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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.

A Plea to Republicans


"No man is good enough to be president," wisely observed Abraham Lincoln, one of the nation's greatest, "but someone has to be."

Americans' choice of a president is truly the most personal vote that any of us will ever cast. We are far more likely to vote strictly on issues — whether taxes, education or the environment — when choosing our representative in Congress or the Senate. But the higher the office, the more important the candidate.

We want to know of a presidential candidate not simply the voting record or the position papers, but instead what kind of a person, parent, spouse, friend, colleague, ally or adversary the nominee really is. Generally, before we vote for somebody, we have to first like that somebody.

The American presidency is the center of American political power. A president can do for the nation and for the future great good or great harm — and, sometimes, both. Presidential elections really do matter. Just ask any African-American who was drafted into the U.S. military after President Harry Truman signed Executive Order 9981 in 1948, which began the desegregation of the armed forces.

The presidential election of 2012 demands a serious public debate about what kind of country we want our children to live in, about what we want the federal government to do — and not to do — and about who should pay for it. Every presidential re-election campaign is, by definition, a referendum on the incumbent president's record. When three out of four citizens believe that the country is "seriously off on the wrong track," the incumbent's record ought to be fully, freely and honestly criticized and debated in the campaign.

That will not happen in 2012 if the Republican Party nominates former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for president. There would be no urgently needed debate about what went right and what went wrong in Barack Obama's first term or what changes must be made, whether Obama wins re-election or he doesn't.

Why? Because if Gingrich is the GOP nominee, the campaign will be all about Gingrich and his manifest shortcomings — political, public and personal. Americans like their presidents to have both confidence and modesty. Forget that Newt has in the past compared himself favorably to Charles De Gaulle, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. This week, in "The Right Fights Back," a new e-book by two outstanding journalists, Mike Allen and Evan Thomas, Gingrich spoke of his unflagging confidence even as his own 2012 campaign cratered last summer: "I told somebody at one point, 'This is like watching (Sam) Walton or (Ray) Kroc develop Walmart and McDonald's."

Of his current and third wife Callista, Gingrich told ABC News this week, after comparing her earlier to Nancy Reagan in the Allen-Thomas book, that "she (Mrs. Gingrich) actually describes herself as being a cross between Nancy Reagan and Laura Bush, with just a slight bit of Jackie Kennedy tossed in ..."

Forget that Gingrich is the only House speaker in U.S. history to be disciplined by his House colleagues in both parties for violating tax rules and to be fined $300,000. Forget that he has more skeletons in his closet than does the lab at the Harvard Medical School.

If Gingrich is nominated, there will be no debate and, consequently, no accountability for the Obama stewardship. The race will be all about Gingrich, and Gingrich will be rejected overwhelmingly by the voters. We will not debate or decide what we need to do, what sacrifices we must all make, what pain we must endure for the common good. Barack Obama will never be held accountable. He will get a free ride to a second term, and the nation will resolve nothing.

This is a plea to my Republican friends and relatives: For your own sake and for the good of the country, please do not nominate Newt Gingrich.

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




4 Comments | Post Comment
Well, Jeez, Mark. How about the punch line? Who in the world are they going to nominate who won't be just about as disastrous for the them, and hence for the nation? It is indeed pathetic when the competition is so bad it threatens the integrity of the entire process. Maybe they should recruit Hillary?
Comment: #1
Posted by: Masako
Sat Dec 3, 2011 9:44 AM
Noted. Also, excellent quote by Lincoln. I'm not convinced that W was a disaster who orchestrated bad policies that hurt the nation. I believe he was a victim of his father and caught up in it. I'm convinced that I saw a news item once where Bush Sr was literally crying while standing next to Jeb and saying the wrong son had been elected President. That's why I like W personally even if his policies were bad. Instead, I view the last good President as Reagan who most likely had a fierce oppositiion from ruthless, corrupt Republicans who would have stabbed Reagan in the back if they could have. Since 1989, all the Presidents have been mediocre, uncaring oafs. A disturbing media point back in the day was that Clinton was a Rhodes scholar. He seems ok personally although at Spring Break a guy like that would have picked on a guy like me, except I was in the campus library where this so called Rhodes scholar should have been. All these wealthy people are working together to feather their nests. It's a failure of basic philosophy of life. It is criminal thinking gone wild. The current situation begs us to feel defeat and ruination, that the world must somehow go into massive, world war. I believe that Trump is the only actual guy at that level who wants to do some good for someone other than himself (does not think like a criminal), and who began in our ranks like Nixon and Reagan did, great men who were also filled with what used to be called "nobless oblige," not that any of these so called modern day geniuses at the top would recognize that. "What separates the men from the boys in politics is that the boys enter politics to be somebody and the men enter politics to do something," said Richard Nixon in his book "In The Arena." This book also has a long quote by FDR on it's first page. The Bush Clinton Gang and Step and Fetch It should try figuring that out.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Mike Hayne
Sat Dec 3, 2011 12:00 PM
There are a lot of skeletons in Newt's closet. Because he is a republican, they get a lot of coverage. Look at Obama's issues. He sat in a pew for 20 years and listened to an anti-american, racist, Libyan supporting bigot who believed Americans deserved what happened to him on 9-11. He was strongly associated with Bill Ayers, a part of the Weather Underground terrorist network that bombed the pentagon among other atrocities. His henchman, David Axelrod, got sealed divorce papers leaked not once, but twice for two different candidates in his run for senate in both the primary and the general election of 2004. He admitted to doing cocaine in his book. These are just a few reminders about the man you supported that probably have never mentioned in your articles.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Eric Jensen
Sun Dec 4, 2011 3:25 PM
Mike Haynes is on the money, the current crop of politicians of either stripe stink, especially in the Senate where the old guard like Levin and MCain pass legislation such as the very recent Marshall Law act. I also don't care to hear democrats, bringers and protectors of the curreny disaster, moaning about potential disaster if a republican is elected. Ideology over reality, a sad state of mind. We don't want to hear liberal advice as to whom we should nominate; the press will just chew the nominee up and then spit them out no matter who the rebublican is, that is the only certainty. Mr. Shields is playacting, he is not going to vote republican in any event. No coach would allow the opposition to call his plays. The liberal team has its own problems, big time.

Comment: #4
Posted by: Tom
Mon Dec 5, 2011 4:55 AM
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