Mark Shields from Creators Syndicate https://www.creators.com/read/mark-shields Creators Syndicate is an international syndication company that represents cartoonists and columnists of the highest caliber. en Wed, 03 Mar 2021 22:18:21 -0800 https://www.creators.com/ http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss Mark Shields from Creators Syndicate https://cdn.creators.com/features/mark-shields-thumb.jpg https://www.creators.com/read/mark-shields d0da7b0b35482913c3efa8d2a0abc8bd 2020 Voters Knew What They Wanted for 02/27/2021 https://www.creators.com/read/mark-shields/02/21/2020-voters-knew-what-they-wanted Sat, 27 Feb 2021 00:00:00 -0800 <p>There has always been something faintly Old Testament about the way we Americans pick our presidents. Remember the first election of the 21st century when, by a 2-to-1 margin in national polls, voters found the country to be "headed in the right direction" and the then-term-limited President Bill Clinton was given a favorable job rating by 65% of his fellow citizens. Yet the electorate was not happy; voters were both disappointed and disillusioned by the young president's adulterous sexual relationship in the very home of the presidents with a college-age White House intern &#8212; and the lies that followed. The Republican nominee to succeed Clinton, George W. Bush, had a solemn pledge to restore "dignity to the Oval Office," which had immediate appeal to voters. It can be said that Bill Clinton "begot" George W. Bush.</p> <p>That's the way it works in presidential politics. Voters go looking for in the new candidates what had been missing in the incumbent who, in performance, judgment or leadership, just disappointed us. Recall the back-to-back presidencies of Democrat Lyndon Johnson and Republican Richard Nixon; both men had served in the U.S. House, the Senate and as vice president. It's hard to imagine two chief executives more qualified by experience. And what was the end result? LBJ sent half a million Americans into a deadly, unwinnable war in Vietnam, and Richard Nixon, driven by paranoia, orchestrated from the Oval Office a criminal break-in of Democratic Party headquarters and then compounded that offence with a criminal cover-up involving payoffs and perjury.</p> <p>Because Johnson and, to a far greater degree, Nixon had given experience a bad name, Jimmy Carter, an-out-of-office, former one-term governor of Georgia, could offer himself credibly to the 1980 electorate as the pristine outsider, unsullied and unstained by a long (or any) career in Washington. Nixon begot Carter, and Carter, an honest man who once in office seemed, unfortunately, to change his mind often, made possible, if not inevitable, the election of the ideological leader of the nation's then-decidedly minority party, Ronald Reagan, who hadn't changed his mind since at least 1964.<p>Updated: Sat Feb 27, 2021</p> dfa2015ccbf6ba760dd51808652545d3 Before They Vote for You, They First Have to Like You for 02/20/2021 https://www.creators.com/read/mark-shields/02/21/before-they-vote-for-you-they-first-have-to-like-you Sat, 20 Feb 2021 00:00:00 -0800 <p>Bill Cohen, the former Republican three-term U.S. senator and U.S. representative from Maine, never lost an election. He was elected to the Bangor City Council before being elected that city's mayor and then winning the first of three terms in the U.S. House. When he was nominated by a new Democratic president, Bill Clinton, to be secretary of Defense, Cohen was confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate. He explained a key to his success: "I don't care how great your ideas are or how well you can articulate them. People must like you before they will vote for you."</p> <p>Is likeability overrated in voters' candidate choices? Just remember that over the last eight presidential elections, the Republican nominee has won a majority of the popular vote exactly once, and the GOP standard-bearer has gotten more votes than his Democratic opponent exactly once. That was President George W. Bush running for reelection in 2004 against Sen. John Kerry. And the consensus explanation for Bush's popular achievement was that he won the "which of these candidates would you rather have a beer with" test.