Mark Shields from Creators Syndicate Creators Syndicate is an international syndication company that represents cartoonists and columnists of the highest caliber. en Fri, 10 Jul 2020 21:40:24 -0700 Mark Shields from Creators Syndicate 2e0231109982c4a7b034cbeec2d481d2 The Buck Doesn't Stop Here for 07/11/2020 Sat, 11 Jul 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p>Dan Buck is a philosopher friend of mine with a rare gift for explaining the political world. Back when Ronald Reagan was an enormously popular president (carrying 93 out of a possible 100 states in two national campaigns), I marveled at how voters were so unfailingly tolerant, even forgiving, when the Gipper said things that were factually inaccurate.</p> <p>For example, in Steubenville, Ohio, on a campaign stop, Candidate Reagan announced, wrongly, "Trees cause more pollution than automobiles." As luck would have it, Reagan's schedule took him next to Southern California, which was suffering an unhealthy air pollution inversion. <span class="column--highlighted-text">At Clermont College, where Reagan was to speak, some wiseacre graduate student had hung a sign on a tree: "Cut me down before I kill again." To his credit, nobody laughed harder than Ronald Reagan, who went on to win in a landslide.</span></p> <p>Buck explained to me that Reagan's special "Teflon" gift prevented gaffes or worse from sticking to the Gipper: "You have to understand that if Ronald Reagan drove a convertible with the top down through a car wash, Jimmy Carter (whose political coating was, unfairly, "Velcro") would get wet."<p>Updated: Sat Jul 11, 2020</p> 9e296b4ecf0f0673f23fb28b2357d757 Polls Apart for 06/27/2020 Sat, 27 Jun 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p>New York Times/Siena College has Democrat Joe Biden at 50% and Republican President Donald Trump at 36%; CNN has Biden at 54% and Trump 36%; Fox News has Biden at 50% and Trump at 38%. These recent national polls have left Democrats almost giddy with anticipation. But before Democrats put the champagne on ice, they would be wise to remember the prophetic words of an authentically wise Texan. Former Gov. Ann Richards said, on July 3, 1988, on CBS's "Face the Nation": "July does not a November election make."</p> <p>After the Democrats' successful convention in Atlanta in 1988 (when keynote speaker Richards explained Republican nominee George H.W. Bush's verbal bloopers with, "Poor George, he can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth"), the respected Gallup poll reported the Democratic ticket of Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis and Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen trouncing the GOP team of Bush and Indiana Sen. Dan Quayle 55% to 38%. On Nov. 8, Bush carried 40 of the nation's 50 states, won 53% of the popular vote and became the first sitting vice president since Martin Van Buren in 1836 to be elected president.</p> <p>It is true, as Trump-backers point out, that preelection polls in 2016 predicted with 90% confidence that Hillary Clinton would defeat Trump and win the White House. Just to review that year's final preelection numbers and results of the three of the best-known polls: The Wall Street Journal-NBC News survey found Clinton with 48% of the vote; ABC News-Washington Post predicted 47% for Clinton; CBS News gave Clinton 47% of the popular vote. Hillary Clinton did, in fact, win 48.2% of the popular vote to Donald Trump's 46.1%. But as we all learned, presidential elections are about carrying states and their electoral votes, not just about winning people's votes.<p>Updated: Sat Jun 27, 2020</p> d40409d0a8ac814defa381fb5f00bc71 A Campaign Year of Less Wisdom and Less Wit for 06/13/2020 Sat, 13 Jun 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p>In the nine presidential elections between the 1952 victory of Dwight D. Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush's 1988 win, just two Republicans won the White House: Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. One man was indispensable to the winning campaigns of these two very different Republicans. His name was John P. Sears, and as a young 25 year-old lawyer, he would begin spending the three years leading up to the '68 victory traveling with Nixon as political lieutenant, chief delegate hunter and unofficial press contact. He was later the manager of Reagan's 1976 campaign, which almost captured the GOP nomination from President Gerald R. Ford and, until his forced resignation, he was the manager of Reagan's 1980 campaign.</p> <p><span class="column--highlighted-text">Sears' death earlier this year means, selfishly, that those of us lucky enough to report on politics will no longer have the benefit of this singularly wise and witty American political thinker and doer.