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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
6 Feb 2016
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"Pander Bear" for President


In the 1972 Florida Democratic presidential primary, former Vice President Hubert Humphrey, an especially admirable public servant, was featured speaker at a Miami dinner sponsored by combined Jewish philanthropies. In attendance was a group of voters widely known for their generosity and political clout, who had been regularly courted and wooed by the most importunate and creative of candidate-suitors.

One Humphrey primary opponent, Sen. Henry Jackson of Washington, an unswerving supporter of Israel, had all but promised to put on his aviator goggles and personally fly F-15 jets to Tel Aviv.

Humphrey rose to the challenge. He told his Miami audience he had recently discovered an unacceptable injustice under the federal school lunch program, which he had long championed. There was no kosher school lunch program! My friend and authority on all matters both Jewish and political, the late and brilliant Alan Baron, who heard this Humphrey speech with me, analyzed the situation this way:

The United States had a Jewish population of just over 5 million, of whom approximately 10 percent kept kosher by observing the Jewish dietary laws. Baron then figured of that observant 10 percent, the overwhelming majority of the children were enrolled in Jewish religious schools — and he was confident that investigation might turn up one Jewish seventh-grader in a public junior-high just outside Kearney, Neb., who was being offered a baloney sandwich every third Thursday.

As political pandering goes, that 1972 Miami overture was mostly harmless. But not so the presidential candidates' pandering vintage 2008. Consider this recent event in Washington, where Jewish leaders convened a meeting to hear from representatives of the three surviving campaigns. They were Ann Lewis, former White House counselor to President Bill Clinton, representing Hillary Clinton; former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, representing John McCain; and, representing Barack Obama, Princeton professor Daniel Kurtzer, former U.S.

ambassador to Israel under George W. Bush.

Let us stipulate that there is more free and open debate critical of the foreign and defense policies of Israel in Tel Aviv than there is in Washington, D.C. Too often, the American public figure who questions the wisdom or morality of any military or diplomatic initiative by any Israeli government, no matter how wrong or counter-productive that policy may be, risks being libeled as hostile to Israel or, worse, an anti-Semite.

At the Washington meeting, according to Dana Milbank of The Washington Post, the Obama representative, Kurtzer, was forced to answer criticisms about Obama's statement that you did not need to have a "Likud view" — the right-wing party in Israel — in order to qualify as a supporter and friend of Israel.

And that's when the really ugly, giant pandering began. Lewis, the savvy Clinton representative and a veteran of nearly four decades in presidential politics, made an extraordinary declaration: "The role of the president of the United States is to support the decisions that are made by the people of Israel. It is not up to us to pick and choose from among the political parties." Her words won applause in the room.

But where is the outrage on the campaign trail? "The role of the president of the United States is to support the decisions that are made by the people of Israel?" If Israel decides to bomb and invade Lebanon again, or any place else, is it the duty — by this "Clinton Doctrine" — for every American president to uncritically rubber-stamp such a unilateral action? The same United States that fought for its independence some 233 years ago will now surrender that independence without even a whimper of dissent to a foreign country in the combustible Middle East?

We wait in vain for McCain or Obama — two men whose campaigns remind us regularly that they reject "politics as usual" — to publicly repudiate "the Clinton Doctrine" that the United States president's role is to give every Israeli government a green light, carte blanche and this nation's proxy. Where is the leadership?

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




11 Comments | Post Comment
A salute to Mark Shields for his graceful comments on Hubert Humphrey. Humphrey on kosher lunches is a favirute Humphrey and pander story of mine--npt harmful the way moving the US embassy to Jerusalem was in the Mondale-Hart campaign.
More importantly I'm pleased that Shields took on Ann Lewis who is the Clinton apparatchik who more than anyone else in the Clinton operation--along with Mark Penn--has gone over the line in unfair attacks and demagoguery. At the meeting Shields writes about the reports from it wounded me as a peace and security Zionist who supports Obama. Ambassador Kurtzer, the Obama representative, and an orthodox Jew, gave a thoughtful non-pandering presentation. Lewis cut him off. That's how Lewis developed the Clinton doctrine, which in effect turns US policy over to Israel.
Ann Lewis, whether she intended to or not, has done what all American Jews have avoided and resolutely rejected since the creation of the state of Israel: the issue of dual loyalty. Lewis either doesn't know her history or she is an imprudent spokesperson. Either way Clinton should repudiate her.
David Cohen
David Cohen
Comment: #1
Posted by: David Cohen
Sat Mar 29, 2008 2:34 AM
Talk about Pandering?

