is found naturally, democracy is all rough and tumble politics, just as in the kitchen and in the bedroom....No one can escape politics, and perhaps we should not try... Perhaps we all ought to resolve our ideas with our realities, and demand that something give..What if the advantage lies with the liars who confound the most plausible narative out of the bits and pieces of their desires. Platitudes, and prevarications are the honey of many flies...Rather than landing in such honey, we should inquire... . Do we need more people like Kristal who can frame a rational argument in defense of immorality like any Sophist??? Look at how well he got paid...And how should I know; but why else would anyone spout nonsense that would hell ones soul if one believed except for treasure??? The whole family is one that can see the forest and the trees, but not the environment within, and beyond.... They cannot see the world of ideas for what it is, but do sketch charactures, and do confuse ideas with attitudes, or justifications, or stragies or talking points as though a leisure with a glass bon vin blank in hand... Do they, or does anyone of us grasp the danger of false ideas when supported on the shoulders of brutes??? Do you think, If you think, that any of us can form a coherent idea out of a moral reality like democracy, or justice, or political equality??? An idea is no less easy to grasp than the thing, or the reality it represents....By example, A pound of sugar is at least two things that we can form an idea of... We should all have a sense of what democracy is, and all have a positive feeling about it...The more people as a whole are willing to defer to idea men, rationalists, and justifiers, bought and paid thinkers, the more tenuous will become our hold on a good future pursued by common consent...The more we are willing to endure a witless idea like 'democracy' from the right side because it is supposed to be good, even while it is so easily seduced -the further will the good we seek recede before us...It is easy to see that what we are missing is that loving feeling about ourselves... .. Let the devil take all such anti intellectual intellectuals as Kristal and the world could breathe a fresh breath of air... All those professional conservatives have in common is that they stink up the place....Their prince is dead, but his spawn still walk abroad...Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #2
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Sep 19, 2009 6:47 PM
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