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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
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“Frank” Advice

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The slump of his shoulders told the story. He cleared his throat and then told the 100 or so reporters waiting at Los Angeles' Good Samaritan Hospital: "Sen. Robert Francis Kennedy died at 1:44 a.m. today, June 6, 1968. With Sen. Kennedy at the time of his death was his wife, Ethel; his sisters, Mrs. Patricia Lawford and Mrs. Stephen Smith; his brother-in-law, Stephen Smith; and his sister-in-law, Mrs. John F. Kennedy. "

Thus did Frank Mankiewicz, Robert Kennedy's trusted press secretary and traveling companion, inform the world that Camelot, which had actually begun on Nov. 22, 1963, with the assassination of President Kennedy, was now officially over.

Mankiewicz, whom I have happily known and liked for some 47 years, is one of this city's Good Guys. As a teenager, he had enlisted in World War II. As a private in the Army's storied 69th Division, he fought the Germans in Europe. He has also been a lawyer, the Peace Corps country director in Peru, a columnist, a congressional candidate, the author of four books, the president of National Public Radio and a successful Washington wise man. And, let us not forget, he was one of the charter members of President Richard M. Nixon's White House enemies list.

That last honor was conferred when Frank and, later-to-be U.S. senator and presidential candidate Gary Hart, were co-managing the 1972 Democratic campaign against Nixon of Sen. George McGovern. As a distinct dark horse, McGovern had sought and won the support of the True Believers — liberal cause activists, especially those most vehemently opposed to the U.S. war in Vietnam — in the Democratic primaries to capture his party's presidential nomination.

After Nixon's landslide re-election win over McGovern, Mankiewicz spoke to Theodore White, the legendary chronicler of American national campaigns. "We were always subject to this pressure from the cause people," he honestly admitted. "We reacted to every threat from women or militants or college groups. If I had it to do all over again, I'd learn when to tell them to go to hell."

Of course, Frank Mankiewicz was right then, just as the astute former Virginia Republican Rep. Tom Davis was right more recently when he reminded the GOP that a political party is a coalition of disparate people who basically agree on a lot more than they disagree on and not, as Rush Limbaugh and others argued, a social club with a strict admissions test of ideological purity.

Before he was GOP national chairman or governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour was political director in Ronald Reagan's White House. Barbour reminds his fellow Republicans of what the Gipper told him: "Remember that the fellow who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and ally; he is not a 20 percent traitor."

This is a hard truth of American two-party politics. In order to win, you generally have to win a majority of the ballots cast. But if you insist on branding those who disagree with you on a couple of issues as an ethical eunuch or a moral leper, chances are you're not going to win their support.

It took many Democrats a string of painful presidential defeats over 20 years to understand what Frank Mankiewicz had learned about being able to say "no" to the non-negotiable demands of the party's most militant groups. What we'll find out between now and 2016 is whether the Republican Party, in and out of Congress, has the backbone necessary to stand up to the heretic-hunting zealots in its ranks.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators webpage at www. creators.com.

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COPYRIGHT 2013 MARK SHIELDS



Comments

3 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;... This is just a simple observation, of course; but in a democracy, everyone should get greased...We don't need a union, an organization, an association, a group, a movement, an identification, a think tank, a focus group, or a lobby if our democracy is working; but it does not work, was made to not work, and was made even more incapable of working by way of stealing the whole damned commonwealth from under the people...
We might have been better prepared for every war, and might even have been able to prevent a few if we had had a house of representatives representing the people at a reasonable ratio, as the constitution intended... We might have had democracy if so much had not been put outside of the control of government as property and religion have been, and as the constitution intended, but with a working house we might have changed our society and the rules by which we are governed...
The ability of the government to change itself is nil... The people find it impossible to change their government without the politics of organization eating every effort at birth, and the absolute inertia of a form of goverment designed to be an impediment to change cannot be overcome... What we are left with is the attitude that the problems we face will work themselves out because they always have done so...
Sorry, Mr. Shields, but we need to govern ourselves though many among us fear democracy as they fear death... We cannot let our hopeful past dim our judgment of reality, and we cannot be guided by principals that have never worked, or support any longer a false morality that many preached, and no one practiced... We need a true morality based upon a sense of Nation, as we have never had, that will inevitably embrace a human morality founded on the sense of a human nation: The family of Mankind...
Today the republicans are rejecting humanity and American diversity... They have found that the house can control the government, which would be fine if the house districts were not the prisoners of their parties...If we had rational representation, in small ratio to the people, then there would be no room for parties...It is an affront, and an injury to a people who think themselves free to have to band together with anyone to have problems resolved and justice achieved when government IS that form of social organization designed to achieve those ends...
Enough of telling groups to go to hell... That has been the purpose of government since the beginning, and we have reached the point where government does not function at all, cannot feed the hungry, or educate the ignorant, and is always one disaster away from revolution...
The government is my union, and taxes are my dues... I pay my taxes and demand representation, and I know it is an abuse of me, and of my rights to have to join with a party, or an association of any sort to have my rights respected...It is not too much to ask that government function, and deliver on the promise of the preamble... It is none the less impossible to believe this government ever will do more than split the difference, and take the larger share...
Thanks.... Sweeney
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Mon Jul 22, 2013 5:52 AM
"...whether the Republican Party, in and out of Congress, has the backbone necessary to stand up to the heretic-hunting zealots in its ranks."

No. No, it doesn't.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Bruce Strickland
Mon Jul 22, 2013 8:25 PM
Re: Bruce Strickland;...The republican party has spent decades radicalizing the population; and if now they are carried forward by a fringe element of zealots who refuse reason as much as the pre-reformation church, then who can divide the engine from the momentum, and see what is really the driving force??? Our limited representation in the house, the ability of state parties to gerrymander the government of their desires means parties win; but we all lose... People are not helped by government, and government does not in any sense govern... Government rules ineffectively, and though the people have no direct control of their government, the indirect control they have leaves government leading by following public opinion which can easily be manufactured, and does not massage the aches of the body politic with more than accidental effectiveness...
We are no closer in this society to democracy than to tyranny, though many would rate them as each the same... In fact, all tyrannies survive on their democratic support, and appeal to the people... It is for government that is effective in any degree that people fall into slavery...
Who cares that the trains run on time when your destination is the death camp??? What government as we have it -cannot do, the people must do for themselves, and primarily, that is to practice self government and self control, and to discern the future best pursued against that future which should be rejected...
Our founding fathers put us on the road to ruin... Others have run us to death on that broad highway... We see with the pope and little prince that some will never rest from making pets of their parasites... Only the intelligent and willing have the power to change their course, and they must, or fall with the litter of history, never to be resurrected...
Thanks.... Sweeney
Comment: #3
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Wed Jul 24, 2013 5:05 AM
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