Last year Shields was a Clinton supporter Extraordinaire.

Today Hillary has been kicked to curb as a lying fool just like Bill while BHO has risen to join JFK's Inner Camelot team. And Michelle has become Jackie O's heir apparent.

Now that is what I call pandering for interviews. Right on MARK!
Comment: #2
Posted by: GCS11111
Sat Mar 29, 2008 4:02 AM
Sir; I have followed you for years, and I have always thought of you as a good man; but I have never until this moment considered that your goodness might be a symptom of some insanity. It may be that Jewish people only amount to 2% of the population in this country, but if we are the dog, then they are the flea that walks us. These people hold commanding positions in this country, and in our economy, and can dictate from afar the foreign policy of this land. It is not a quesion of liberal or conservative. They are both, and mostly, very influential, and self conscious. Now, granted; I am talking about my family. My son is Jewish, an attorney, and compared to myself, wealthy, educated. And yet there is no doubt that in every balanced statement about Israel, many Jewish people smell the stench of the death camps, and feel the fear of the pogram. I warn you, that Jewish people look on American support of Israel as an entitlement. Many Americans still look at Israel as a beachhead on an Arab shore, threatening all who would challenge American interests in Muslim lands. In fact, Israel may be the single greatest threat to world peace if only because Muslims are supposed to make common cause against the enemies of Islam. I like you Mr. Shields, if it is possible to like a persona. Don't you believe you can find a safer direction to shine the light of scrutiny than Israel? Truth is an essential part of every person's life, but you must certainly understand that some governments, and some countries exist in a denial of truth and reality. There are some facts people do not want to know that are safer left untold. The first rule of the jungle is that if you cannot step over it, go around it. You had better go around Israel.
Comment: #3
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Mar 29, 2008 8:08 AM
Gotta love it the Anti-Semites just keep exposing themselves at record clip! Mark "the Tolerant Liberal" Shileds among them! It is to laff!
Comment: #4
Posted by: Earl T
Sat Mar 29, 2008 8:21 AM
Re: Earl T
Dear Earl; Do you see what I mean? There was never a subject in World History ever so inclined to get stinky all over anybody with the slightest touch as 'Israel'. Jewish people are sensitive on the subject. Anti Jewish people are sensitive on the subject. Muslims are sensitive on the subject. Everybody who has a reason to love or fear Jewish people is sensitive on the subject. No one can handle a subject so imbued with overtones and not suffer from some ill effect or debilitating insinuation. So, then; How can anyone talk about the subject? How can an honest conversation be had at any price on any subject with so much universal emotional investment? I look at my family who work hard, are intelligent, educated, worthy, tax paying citizens entitled in at least some respects to all they earn. What good is it for me or for them if some day theirs and mine are caught in some great conflagration built of fear? Fear unquestionably motivated the Nazis, and as many anti semites today. How do you say to the fearful that all these intelligent people who feel they are as much Jewish as American, who love their culture, and who stick together and cooperate with those who share their culture; -How, do you say to them that Jewish people are no threat? It is amazing that so many can fear so few, but historically, when education is at a premium, and economic failure is so common, how can the huddled masses not fear any organized group that is clearly educated and intelligent? If I had anything to lose I would not mention Israel the state, or Israel the people. It is a horse easier got on than off.
Comment: #5
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Mar 29, 2008 2:35 PM
Right on, Mark.
Concerning Obama's statement that he doesn't have to have a Likud-view to be a supporter of Israel, that seems completely reasonable. If an Israeli were to say that he doesn't have to have a Republican-view to be a friend of the USA would we take umbrage? I think not. The foreign policies of the United States should be based on the legitimate interests of the United States, including maintaining moral integrity -- full stop.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Robert Gray
Sun Mar 30, 2008 1:55 AM

Hi Mark,

I very much enjoyed reading your article. There is never any discussion of the America-Israel Foreign Policy, and the role of the Jewish Lobby in influencing American policy and opinion. It seems to always be a topic everyone is thinking but no one wises to openly discuss.