</span></p> <p>You deserve evidence to prove that high praise. Well, still early in this 2020 campaign, let us remember what I called "the Sears rule," which would require that, on the eight Friday evenings between Labor Day and Election Day, the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees each be given a half-hour of free, prime-time TV, which could only be used by the presidential nominee. Sears' reasoning was straightforward: If a presidential nominee could not be interesting, truthful, coherent and factual for one half-hour a week, then, by all means, let the voters find that out long before election day.<p>Updated: Sat Jun 13, 2020</p> 3fe43d624e582dc479ebd7001cc7a9d4 Are Democrats Smart Enough to Take Yes for an Answer? for 06/06/2020 Sat, 06 Jun 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p>Here's the fail-safe test for whether a political party is growing and strengthening or shrinking in size and prospects: Is that party spending its time, energy and effort seeking, recruiting and welcoming converts to its ranks, or is that party instead hunting down heretics within its ranks and, in the name of political purity, banishing them to some outer darkness?</p> <p>Because American politics is always a matter of addition, not subtraction, the convert-seeking and convert-welcoming party is healthier and almost always has the better prospects of winning the November general election. Republicans understood that well in 1980 when the GOP presidential nominee openly courted and embraced converts, even giving them very own designation as Reagan Democrats. At the 2004 Democratic National Convention, the future Democratic nominee told the nation: "There is not a liberal America and a conservative America. There is the United States of America." Thus did Barack Obama become the first Democrat in 12 presidential elections to win 53% of the national Vote.</p> <p>When former Defense Secretary and Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis overcame his strong personal conviction about keeping the U.S. military out of American politics and vice-versa and stated: "Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people &#8212; does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort," he captured the nation's attention. Mattis added: "We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership ... Never did I dream that troops ... would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens" in the service of a "bizarre photo op" of the running-for-reelection president awkwardly holding a Bible in from of Washington's St. John's church.<p>Updated: Sat Jun 06, 2020</p> d7df706444493536934e60735065fcb1 What Leadership Means for 05/30/2020 Sat, 30 May 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>History can be cruel. The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., who was unquestionably America's most prominent prophet and practitioner of nonviolence, was followed by riots, arson and looting in 168 American cities and towns. The numbers are staggering: 2,600 fires were set; 21,700 people were injured; 2,600 were arrested; 39 were killed. One city that was spared all that in the days following King's murder was Indianapolis.</p> <p>Credit for that must be given to the citizens of Indiana's capital city and to its leaders, both black and white, and also to a remarkable American political leader, who, on that April night in 1968, delivered the news of King's death to an Indianapolis rally of mostly African Americans.<p>Updated: Sat May 30, 2020</p> aa802c0884052b9aab6220820457975a Choosing the Wrong Opponent for 05/23/2020 Sat, 23 May 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p>It is a common, if not especially honorable, practice in American politics for a candidate and her campaign to prefer to run not against their actual opponent on the ballot but rather against the most unpopular caricature of the opponent's party. That explains why Democrats, for close to three decades after the election of 1932, when Franklin Roosevelt crushed Republican Herbert Hoover by 18% in the popular vote and carried 42 of the then 48 states, continued to run against "Herbert Hoover Republicans." Ignored was Hoover's humanitarian record during World War I, when through his leadership, 7 million Belgians were rescued from certain starvation.</p> <p>Republicans' preferred opponents were often painted as "George McGovern Democrats," after the South Dakota Democrat who, as an all-out critic of the U.S. war in Vietnam, lost 49 of the nation's 50 states to Richard Nixon in 1972. Overlooked by many of the attacking Republicans &#8212; a number of whom, as young men during Vietnam, were "chicken-hawks," who hypocritically endorsed a policy of U.S. military escalation while avoiding (through graduate school deferments or previously undiscovered bone spurs) personal participation &#8212; was McGovern's heroic war record as the 22-year-old pilot of the Air Corps' hardest-to-fly plane, the B-24, through 35 combat missions and earning of the Distinguished Flying Cross. But, as we all know, politics ain't beanbag.</p> <p><span class="column--highlighted-text">But President Donald Trump has chosen a different Democrat, beyond former Vice President Joe Biden, to run against in 2020.