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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.

Third Term Anyone?


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In the last 76 years — since Franklin Roosevelt carried 46 of the then 48 states against Republican Alf Landon — just one Democratic president has been re-elected to a second White House term. Republicans who were unable to defeat Roosevelt in four presidential contests exacted posthumous vengeance upon FDR by winning ratfication in 1951 of the 22nd amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees that no person shall be elected to the office of president more than twice.

After this city's Democratic convention, that amendment may be effectively "repealed," because in 2012 Democrat Bill Clinton, his party's only chief executive to have won re-election since FDR, could be said to be running for his third White House term.

To watch President Barack Obama make his first appearance on the Charlotte convention stage there to congratulate and thank Bill Clinton after his speech was, for this observer, to see an expression of admiring awe this observer had never before seen on Obama's face. It was completely understandable, because in less than 45 minutes, the 42nd president had just made a better public case for the Obama administration than the Obama adminstration had made for itself in 45 months.

And a better case than the 44th president would make for himself and his own re-election the next night.

There is an old Marine Corps maxim that states that no duty station is better than the one the Marine just left and none is worse than the one to which the Marine is currently assigned.

The same may be true for presidents. Bill Clinton has rebounded from the dark days following his 12th-hour pardon of fugitive financier and tax cheat Marc Rich, a certified sleazeball who had repudiated his own American citizenship. Eleven years later, after humanitarian work on a global scale, Clinton is that rare American ex-president who is not only favorably regarded by seven out of 10 of his countrymen, but who is the featured guest of honor and star attraction at his party's national conventions.

Ironically, the totally scandal-free Barack Obama seeks the political equivalent of 'innocence by association' through sharing the spotlight and the platform with the only U.S. president impeached by the U.S. House in the last 144 years.

Why? Because Bill Clinton has the ability, lacking in both Obama and his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, to "connect" with people in a personal way. Clinton possesses both the human touch and the rare gift of being able to convince almost anyone whom he meets — I can testify — that he, Bill Clinton, has been on this planet for 66 years just for these precious minutes he is spending with you.

Clinton likes, maybe needs, attention and affection, while the self-contained Obama needs Clinton. Temperamentally and politically, theirs is a shotgun wedding.

In his convention speech, Bill Clinton did something rare in U.S. politics: He treated his audience like they were grown-ups capable of understanding policy and able to process political arguments he frames that rise above the intellectual level of a bumper sticker or a wall poster. He even commended — by name and for cause — Republican presidents who had used government to bring justice and progress to the nation's people.

This was a convention where speaker after speaker unsubtly caressed the erogenous zones of the body politic, especially on the thorny issue of abortion — where a majority of voters, including more than one out of three Democrats according to Gallup, self-identify as "pro-life' rather than "pro-choice" — totally unrestricted access to which has become a Democratic commandment on which no argument will be brooked.

So, after Charlotte and President Obama's solid but unmemorable acceptance speech, the 2012 Democratic ticket — with all due respect to the completely loyal Joe Biden — will be Clinton-Obama.