</p> <p>Having made himself, during his first two years in the Senate, by his self-centered arrogance and relentless self-promotion, that chamber's most unpopular member among both Republicans and Democrats, Texas Sen. <span class="column--highlighted-text">Ted Cruz tried to sell his near-universal unlikability as a virtue: "If you want someone to grab a beer with, I may not be that guy," he offered during a GOP presidential debate, "but if you want someone who will drive you home, I will get the job done, and I will drive you home." </span><p>Updated: Sat Feb 20, 2021</p> a78500990e02af79b6bd43a4fcae7cce Does Sen. Ted Cruz Really Look Like Texas? for 02/13/2021 https://www.creators.com/read/mark-shields/02/21/does-sen-ted-cruz-really-look-like-texas Sat, 13 Feb 2021 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>While glued to the coverage, both riveting and chilling, of the Senate trial of former President Donald J. Trump, and watching the House prosecutors and the Senate jurors, I kept wondering how much &#8212; or how little &#8212; our elected representatives look like the people and the places they are elected to represent.</p> <p>For example, Sen. Jon Tester, with his trademark flat-top haircut and as a career farmer raising wheat, barley, alfalfa and hay, looks exactly like the state of Montana that has elected him to three six-year terms. <p>Updated: Sat Feb 13, 2021</p> 13ae85b2164c3419098063663ae27202 Political Hypocrisy on Deficits and the National Debt for 02/06/2021 https://www.creators.com/read/mark-shields/02/21/political-hypocrisy-on-deficits-and-the-national-debt Sat, 06 Feb 2021 00:00:00 -0800 <p>On April 1, 2018, when Thad Cochran retired after 40 years as a U.S. senator from Mississippi, he made history; Cochran was the last Republican in Congress to have ever voted to increase federal taxes. He had done so on Dec. 19, 1990, when Republican President George H.W. Bush, deeply concerned about the rising federal budget deficit, persuaded Cochran and 18 other Republican senators to join 35 Democratic colleagues (this was a different era, remember) and to vote to cut federal spending and to raise Americans' taxes. Since that date, no Republican in the House or the Senate has voted to raise taxes.</p> <p>Think about it: The U.S. budget deficit that so upset President George H.W. Bush that he broke his 1988 campaign pledge of "no new taxes" had risen to $221 billion (with a "b"). Compare that to the record of the most recent one-term Republican president who had, in March 2016, told Robert Costa and Bob Woodward of The Washington Post that, as president, he could pay down the national debt &#8212;then about $19 trillion &#8212; in eight years by stimulating economic growth and renegotiating trade deals, but during his four years in the White House presiding over the nation's national debt, it exploded by close to 40%, to $27.8 trillion (with a "t").</p> <p>From winning independence from England through establishing a continental nation and fighting 11 major wars &#8212; including two world wars &#8212; and a Great Depression, the United States, by the time the presidency of fiscally prudent Jimmy Carter ended, had accumulated a national debt of just under $1 trillion. Carter was defeated soundly by Republican Ronald Reagan, who ran on a platform of doubling the defense budget, cutting taxes by one-third and balancing the federal budget.<p>Updated: Sat Feb 06, 2021</p> 5d6a047b6d3b8a23c416c6fd66e5c83c Understanding the American Voters for 01/30/2021 https://www.creators.com/read/mark-shields/01/21/understanding-the-american-voters Sat, 30 Jan 2021 00:00:00 -0800 <p>Regular readers of this space may recall that I believe Americans are the most optimistic of voters. Think about it: With the exception of those who were already here when Christopher Columbus arrived and those who were brought here against their will in chains, every American is either an immigrant or the direct lineal descendant of immigrants. Much has been written, even rhapsodized, of the courage required to immigrate: to leave behind family and friends, to strike out across the sea or the continent, to live among people you have never known and to learn a language you have never heard.</p> <p><span class="column--highlighted-text">But to be an immigrant is also a profound statement of optimism: Here we are, free to make our lives and the lives of those whom we love fairer, fuller and better. That same optimism has shaped Americans' presidential vote. When a president disappoints us, we almost immediately go looking for the next presidential candidate with the qualities that were missing in his predecessor who just let us down.