I am writing from St. John's, Newfoundland Canada, My family and friends are watching the Democratic Race with much interest. We are all impressed with Barack Obama. He seems to have a maturity and intelligence that America now requires.

So much enjoy reading your comments and hearing on Detroit PBS, all the best. I never respond to post comments!

Carmel Conway, St. John's, NL Canada.
Comment: #7
Posted by: carmel conway
Sun Mar 30, 2008 10:19 AM
Congratulations to Mark Shields for COURAGEOUSLY taking on one of the spokespersons of the Israel Lobby.
Ann Lewis' comments were absolutely outrageous and should be condemned by every politician or candidate, but don't hold your breath! Is the U.S. subservient to the interests of Israel? Would there be applause if someone were to say that the role of our president is to support the decisions of the Russian or the Chinese ?
It is one thing to support a country , but it is quite another to kowtow to their actions when they are not in the interest of the U.S. ( or for Israel) . For too long , the U.S. presidents and politicians have been dictated to by the Israel Lobby with dire consequences like the Iraq quagmire.
Very few voices have the courage to stand up to the Israel Lobby with the exception of Jewish Voice for Peace and Tikkun, even though most Jews do not agree with their extreme views.
So again, COngratulations , Mark Shields.
Comment: #8
Posted by: Renate Bob
Wed Apr 2, 2008 8:08 AM
Re: James A, Sweeney
I too am Jewish and find it really appalling that we in the U.S. are muzzled into keeping quiet about any of Israel's policies and actions when there are plenty of critical voices in Israel. ( read some of the commentators in Ha'aretz, for example) .Not everything that Israel does or has done is good, but we have been so cowed that we keep quiet in case we are labelled anti-Semites or "self-hating Jews" ( what an absurd term!!!) .
I believe that if Israel continues in its present actions ( the Wall, the settlements, etc. ) there WIll be a rise in anti-Semitism as people will blame the Jewish people rather than the extremist views of the Israel Lobby and its representatives , one of which is Ann Lewis.
Comment: #9
Posted by: Renate Bob
Wed Apr 2, 2008 8:19 AM
Mark: I'm surprised your still appearing in print and T.V. Some Jewish sects are so super sensitive they 'break out' en masse at the slightest criticism of Israel. The good news: History tells us, "what goes around comes around". In a democracy, there is, a self correcting mechanism. In the past groups have claimed to be in possession of 'the truth' and who have tried unsuccessfully to impose (it) on an unwanted public. Effort, of this kind as you will recall, has not had a great deal of success. Either in the past or of late.
Comment: #10
Posted by: rvbottomly
Thu Apr 3, 2008 8:31 PM
Re: Renate Bob
Sir; I am not, myself, Jewish; but my son by my first wife is, officially. When there has been so much suffering as a result of anti semitism, I can understand the sensitivity. Yet, I think it is a great mistake to heap contumely on every attempt at dialogue. T. Roosevelt said there are no hyphenated Americans. I believe we all have to look to being Americans first, and what ever else we are as second. Everyone should follow their first loyalty, and if your eyes are on Israel as you true home, then for what reason do you sojourn here? Now, I shared the food of Jewish people, and I hope I can say I understand their sensitivity considering many in this land lost all of their family in the old country. I have known good people who survived the death camps by a hair breadth. No one should listen to any voice advocating such violence and inhumanity. And yet people should be concerned at any minority either in distress, or in triumph. One commentator on the Sunday political programs, said: Obama has a problem with Jewish people. Okay. What does that mean? I think Mr. Shield's story and this are the same; but how can a problem with 2% of the population be worthy of notice on national T.V. on Sunday morning? My guess is that the financial and political pressure that Jewish people can bring to bear far outweighs their numbers. And yes, I do have a problem with people poisoning the political dialogue. Any thing that serves to divide this country weakens it. We have a multitude of natural divisions based upon different nations of origin. If we cannot talk, we cannot heal our divides, and they will fester up until they ruin us. We have to remember that many of our import citizens have found their way here out of high intelligence and ambition. Do we want them to look at all residents of long duration as so much prey, or cattle? We all need to see each other as human, and we all need to find in America the ideal form of relationship. To do this, we must talk, communicate, tell the truth, disabuse each other of our misconceptions; and that will not happen so long as terms like anti semitic are loosed so easily for little cause. Thanks. Sweeney
Comment: #11
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Fri Apr 4, 2008 9:29 AM
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