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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
19 Apr 2014
Time for Decent Exposure

Of the 432 members today serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, he is 429th in seniority, having won a … Read More.

12 Apr 2014
If Hypocrisy Were a Felony

To be fair, most Republicans have never hidden their distaste for campaign-finance laws that place limits on … Read More.

5 Apr 2014
If Only One of Them Had Ever Run for Sheriff

In his 1972 epic on the origins of the U.S. war in Vietnam, the great journalist David Halberstam told of then-… Read More.

What Voters Will Be Looking For ...


A check of this year's record shows that in Galesburg, Ill., Palo Alto, Calif., Los Angeles, Miami Beach, Boston and on several occasions, Washington, President Barack Obama made the following statement: "I have run my last campaign."

Of course, that's not really news. The 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — passed in 1947 by a Republican Congress and ratified in 1951 by three-fourths of the states — declares, "no person shall be elected to the office of president more than twice." So twice-elected Obama would not be able to run in 2016 for a third term (saying nothing of his recently falling poll numbers).

That Amendment is vivid proof of the "law of unintended consequences." Unable to defeat Franklin Delano Roosevelt in any of his four winning White House campaigns, Republicans, after his death in 1945, set off to exact posthumous vengeance on him by limiting all future presidents to two terms. The irony is that in the last 62 years, probably only two U.S. presidents — if it had been legal and they had been willing — could have run successfully for a third term in the White House. And both popular chief executives — Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan (who, after leaving office, urged repeal of the amendment) — were, as we recall, Republicans.

So if voters will be choosing a new commander in chief in 2016, what specific qualities will they be looking for? Be attentive, because I am about to share a dark secret of the "Secret Society of Political Pundits."

When a president's performance or conduct in office disappoints us, we look for a candidate who possesses qualities we regrettably learned were missing in the flawed predecessor.

Think about recent presidential elections. In 1976, after the criminality and corruption of Watergate and the failed presidency of Richard Nixon — a man whose credentials included service as a congressman, senator and vice president — former one-term Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter's total lack of Washington experience, along with his repeated pledge never to lie to the American people, were valued by the voters as real virtues.

Carter was honest, intelligent, hard-working and the least "imperial" of presidents. But he seemed to change his mind an awful lot. So, after just one term and difficult economic times, voters overwhelmingly chose the self-confident Reagan, who had not changed his mind since 1964. Again, voters were looking for what was missing in the president who had disappointed.

The same pattern was evident when Reagan's Republican successor, George H. W. Bush, was running for reelection in challenging economic times, and voters doubted the president fully understood the hardships they were undergoing. When Bush appeared confounded by the electronic scanner at the supermarket checkout, Democrat Bill Clinton persuaded voters: "I feel your pain." The electorate found the empathy they were seeking.

After eight years of George W. Bush, whose invasion and occupation of Iraq were viewed as unwise and unpopular like his response to Hurricane Katrina, and whose broken syntax had become a late-night punch line, voters embraced Obama's intellect, eloquence and early opposition to the Iraq War.

What about 2016? It's a good bet we'll be looking for a candidate who has successfully run something large like a state, has been able to work productively with political adversaries and projects optimism that can inspire confidence about the nation's future. Know anyone who qualifies?

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




8 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;... What all you folks in the news business need to understand is that America is sick to death of a process that lords over decline, and offers this people no chance of general improvement...Parties have brought us to this point; but we cannot get rid of them... You have to stick with the one you can stomach, and hate those who hate you...
We are given a choice of personalities, but not of persons... Everyone knows some one like Mr. Christy, larger than life, too loud, too sensitive at heart, so full of food you fear to be alone with them in a small room...If you are judgemental as I am, you will never vote for a man like that to be a national example... That is what the world thinks we all are; but the last few years have taught a lot of people how to walk, how to be fit, how to care how carefully they spend their food budget... Whether the republicans like Mr. Christy or not, and they will never embrace him, mostly because it would take most of them doubling up on that job; he is more like them than he is like most democrats...
Speaking as a Catholic, which many republicans fear, Mr.Christy is like most republicans in being idealistic, too commited to his principals to be rational and objective about them... Republicans have become ideological clones, a borg rather than a communitee of deal makers... In fact; if you want government to do anything, you will have to elect a republican adminsitration and congress; because there is nothing in the democrat makeup to keep them from making a deal to make government work, but when you want all on the basis of a slim and often contrived majority, you will kill the game you want to play...The republicans long ago lost the idea of politics as an infinite game...When they started playing to win rather than playing to play, they began pouring acid in the lubrication system of government... Yes; they got caught up in their principals and ideals, and could not see where those principals left off, and reality began... You might say they need to learn how to think, but it is as much truth that they need to learn how to feel...
This country is hurting... This people, this nation is hurting, losing our hope and dreams; and the republicans keep rattling on about principals...I can't see what advantage they have in national politics... They are like underpants long grown out of, and good only rags....They have failed to grow up as we have grown older...
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Thu Nov 28, 2013 8:58 PM
Third term Presidents? Reagan's Alzheimer's was moving along nicely. Luckily for him, Congress didn't have the guts to do what it needed to do and impeach him for Iran-Contra. After that he doddered his way through his second term.