</span></p> <p>For example, Richard Nixon was arguably the most experienced White House nominee ever elected. His credentials included service in the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate, followed by eight years as Dwight Eisenhower's vice president. But the criminality of Watergate and Nixon's resignation in disgrace gave experience a bad name. In the next election, Jimmy Carter, a former one-term Georgia governor, could make the case to American voters that his lack of Washington experience was a plus and, somehow, evidence of his personal integrity.<p>Updated: Sat Jan 30, 2021</p> 77dd7500d0ec978ef7b9f1cd2948c968 Candor: A Politician's Secret, Unused Weapon for 01/02/2021 https://www.creators.com/read/mark-shields/01/21/candor-a-politicians-secret-unused-weapon Sat, 02 Jan 2021 00:00:00 -0800 <p>Let me be blunt, please: Most of us ink-stained wretches in the political press corps are complete suckers for candor from politicians when speaking about themselves. Candor can truly be disarming.</p> <p>Early in the first Reagan term, on Aug. 19, 1981, in a major incident, two Libyan fighter jets attacked two U.S. Navy F-14 fighter jets over the Gulf of Sidra in the Mediterranean Sea. Understanding orders to fire if fired upon, the Navy pilots &#8212; in a dogfight lasting just one minute &#8212; shot both Libyan jets down. His White House staff chose not to wake President Ronald Reagan, who was sleeping in California and was not informed until some six hours later, when he awakened.</p> <p>This report led to renewed questions about the president's age and possible disengagement from his own administration and his duties as commander in chief. Reagan, who, frankly, did occasionally nod off at less than scintillating briefings, silenced most critics with this rejoinder: "I have left orders to be awakened at any time during national emergency ... even if I'm in a Cabinet meeting."<p>Updated: Sat Jan 02, 2021</p> 0abc584b035e1d1088c760d0790c3cf9 Odds and Ends as 2021 (Thankfully) Arrives for 12/26/2020 https://www.creators.com/read/mark-shields/12/20/odds-and-ends-as-2021-thankfully-arrives Sat, 26 Dec 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p>My friend Mark Russell, the wonderful American humorist, had an ironclad prediction:</p> <p>The results of the 2020 Census will show that more than 215,000 Americans, in the coming year, will reach the age of 100, and Russell adds, "All of them will have valid Florida driver's licenses."</p> <p>The unreelected 45th president is (sadly) that rare human being with neither an embarrassment gene nor a sense of humor. A sense of humor usually indicates perspective in its possessor. Our two most previous presidents, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican George W. Bush, both of whom were reelected, were not afraid to laugh publicly at their own perceived problems or shortcomings.<p>Updated: Sat Dec 26, 2020</p> a7b2d1ab8d7507b5e32b28ba5b14049c Rebutting the Myth of White Superiority for 12/12/2020 https://www.creators.com/read/mark-shields/12/20/rebutting-the-myth-of-white-superiority Sat, 12 Dec 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p>By way of introduction: Tommy Tuberville is the new Republican U.S. senator from Alabama.</p> <p>He was previously a successful college football coach at the University of Mississippi, Texas Tech, Cincinnati and Auburn &#8212; where his team six times defeated their powerful in-state rival, the University of Alabama. Tuberville &#8212; with the strong endorsement of President Donald J. Trump and after a campaign in which, after first announcing he would meet his rivals in public debates, he refused to debate either his primary or general election opponents and did not hold open press conferences or announce his scheduled campaign appearances to press or to the public &#8212; still won 60% of the vote in November to defeat the Democratic incumbent Doug Jones.</p> <p>After the election, Sen.-elect Tuberville unintentionally revealed the reasons for his reluctance to publicly answer questions from voters, his opponents or the Alabama press. Asked for his reaction to the presidential election, Tuberville admitted to a concern that Joe Biden, who was branded too centrist by his Democratic primary opponents, harbored a philosophy that "leads more to a socialist type of government." He continued: "That's concerning to me, that we're to the point now where we've got almost half the country voting for something that this country wasn't built on. ... I tell people my dad fought 76 years ago in Europe to free Europe of socialism." The U.S. fought World War II, let the record be clear, against fascism &#8212; not socialism.