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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.

One Really Bad Idea


In his terrific and readable new biography of President Andrew Jackson, "American Lion," Jon Meacham reports on the absence of communications between President-elect Jackson and the man whom he defeated, President John Quincy Adams.

No courtesy calls and no conversation resulted in no plans for security or police assignments at Jackson's first inauguration. The result: thousands of Jackson's followers celebrating so raucously in and around the White House after the swearing-in that Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, who was there and obviously displeased by the uninhibited merry-making of Jackson's unpolished partisans, branded the bash, according to Meacham, "the reign of King Mob."

Born into poverty and orphaned young, Jackson was the first common man to win the White House. He and his election represented as big a break with the past as Barack Obama and his victory do today. In a bizarre twist, the City Council of Washington, D.C. (where Obama won a mere 93 percent of the presidential vote), by moving to keep the city's bars open and pouring until 4 a.m. — for three days before the inauguration until the day after — invites turning the new president's historically joyful inauguration week into something out of a hung-over Mardi Gras or Super Bowl weekend.

To nobody's surprise, the Restaurant Association of Greater Washington is a prime mover behind the expanded hours. The visions of bulging cash registers overcame the expressed concerns of overstretched police forces charged with preserving order and security among a predicted 3 million visiting celebrants, more than five times the population of the city itself.

There will, of course, be hundreds of thousands of citizens — many, if not most of them, African-Americans — who will come to Washington to commemorate with restrained joy and appropriate solemnity these historic events "repealing" America's "original sin " of racism. There will be proud mothers and grandfathers reminding their younger loved ones (and themselves) that in America everyone — with hard work and talent — actually does have the chance to go to the very top.

But remember this: Barack Obama won in and lives in a YouTube world.

As Garrett M. Graff, the editor-at-large of Washingtonian magazine — who fully grasps the interaction of politics and technology — has written, former Virginia U.S. Senator and Governor George Allen was "the first victim" of "the first presidential campaign of the information age."

In 2006, Allen, a popular social conservative, was the favorite among Republican insiders for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination. Then two things happened. Allen, running for re-election to the Senate, ran into an unorthodox and resourceful Democratic challenger, Jim Webb. And voters got a clear look at Allen's own abusive nature.

At a campaign event in rural Virginia in August 2006, Allen pointed out that S.R. Siddarth, the 20-year-old Webb campaign aide, was recording Allen's words. Allen, as observed by hundreds of thousands on YouTube, sought to humiliate the dark-skinned Siddarth, an American citizen whose parents were born in India: "This fellow over here with the yellow shirt, Macaca, or whatever his name is. ... Let's give a welcome to Macaca, here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia."

Macaca turned out to be a racial slur for which, eventually, Allen would futilely apologize. He had confirmed voters' worst suspicions about him and shown himself to be a bully by harassing the one young stranger in the crowd on the basis of his different skin color.

Barack Obama's Inaugural Address will almost surely be inspiring. The public ceremonies of the day will undoubtedly be both commendable and befitting. But what happens when an undermanned and exhausted police force, trying to keep traffic moving and the city peaceful, confronts drunken revelers? And they will. You can be sure that all such incidents will be caught on cameras.

The tragedy would be that a historic occasion and the new president's first words could be overwhelmed, eclipsed by some juvenile version of "Girls Gone Wild" or "American Pie" — viewable around the world on YouTube. Keeping Washington's bars open until 4 a.m. is one really bad idea.