</span> Apparently, Trump is unaware that in the last 148 years, exactly three U.S. presidents have been able to win more than 51% of the popular vote in consecutive national elections. They were Democrat Franklin Roosevelt (who actually exceeded that total in four presidential wins) and Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, the widely popular supreme allied commander of the U.S. Allied Forces that vanquished Adolf Hitler's Germany. And who was the third political powerhouse in this formidable trio? The 44th U.S. president, Barack Obama of Illinois.<p>Updated: Sat May 23, 2020</p> 7dbdf204222c2b77b561d53b41d5af35 Many Republicans DO Have a Sense of Humor for 05/09/2020 Sat, 09 May 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>An American politician can help herself politically by being able to believably use self-deprecating humor, which sends a clear message: "I am not pompously self-important or thin-skinned; I do not take myself completely seriously."</p> <p>No one was better at self-deprecation than former President Ronald Reagan, whose robust sense of self-confidence enabled him to confound his political opponents by laughing at himself.<p>Updated: Sat May 09, 2020</p> 3009eb40987c3d4c202025c5794b65a3 Preview of Coming Distractions for 05/02/2020 Sat, 02 May 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>As you probably already knew, the next six months of 2020 presidential campaigning are going to be ugly. I do not say this happily, but I do so based upon a lifetime of watching candidates run for election and reelection. Almost invariably, politicians return to what worked successfully in previous campaigns.</p> <p>Consider the most recent presidential election of 2016. When exit polls across the nation asked actual voters whether their opinion of the two candidates was favorable or unfavorable, their answers were Donald Trump 38% favorable and 60% unfavorable, and Hillary Clinton 43% favorable and 55% unfavorable.<p>Updated: Sat May 02, 2020</p> 666c9b5e8965e83070498aa82d5291a7 Frank Advice From a Close Friend for 04/25/2020 Sat, 25 Apr 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p>There was, I can testify, a lot more drinking in Washington, D.C., before May 15, 1978. That was the date, through the grace of God, that I had my last drink of beer or booze or wine.</p> <p>Previously, I had given up drinking at different times, for Lent or to lose weight (a waist is a terrible thing to mind), always to return for another round. But what changed my ways &#8212; beyond a miserable hangover while playing hours of duck, duck, goose with a dozen happy kids at my daughter Amy's sixth birthday party &#8212; was the eloquent example of my very close friend and favorite ex-drinking partner. John R. never sermonized. He never condescended. John R. gently but convincingly told me that my drinking was keeping me from being a better husband, father, friend and employee.</p> <p>All of which brings us to the case of Piers Morgan, the British columnist and TV host who has been friends with President Donald Trump since at least 2008, when Morgan won the season finale of NBC's Trump-hosted "Celebrity Apprentice." On Twitter &#8212; which is the president's preferred means of communicating his feelings and insights to the world &#8212; Trump follows just 47 other individuals, one of whom is Morgan.<p>Updated: Sat Apr 25, 2020</p> 64a2a361b27a5e522f6289c7e02a2952 Words for the Class of 2020 for 04/18/2020 Sat, 18 Apr 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p>There will be no graduation festivities this spring at dozens of American colleges and universities, including Ohio State, Brigham Young, Howard, Swarthmore, Notre Dame, Duke, UCLA and Yale. That means this year's graduates and their closest relatives and friends will not have the benefit of sitting on hard chairs and listening to the commencement speaker.</p> <p>As someone who has, on 15 different occasions, tested the patience as well as the attention span of graduation audiences, I semimodestly offer the proud but uncelebrated grads of 2020 the generic commencement speech they will not have to sit through.</p> <p>The speaker should always remember the wise counsel of President Franklin Roosevelt, a man who knew how to give a successful speech: "Be sincere; be brief; be seated." My own favorite opener, to assure those present that they would not be subject to a filibuster was this: "As King Henry VIII said to each of his six wives, 'Don't worry; I won't keep you long.'" Believe me, in the long history of oratory, no listener has ever said to any speaker, "Boy, that was a really good speech, but it was too short."<p>Updated: Sat Apr 18, 2020</p> 9e013df03788b4e622aab720f1271734 This President Knows Television! for 04/11/2020 Sat, 11 Apr 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Somebody close to President Donald Trump could, in a burst of candor, tell him that he does not know everything to be known about the history of the filibuster in the United States Senate &#8212; or even the origin of the infield fly rule in Major League Baseball.