Bill Clinton was a lock for a third term. Think what we would have avoided.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Bruce Strickland
Fri Nov 29, 2013 9:03 AM
Could it be that Mr. Shields is rejecting the exalted HIllary as viable candidate?
Comment: #3
Posted by: Masako
Fri Nov 29, 2013 11:12 AM
Re: Masako;...It is a pity for the republicans that the only republican who could get elected could never get nominated...The democrats have become what the republicans always were: A party willing to sell out friend or foe alike for the pleasure of making a deal, and the republicans have become what no Americans have ever been before: A party so reactionary that they will sacrifice common sense and humanity for the power to turn time in its tracks...
Comment: #4
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Nov 30, 2013 7:54 AM
Although Hillary does not personally embody your minimum qualifications, she does, with the Bill Clinton attachment, include all those strengths as part of her total package. Add her appeal to all minority groups and the nation's wish to try a woman at the helm, and you have a combination that no one will touch.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Mike Ohr
Sun Dec 1, 2013 7:23 AM
Re: Mike Ohr...Mrs. Clinton has more baggage than mules to haul it, or wheels to carry it... She may get nominated, but that will be the end of it... The democrats have too often tried to make moral statements through the choice of their candidates though the chances of wide acceptence for those candidates was slim to none... Look at who the democrats did get elected: Mr. Clinton, and Mr. Obama, and Mr. Carter for examples... These were untested, and virtually untried, and it may be true that the more you know about your average republican the less you like them; but it is always true of politicians...
What you think may be cast in any form... What you do must be explained while it is being spun as a test of character by your enemies... It would be easier to get you average joe blow elected than you average Mother Theresa, because she did something, and could be judged upon her works... A table Raza candidate with a charming personality is more useful to the left...
A candidate lacking in every known quality and having wealth is what the republicans need because in America, Wealth is Honor... Why they can present the wealthy as having so much that they will never steal the public purse is for psychologists to figure; but it is obviously a fact...
When the public purse is full of IOU's and cobwebs, there is no one who should want the job besides your perfect patsey, and most democrats are good for that role...When you must ask for people's rights in the commonwealth, and those who made off with it do not want to give it back, they can more easily paint you as a felon than a saint... As a society, we have reverted to the old Roman notion of wealth without social responsibility; and it is our doom; but that class that has too long been bled to fund the irresponsible rich are more inclined to identify with the rich than the poor they are quickly becoming...
Comment: #6
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sun Dec 1, 2013 10:52 AM
Re: Mike Ohr. What in the world has Hillary ever accomplished? She didn't even bake the cookies she turned her nose up at.

I keep waiting to hear that question answered. And it doesn't work for me or a lot of other people to hear that getting help from Bill is the answer.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Masako
Tue Dec 3, 2013 6:27 PM
Re: Masako... Where youth is beauty, Mrs Clinton is uglier by the minute... And where those who do not distrust government- outright hate it; her hand being forever in the public purse is not going to seem like much of a job qualification... Where did the Clintons make their many millions and who found value in pushing money their way??? There must be some unwritten rule in politics that not one person can be elected that does not first prove themselves corrupted...It does not matter from the point of view of the rich whether a person is a democrat or republican... They know once those in government have money, they will begin to think of how to preserve that wealth which only makes it easy for the rich to preserve their wealth...
Comment: #8
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Thu Dec 5, 2013 11:55 AM
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