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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.

Nobody Asked Me, But ...


Once again, I offer a tip of the fedora to the late and undeniably great New York sportswriter Jimmy Cannon, whose occasional columns composed of witty and sentimental short takes he called "Nobody Asked Me, but ..."

Former Massachusetts Gov. and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is not the kind of fellow you would want to share a foxhole with. Larry Craig of Idaho had been one of only three U.S. senators outside the state of Utah to have endorsed Romney's White House bid, but at the first news of Craig's arrest, Romney dropped him like a bad habit.

There was none of the traditional "let's wait to hear his side of the story" or "my thoughts and prayers at this difficult time are with Sen. Craig and his family" for Mitt. Instead, he severed all ties with these cutting words: "Once again, we've found people in Washington have not lived up to the level of respect and dignity that we would expect," adding, "He's no longer associated with my campaign, as you can imagine." No compassionate conservative is this Mr. Romney.

What is it about movie theater previews of coming attractions that turns otherwise perfectly sensible and considerate grown-ups into vocal and audible critics? Listen the next time the previews are showing, and I bet you'll hear nearby people who ordinarily wouldn't whisper during the movie if their seat was on fire, opining, "No way," "Not a chance," "May have to see this one," "Looks like a winner."

South Dakota Democrat Tim Johnson's almost miraculous recovery from a near-fatal brain hemorrhage and his to return to his job as U.S. senator reminds us that in 2002 Johnson, alone of the 535 members of Congress who voted on going to war against Iraq, had a child of his own in the enlisted ranks of the United States military. His son, Brooks, was then a sergeant serving in the 101st Airborne in Afghanistan.

One of the classier performances in Washington has been that of Johnson's colleague from South Dakota (whom Johnson defeated in 2002), Republican John Thune.

Thune has been supportive, encouraging and magnanimous. It may be good politics on Thune's part, but more importantly, what he has shown has been just human decency.

It's a good bet that Sen. Hillary Clinton will not win the unanimous backing of the nation's grammar teachers. Consider the Clinton campaign's press release quoting Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe endorsing Clinton for president: "As the first lady of Arkansas, I watched Hillary Clinton stand up for working families ..." Then Mike Beebe went on, "As a senator, I have applauded her work to strengthen the Children's Heath Insurance program ..."

These are what Miss Alice White, my English teacher at Weymouth, Mass., High School, condemned as "dangling participles." The rule was always that such a phrase at the beginning of any sentence must refer to the subject of that sentence.

Sentences breaking that rule are silly — e.g., "Being in a dilapidated condition, I was able to buy the house quite cheap." It's the house that's dilapidated, not I. Just as Hillary Clinton, not Mike Beebe, was Arkansas' first lady!

Do you remember when coaches and other employees simply used to be fired? Not anymore. Now the Boss, whether athletic director or county executive or general manager, does not fire the employee, instead the boss or bosses decide to "move in a different direction."

When the people who run CBS's "60 Minutes" made the (unwise) decision not to keep comedian Jimmy Tingle doing essays at the end of the show, they told him it was nothing personal, but that they had decided to move in a different direction. To his everlasting credit, Tingle confounded his tormentors by telling them he would be happy to consider "moving in a different direction" just as soon as they could tell him exactly in what new direction they wanted to move.

Anybody who walks into a salon advertising "all you can drink for 10 dollars " and says, "Give me 20 bucks worth" has a real problem.

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




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