</p> <p>But nobody, absolutely nobody, should ever dare to suggest that this president has not completely mastered everything there is to know about American popular television. Lest we forget, only one American president, before he came to office, was the host/star/dominant personality for 14 years of a network prime-time TV show, which, in its debut season, actually averaged 20 million viewers a show. That was Donald Trump's "The Apprentice."<p>Updated: Sat Apr 11, 2020</p> a94f47efea3dfe1d04b2624a9c4b015f Americans Rally to Their Presidents in Times of Crisis for 04/04/2020 Sat, 04 Apr 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p>Democrats are beside themselves; after President Donald Trump's consistently inconsistent and uneven public pronouncements on the seriousness of the coronavirus, moving in one 24-hour period from "something we have tremendous control over" to our "toughest enemy: the invisible enemy" and limiting all crowds to fewer than 10, his poll numbers have gone up. <span class="column--highlighted-text">How, they ask, could this be the case when the president's leadership of this "war" has been start-stop, don't-worry-be-happy?</span></p> <p>The answer is found in history. At times of crisis &#8212; even crises in which the sitting president has seemingly made things worse rather than better &#8212; the natural American reaction is to rally to the flag, to support the commander in chief. Take the failed invasion of Cuba in 1961 ordered by President John F. Kennedy. It was a total failure. The Cuban expatriates leading the attack were captured as soon as they landed. Yet Kennedy's job approval rating in the aftermath, after he took responsibility for the failure, saying, "Victory has 100 fathers, and defeat is an orphan ... I'm the responsible officer of the government," soared to 83% positive.</p> <p>When President Jimmy Carter was in office, the shah of Iran was admitted to the U.S. for medical treatment, and Iranian revolutionaries took Americans at the U.S. embassy in Tehran hostage and kept them there until Carter left office fifteen months later. And what happened in the polls? Jimmy Carter's job rating had been 31% positive and climbed in little over one month to 61% approval. Rallying to the flag is an established national impulse.<p>Updated: Sat Apr 04, 2020</p> 0c3ca17432f8ead50bce908d6f7b575b Not Wasting a Serious Crisis for 03/21/2020 Sat, 21 Mar 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p>My sainted mother was a public school teacher until she married my father and immediately, as a married woman, was forced by local Massachusetts rules then in force to leave the classroom. (My own grade school teachers included Miss Galvin, Miss Harrington, Miss Donahue, Miss Keohane, Miss Condrick, Miss Loud ... you get the picture.)</p> <p>One happy adult memory is a lunch with my then-90-year-old mother in the leading Italian restaurant in our hometown of Weymouth, Massachusetts. The world-weary expression on our waitress's face, herself already a grandmother, brightened immediately when she recognized my mother from more than 60 years earlier: "Miss Fallon," she announced, "You were the best teacher I ever had. Remember me from the Jefferson School ... Marie?" My mother did in fact remember and later unsentimentally recalled Marie's losing encounters with the eights table in multiplication.</p> <p>In addition to my mother, my only sister was a public school teacher. My only daughter was a teacher. After leaving the Marine Corps, I, too, taught high school history. I agree with former Democratic Texas Gov. Ann Richards who, before seeking and winning public office, had been a junior high school teacher. She said, "Teaching was the hardest work I had ever done, and it remains the hardest work I've done." Republican presidential candidate and former Sen. John McCain echoed the same sentiment when he argued that a good teacher should not be paid less than a bad congressman.<p>Updated: Sat Mar 21, 2020</p> 5bae34ed66d75014f243501e88a21a14 Recognizing the Voice of Leadership for 03/07/2020 Sat, 07 Mar 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p>We're traveling in a crowded subway car somewhere under Manhattan when, without warning, the car comes to an abrupt halt in a tunnel in between stations. The subway car is plunged into darkness, and our own growing anxiety, along with that of our fellow passengers, is almost palpable. After a while, a measured, authoritative voice comes over the public address system and calmly tells all us stranded, semiscared passengers a) what has happened; b) what is now being done to fix the problem; c) that we will be safe and on our way within a finite amount of time; and d) what we can do in the meantime to help the rescue process along. That is what the voice of leadership sounds like. </p> <p>That was what Americans heard on Jan. 28, 1986, when their president, Ronald Reagan, spoke the seven names &#8212; Michael Smith, Gregory Jarvis, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka and Christa McAuliffe &#8212; of the astronauts who had perished in the space shuttle Challenger explosion: "We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them this morning as they prepared for the journey and waved good-bye and 'slipped the surly bonds of Earth' to 'touch the face of God.'"