<p>Updated: Sat Dec 12, 2020</p> ff04bd4e46e7eff31776d0d5664e33b3 Who Will Be President Biden's Stu Spencer? for 12/05/2020 https://www.creators.com/read/mark-shields/12/20/who-will-be-president-bidens-stu-spencer Sat, 05 Dec 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p>The first reviews are in on President-elect Joe Biden's choices for Cabinet and White House positions. And they are overwhelmingly positive: "seasoned," "experienced," "qualified professionals," "capable and sensible." </p> <p>But I wonder if Biden ever had a chat with the late Bryce Harlow, who first worked for Gen. George C. Marshall in dealing with Congress during the World War II years, when Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman were president. Chief executives Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford each sought Harlow's advice and were both wise and well served when they listened to it.</p> <p>Harlow once explained to me the most neglected personnel need for every American president: making sure she or he is open to "candid criticism and blunt counsel. The problem is the office itself. I cannot count how many powerful committee chairmen or captains of industry or college presidents told me, 'If I could only have five minutes alone with the president, I could show him the error of his ways and straighten out what he's doing wrong.' Then, when the chairman or the CEO is ushered into the Oval Office, without exception, the fiercest critic turns into an uncritical cheerleader mumbling, 'Our prayers are with you, Mr. President, you're doing a great job.'"<p>Updated: Sat Dec 05, 2020</p> 109d23c730f60babf2692d43ec16dad6 Afghanistan and Iraq: When Will We Ever Learn? for 11/21/2020 https://www.creators.com/read/mark-shields/11/20/afghanistan-and-iraq-when-will-we-ever-learn Sat, 21 Nov 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p>Missing in any debate about whether it is wise for the United States to reduce our troop numbers in both Afghanistan and Iraq, as the Trump administration has ordered, down to 2,500 Americans in each country (a number, let it be noted, that is too few to fight and too many to die), is the question members of Congress and policymakers invariably choose to duck: How did we get into the longest war in U.S. history in Afghanistan and the second-longest in Iraq?</p> <p>Of course, we know, it was in response to Sept. 11, 2001, when al-Qaida operatives hijacked four commercial U.S. airliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, resulting in the deaths of nearly 3,000. None of the 19 hijackers was an Afghani &#8212; their leader was Egyptian and 15 were from Saudi Arabia &#8212; but Afghanistan had been the attackers' base. Congress overwhelmingly voted to give President George W. Bush, through the authorization of the use of military force, the green light to use force against those responsible for the attacks of 9/11.</p> <p>By August of 2002, at a national convention of the Veterans of Foreign War, Bush's vice president, Dick Cheney, after stating his conviction that Saddam Hussein "will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon," made the case for war: "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us." Hussein did not have then, and never would have, any "weapons of mass destruction," nor was he ever anywhere remotely close to obtaining nuclear weapons. But the U.S., just seven months later, under false pretenses and disinformation, would send 130,000 Americans into harm's way to invade Iraq. <p>Updated: Sat Nov 21, 2020</p> a748b103f6f3253aa67cf9827d4f5406 Semifinal Thoughts on Election 2020 for 11/14/2020 https://www.creators.com/read/mark-shields/11/20/semifinal-thoughts-on-election-2020 Sat, 14 Nov 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p>Joe Biden won the White House, we are reminded almost daily, on his third try, having run unsuccessfully in both 1988 and 2008.</p> <p>It's funny; I can't recall, having covered the 1980 presidential race, much ever being made of the fact that that year's winner, Republican Ronald Reagan, also won on his third White House run.</p> <p>The Gipper had mounted a doomed, too-late challenge to Richard M. Nixon in 1968 and then challenged fellow Republican President Gerald R. Ford in the 1976 primaries all the way to the Kansas City, Missouri, convention (where, when defeated, he made a gracious, off-the-cuff concession speech to the convention and undoubtedly helped himself for 1980).