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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.

Presidential Sibling Rivalry


None of our 44 U.S. presidents has been an only child — without at least half-siblings. Having your brother as president has meant both unforeseen opportunities and unwelcome scrutiny. Who could forget President Jimmy Carter's brother Billy, who registered as an agent for the Libyan government and accepted $220,000 from the Libyans?

Seeking to capitalize on his First Brother status, he promoted a brew named "Billy Beer." Arizona Rep. "Mo" Udall told of buying a six-pack, the first sips of which tasted so foul he sent the rest of the can's contents in a Mason jar to a chemist friend, who analyzed it and reported, "I am sorry to inform you that your horse has diabetes."

Richard M. Nixon, whose resignation embarrassed the nation, was himself politically embarrassed as vice president by his younger brother Donald, who in chasing his own dream of marketing the "Nixonburger" in a chain of California drive-ins sought and accepted an unsecured loan (which he did not repay) from a major defense contractor, Howard Hughes, with no previous interest in the fast-food business.

Neil Bush's shabby performance as a director of Silverado — a Colorado savings and loan the collapse of which in 1991, when his father was president, cost U.S. taxpayers $1 billion — resulted in Bush and other directors agreeing to pay $49 million to settle a lawsuit charging them with negligence.

Later with his brother in the White House, Neil admitted to having extramarital sex with attractive women who "simply showed up" at his hotel rooms in Thailand and Hong Kong and "earning" — while confessing to no knowledge of the product or the process — $2 million for consulting for a Shanghai-based semiconductor company partly managed by the son of the former president of China.

Roger Clinton made big money lobbying his brother for presidential pardons.

Poor Sam Houston Johnson had a Secret Service agent assigned to keep him from getting drunk and publicly embarrassing LBJ.

Ronald Reagan's brother, Neil, may have been the model presidential sibling. He never represented any shady clients before the House Ways and Means Committee, or anyplace else. He was refreshing to interview. He genuinely liked his brother. There were no sour tales about "how Mom liked Ronnie best."

He came to Washington for his brother's inauguration, enjoyed himself and then went home to his own life in California. Neil Reagan would have made an excellent permanent First Brother.

But this week, the United States may have lost our greatest presidential sibling when the admirably remarkable Eunice Kennedy Shriver died. Her brothers — John, Robert and Edward — made headlines and made history; Eunice made a difference.

Born to advantage, Eunice Shriver made the disadvantaged her cause. Through her iron will (and while pulling every string available to her as the sister of a president), she led the nation's mentally disabled out of the dark shadows of cruel indifference and isolation into the bright sunshine of acceptance and inclusion. Through the Special Olympics, she changed the way the rest of us see those with disabilities and how those with disabilities see themselves. She taught them and taught us that they could compete as students, as athletes and in the workplace.

Her husband of 56 years, Sarge, spoke openly — and without embarrassment — to me about how much he loved her. Her children's love for her was unmistakable. But take it from me and everybody else whom she ever enlisted in her work: She was formidable and tough as nails. You did not turn her down lightly, believe me.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the most exemplary presidential sibling, quite simply changed the way we, human beings, see each other and how we treat each other. We are a more humane people because of her.

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




1 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;... My guess is that if Mrs. Shriver had had a unit, that she, like all the other Kennedys would have been on the lookout for some one to keep it warm... Certainly we should treat the retarded as human beings, in or out of congress... The problem is not that we do not have the wealth and resources, but that we must deny rights to the healthy and hopeful to help the challenged.... My child is dead average... She has extremes of intellectual highs, and unintellectual lows.. Because she tests as average, she can forget getting help which she needs desparately... And she has more potential than any number of special education students who would be better trained to stay out of the way...Do not believe our education is not rationed as much as our medicine... Do not accept for a moment that such rationing in necessary... We make a huge mistake when we say our children, or my parents... They are ours only in a rhetorical sense...If we do not accept responsibility for our fellows we will suffer them as we would an enemy...Our children are not our property, and if they were, we would care for them, dust them off and coat them with paint, metaphorically speaking... Speaking personally, as a person with educational challenges as great as my own child's, there is no worse poison than than the resentment of a person denied their potential, and that is happening across the reach of our whole society...Never go short in the land of plenty... Never look around and say we can't afford education and health care while so many rich sit on the plunder of this land... Let them give everyone a chance at their wealth as they will only have with health and education...This land was too easy for the rich to take, and is too easy for the few to hold... All the commonwealth can be in private hands, and it still must support the population... We cannot say: My Children, or Your Children... The next generation are the children of us all, and if we do not have the courage to rob the rich to feed the poor we are not a land of heroes, or even free... We must be virtuous to be free, and that requires that we have the courage to do what is right, and not only for our own individual children, but for all people... Property rights are an ideal... Property rights as an ideal do not work because ideals never work....People work, and societies work when they have the sense to see through their failed ideals to the people left behind...If you respect people, you will respect their property, but the respect of property alone as an ideal means less than nothing for the respect of people as human beings...We have enough for all in this land, and too few rich sitting on too much wealth while the nation suffers... There is no nation, and no point of continuing if we are all out for ourselves...On some issues we must find consensus and stand together..Education and health care are two such issues....Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Aug 15, 2009 5:58 AM
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