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




3 Comments | Post Comment
Sir; ... I don't like to disagree with you.... I like you, and I only wish my dog was as nice as you so I wouldn't have to tell people not try to pet the little shit because he bites... The other dog is nice, and he even smiles... But again, I have to disagree... If some person is going to scope in on the president, it would be nice to count on some drunk wandering into the shot... You know the drunk won't mind... People who die drunk never mind if they have a mind left to mind with...Thanks... Oh; and I may have to PM you on your News Hour appearance.... The Federal Government should not bother to fix infrastructure that no one is going to use...Too many of our bridges lead to no where.... We have decided to commit suicide by amputation, and we should make it official policy to let some states die for want of industry and jobs... If you don't see my point; it is this: No one should waste money building roads or sewer systems to get people to work, and releave themselves while there, if the job can pull up and remove itself to another state where the same process will continue...I think it is sapping too much of the national energy, wasting too much space, and time; and is leading to our ruin...Look at it this way: It is a great place to be a manufacturer... Every state wants your business... They promise you an educated and amenable work force, zoning and infrastructure and freeway access; and may even sign on to loans to have you build to suit your needs... The State and Federal government may pay to help train your workforce, or give you tax credits for doing so... But what is the Greater National Good??? Workforces are whipsawed into lower wages and fewer benefits to keep business from moving where they are enticed to move, and eventually, it is people who must bear the cost of new infrastructure and an even greater cost as the infrastructure ages...Governor Granholm regularly draws business to Michigan, and regularly sees old businesses depart to foreign shores or other states...They feel no loyalty... Their message is loud and clear: you can have any job you can keep up with... It is crazy... Look at Germany... They can manage, and manage is the operative word, to keep their industry put, and to keep their populations put, and keep their forests, and their farmland put where it is put... We can not manage business, and so, businesses manage us, and again, it is killing us... I once met a man whose sole job was to calculate the discount on every building in the local Oldsmobile plant... The board of water and light is a public utility, but with every new buiding they got a different discount on the services they received, and there were a lot of buildings... Who picked up the difference??? As in every case, the people paid more so the business could pay less... But now, the landscape is dotted with brown fields so polluted you could burn the earth; all great places for businesses, but they have moved on to dirty up some other sweet spot....People should ask what it was for... Your home is here, and your job is there; and there are hundreds or thousands of miles in between...This nonsense of states whipsawing each other to give business a better environment at the expense of their populations, with no long term commitment from business -is crazy... If the business comes, or if it goes, it represents an injury to the people... So, what is the point of new infrastructure that will be no better maintained than the old??? Every day the roads and highways take people to work... Does business feel the obligation to maintain them???No... You might need a licence to have your job... 99% of your automobile costs may be associated with employment.... Where is the boss who says: Let me help you with that cost??? We let these businesses feed off of us, and for that reason they treat us as cattle... Our only choice is to suffer, or to give ground; when if we chose, we could have businesses as our tamed beasts, eating out of our hands and not daring to bite... We need a federal government with the will and the power to manage business for the people's benefit, and to manage human capital so that no part of it will be over used, or abused...Thanks again, and good job;... Sweeney
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Dec 27, 2008 5:58 AM
For years the Washington City Council was beholden to the tobacco interests, liquor interests and now the reataurants. Shields is right for pointing it all out with a historic touch.
There is a real danger that what should be uplifitng will be besmirched with accidents, serious injuries and death because of driving under the influence. The test should be as strict as possible: no driving if you have any alcoho;l in you. Restaurants, bars and hosts should be held liable as well as any who cause injury. What the City Council has done is reckless, negligent and plain stupid. David Cohen
Comment: #2
Posted by: David Cohen
Sun Dec 28, 2008 9:50 AM
Re: David Cohen;.. Sir,,, While what you say may well be true, It is also legal, and to an extent, democratic... If the people in D.C.. Can't control their city council to their benefit what does that tell you about their prospects for personal freedom, or of their ability to control their national destiny??? It is easy enough to say that given the problems we all face in our lives, of providing for necessities, that we have too much of a task in changing our forms of government, or our forms of economy; but it is because these larger forms fail that we struggle so with our basic relationships... It is they that keep us working or flailing about trying to survive... Only when it becomes essential, to change society or die, will people drop what they are doing in their daily lives and go tear down their government... So people accept, as they must when money interests are served... Now, I would not worry too much... I have been around places where the bars seemed to never close; but when people have had enough they usually find some fat girl to snuggle up with and call it a night.... Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #3
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sun Dec 28, 2008 11:24 AM
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