</p> <p>The president alone can speak to all of us and for all of us. After the failed U.S.-supported invasion of Cuba he had authorized, the president of the United States took sole responsibility for the failure ("I'm the responsible officer"), adding "victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan."<p>Updated: Sat Mar 07, 2020</p> 72ba0bbe5416a3e7229a84ad8e5898c1 Do Democrats Not Understand the 2020 Voters? for 02/29/2020 Sat, 29 Feb 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Historically, we Americans have been among the world's most optimistic people. Why? One reason could be that every American, with the exception of those whose ancestors were already here when Columbus arrived or those whose ancestors were brought here in chains, is either herself an immigrant or the direct lineal descendant of immigrants. To be an immigrant &#8212; to leave family, friends and familiar places; to dare to strike out across the sea or the continent to a foreign place; to live among people you have never seen; to speak a language you have never heard &#8212; is an act requiring enormous human courage. But being an immigrant is also a testament to optimism that here, in this blessed country, we are free to improve our lives and the lives of those who follow us. </p> <p>That special American optimism has influenced our political choices of national leaders. Even after a president sorely disappoints us, we somehow remain confident that we will find in the next leader the qualities missing in the flawed predecessor. Think about it: Richard Nixon, after serving in the U.S. House, the Senate and two terms as Dwight Eisenhower's vice president, may have been our most experienced and credentialed president. After the criminality and corruption of Watergate and Nixon's resignation in disgrace, in the next election came former one-term Georgia governor Jimmy Carter, lacking in Washington experience and promising never to lie to the American people.<p>Updated: Sat Feb 29, 2020</p> ecee7420cc7797add5c8c9c32c89f0dd Improving Debates for 02/22/2020 Sat, 22 Feb 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p>First, a confession: I really like presidential debates. Why, you ask? Because these debates give us voters the chance to watch and evaluate the candidates while they stand shoulder-to-shoulder and have to answer the same questions. Away from their carefully orchestrated campaign events, without their teleprompters or an audience of planted, friendly supporters, candidates in a debate are under pressure and facing criticism from both opponents and moderators. Presidential debates have been aptly described as job interviews where we, the voters, are able to assess the character, intelligence and personality of fellow Americans who seek to lead the nation.</p> <p>The presidential debate is far from perfect. The late &#8212; and, yes, great &#8212; Jim Lehrer, who I have been lucky to have as a colleague and a friend for over three decades and who died this January &#8212; set the world's record by being chosen to moderate 12 presidential debates. Characteristically, Jim Lehrer understood that these debates were not about the moderator or the panelists but about the presidential candidates. Our debates would be better and more helpful if the candidates, as Jim Lehrer urged, asked one another questions.</p> <p>Nobody is ever going to ask me to ask questions in a presidential debate. But that doesn't stop me from having questions I would like to have asked. Here are a few:<p>Updated: Sat Feb 22, 2020</p> f8972d690ed9f896c0d849c5519dcef5 Will We Like Mike? for 02/15/2020 Sat, 15 Feb 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p>In the seven presidential elections since 1992, the Republican presidential nominee has won the popular vote exactly once. The lone GOP candidate to receive a majority of the national vote was George W. Bush in 2004. Bush's election-day victory over Democrat John Kerry, who had, in most observers' views, "won" the debates between the two, was explained by the respected Democratic pollster Peter Hart: "Voters preferred I Like over IQ."</p> <p><span class="column--highlighted-text">One test of deciding between presidential nominees is, "Who would you rather have a beer with?" which is another way of asking which White House challenger the voter personally likes more than the other.</span> In short, our ballot for president is the most "personal" vote we Americans cast. Almost always, we pick the candidate with whom we are more comfortable and, more significantly, the candidate whose judgment and character we think we could depend upon in a personal crisis.