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




5 Comments | Post Comment
Joe Biden may Not be a Champion of The So The Same Not only With Democratic Presidents, So The Same as well With The Republican Presidents Who Welcome The Middle Class into Their Nest That Not only Includes John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton but also Dwight D. Eisenhower, ronald Reagan & George H.W.Bush Le Me also Remind You That Joe Biden Ain't The Only Politician Who is Married to a Teacher So The Same With Both U.S. Presidents Millard Fillmore and Andrew Johnson Who were Tutored by Their Future Wives.
Comment: #1
Posted by: John Huerta
Fri Sep 7, 2012 8:27 AM
Excellent essay. But maybe, just maybe, there is a more simple answer for the huge affection for Clinton by the rank-and-file voters across our country. Maybe he is the only president since Carter who genuinely appears better and better with the advantage of hindsight. If this sounds partisan, well, make the most of it. The Republican presidents, with time, look worse and worse as we see the fraud in promising tax cuts plus more military spending plus a balanced budget...all at once. Andy Johnson, Jacksonville, former member, Florida House
Comment: #2
Posted by: Andy Johnson
Fri Sep 7, 2012 4:24 PM
Sir;... History always looks better in the past... When it is staring you in the face with both barrels gleaming surrealistically in the moonlight, everyone feels the fright...We like the past just fine, and usually better than the future if we can just keep it where it belongs; and it is hard -when so many are lapping up nostaligia like thirsty dogs and spilling it all over the place -to tell them it is poison...
Yes... The past, and even our past presidents were not so bad in retrospect; but our only salvation is the future, in embracing it, bracing ourselves for it, and in being prepared for it because all those warm and gooey feelings for the past just blind us to the fact that the only way to recapture the best part of the past is to seize it in the future before it can get away from us...
Only dead people live in the past, and if dead is what we want to be as a society and as a nation, then I don't want to be here...The lesson we should take from all this noxious nostalgia is that things are getting worse for this people and a precipitous rate, and that we must act rationally if only to bathe once more in the loving feeling of nation...We may have to go through war, or carnage... We may be short a few people on the other side...We may have to get a little violent or primitive to once more discover our humanity...One thing we should never do is sacrifice without some one explaining in great detail -what is the pay off...
If we are asked to sacrifice for something we had in the past that we never really had, and that was snuck off from under our noses before we knew it was there, then the proper answer is for those demanding devotion is: go to hell...If I have heard that word: Sacrifice once from our presidents I think I have heard it ten thousand times... When will the government start working for the people and quit making rethless demands upon them... Ask not what you can do for your country... Ask what your country has done for the rich and why it cannot do like wise for you... Ask when rights will ever be equal... Ask when perveyors of magic and ritual will quit meddling in the affairs of rational human beings...When will we let reason guide us, and hear the counsel of common sense???
I would not care if Mr. Clinton ate beans and crapped hamburgers... I will never believe him since he could not even keep his oath to his wife... What does it matter what you call yourself??? I am pro life and prochoice... Who is not pro life, and how is that against pro choice??? Do you see??? This choice is like all the others, and is a want of choice...
Who having justice would want an abortion... Who having love would have their future cut out of their guts like a tumor???...Who having liberty which is the same as having honor would suffer the contumely of anyone without resort to violence, and all the sooner if that insult and injury was done under the protection of privilage??? There is something about being civil, and about being a political animal that makes one seem like a human socker ball that one side or the other gets to kick around until their time runs out or they score a goal...
The future will be denied to this people for as long as they take it, and for as long as they suffer abuse from those whose respect they should by nature have... When this people learns to fight back, and forever discard the notion of going along to get along; only then will they be free, and only then will the future open its doors to them...People have to learn to be just as rotten and difficult as the present moment if they expect to own the future...Sacrificing yor dignity to have a crappy society does not cut it...
Comment: #3
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Sep 8, 2012 2:59 PM
On the PBS NewsHour you recently said a little humour would be a good start for the President. Please pass along something like this for use where it will have traction: it seems everybody is trying to outdo the other as to how poor they were. I don't normally go there but as you probably know, I'm a competitive guy and don't like to be outdone. You probably heard that when Mitt was going to university the Romney's were so poor that they didn't have enough stocks to cash in to buy an eating table so they ate on their ironing board. They were better off than Michele and Iwe couldn't afford an ironing board and had to eat on the floor and since we couldn't afford a bed, that's where we slept too. Times were hard and so was the floor
Comment: #4
Posted by: Jack Tennier
Sun Sep 9, 2012 7:35 AM
Clinton is a genius. He understands the issues, he does his homework, and he has the gift of communication. Obama will probably study him all his life and never get there.

I wish he could be our president now, as does an amazing proportion of the voters. Nobody is more capable of pulling us out of this morass.

He is the most significant political figure we have had since Roosevelt.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Masako
Mon Sep 10, 2012 7:00 PM
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