</p> <p>As evidence of the weight of the "I like" factor in presidential voting, let's look at recent contests: In 2012, Barack Obama, the winner, was rated 52% personally favorable by voters, while Mitt Romney's scores were 47% favorable and 50% unfavorable. In 2008, Americans had a rare positive choice. In the last Gallup poll before election day, John McCain was given a favorable rating by 57% of Americans and was barely eclipsed by Barack Obama's 61% favorable score. In 2004, winner George W. Bush was 53% favorable among voters on election day, while John Kerry's numbers were at 47%-51%. In 1992 and 1996, voters liked Democrat Bill Clinton more than they liked both then-President George H. W. Bush and Sen. Bob Dole. Of course, the outlier election was 2016, when both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump received historically low favorability scores. About 1 in 5 voters rated both candidates unfavorably but, when forced to choose between the two, voted for Trump with 3-2 odds. <p>Updated: Sat Feb 15, 2020</p> 1836e77d6a4a5246c53d972e338849b9 Winning Means Coming in First for 02/08/2020 Sat, 08 Feb 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p><span style="background-color: initial;">In my more than half a century of hanging around the clubhouses and campaign halls of American politics, I have never once met a candidate with the first name or family name "Expected." Yet the enduring one-size-fits-all excuse/explanation for every presidential candidate who finishes in the back of the pack when the most recent primary results are posted remains identical: "We did better than expected!"</span><br></p> <p><span class="column--highlighted-text">While it's still early in the 2020 presidential marathon, let's agree on one simple standard for all the contests to come: Winning is coming in first.</span> It may be old-fashioned, and even simplistic, but the truth is that in every primary or caucus, someone wins, and all the other someones lose. The someone who wins is the individual who receives more votes than any of her or his competitors.<p>Updated: Sat Feb 08, 2020</p> b1e4adb3ba06b9ce5c731c399935612c In Defense of Iowa for 01/18/2020 Sat, 18 Jan 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>We have reached that time in every presidential nominating year when distinguished, national opinion leaders beat up on Iowa and that admirable state's influential role in determining the two major parties' eventual presidential nominees and, therefore, the next president. The USA Today editorial board indicts Iowa for being "one of the least ethnically diverse states in the country" and its status as the first-in-the-nation presidential test every four years as " un-American," while Paul Waldman writes in The Washington Post that the Iowa caucuses "are a crime against democracy."</p> <p>It is time someone stood up for Iowa and Iowans. It's true that Iowa is neither very representative of the entire nation nor very average. Scholarly studies have ranked Iowa as tied for first place in percentage of the adult population who are high school graduates. Iowans are fourth highest in access to health care (more "representative" Florida and Texas rank 46th and 47th respectively in citizens' access to health care); first in broadband access; and third highest in public libraries per capita. True, the Hawkeye State leads the nation in production of corn, soybeans and pork, but Iowans are at the top of the nation in literacy, and the state has the U.S.'s 14th lowest murder rate.<p>Updated: Sat Jan 18, 2020</p> 4c7fa69fcd7e19bb58fa3030586d5958 'Nations with Allies Thrive' for 01/11/2020 Sat, 11 Jan 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p>Retired Marine Corps Gen. Jim Mattis, the former secretary of defense and an exceptionally well-read warrior, has said, "Throughout history, we see nations with allies thrive, and nations without allies wither."</p> <p>Mattis' words brought to mind those 13 fateful days in October 1962 when, after the United States discovered that the Soviet Union was placing nuclear-armed intermediate-range ballistic missiles capable of hitting Washington, D.C., in Fidel Castro's Cuba, the two superpowers stood on the brink of nuclear war.</p> <p>Then-President John F. Kennedy, whose ill-conceived Bay of Pigs invasion a year earlier had undoubtedly emboldened both the Soviets and Castro, insisted on first briefing U.S. allies on the situation. He personally called British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and made sure that West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer was completely briefed. To inform the president of France, the often-prickly Charles de Gaulle, President Kennedy sent former Secretary of State Dean Acheson, who carried with him the speech on the crisis JFK would later give to the American people.<p>Updated: Mon Jan 13, 2020</p>