<p>Updated: Sat Nov 14, 2020</p> f73615f748c4843f85e900b7b7ee53cb Amid Democrats' White House Win, a Sobering Fact for 11/07/2020 https://www.creators.com/read/mark-shields/11/20/amid-democrats-white-house-win-a-sobering-fact Sat, 07 Nov 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p>Joe Biden has reason to be proud; in the last 107 years, only three American presidential nominees have managed to defeat an elected, incumbent president who was seeking a second term. Let history show that the winning trio were all politically gifted leaders who became successful presidents: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.</p> <p>That is fairly awesome company for Regular Joe to be joining. But Democrats already impatiently waiting for "Hail to the Chief" to be played for one of their own would be wise to confront a sobering reality from the Nov. 3 returns: White, working-class men who represent 1 out of 3 presidential voters and who formed the electoral backbone of the winning coalitions that elected FDR, Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy preferred Republican Donald Trump, now of Mar-a-Lago, Florida, over Joe Biden, a son of Scranton, Pennsylvania.</p> <p>The first &#8212; and the worst &#8212; reaction of more than a few Democrats to this unwelcome news is an indifferent shrug followed by some variation of, "What do you expect?" After all, the condescending analysis goes, these guys are the modern-day versions of Archie Bunker, neither racially enlightened nor welcoming to the inevitable march of social progress. The Democrats' obvious problem with blue-collar male voters is as much one of attitude as it is of issues or programs.<p>Updated: Sat Nov 07, 2020</p> 7f2c0e9afea8de4e55b2658d9fcba03c A Little Compassion, Please for 10/31/2020 https://www.creators.com/read/mark-shields/10/20/a-little-compassion-please Sat, 31 Oct 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p>There is no place quieter or more forlorn than the losing candidate's headquarters the morning after election night. If the phone rings, it's a good bet that it is either one more unpaid creditor looking for payment or a wrong number. Gone are yesterday's hopes for the upset win to confound the pollsters and the pundits. If you know or run into any staffer from a losing campaign, take a little extra time to offer her some attention and a little encouragement. Too often, as the wonderful sports novelist John R. Tunis wisely wrote, "Losing is the great American sin."</p> <p>After 60 years of hanging around candidates and elections, I have learned that political campaigns do not build character. But campaigns &#8212; and especially losing campaigns &#8212; do reveal character. Let me give you a couple of examples.</p> <p>After President George H.W. Bush was denied a second term by the young Democratic governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton, Bush left the following handwritten note on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 1993, for his successor:<p>Updated: Sat Oct 31, 2020</p> 5856c89afdbd103e1e364ace75f37c8a Patriotism on Full Display for 10/24/2020 https://www.creators.com/read/mark-shields/10/20/patriotism-on-full-display Sat, 24 Oct 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p>Mick Mulvaney was a four-term Republican congressman from South Carolina with a reputation as a hawk on government spending in 2017 when President Donald Trump chose him to be director of the Office of Budget and Management, the nation's top fiscal officer. Mulvaney held that position until December 2018, when Trump named him "acting" White House chief of staff , a position he held until March 2020 when the president replaced him with North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows.</p> <p>Mulvaney's record on restraining federal spending was, in a word, dismal. The national debt, which was just under $20 trillion when Trump became president, has ballooned to north of $27 trillion in 46 months. But let's give Mulvaney some credit for daring to spread the ugly truth: In a speech to the Oxford Union, he admitted publicly: "My party is very interested in deficits when there is a Democrat in the White House. The worst thing in the whole world is deficits when Barack Obama became president. Then Donald trump became president, and we're a lot less interested (in cutting federal spending) as a party."</p> <p>Proving the timeless wisdom of the Turkish proverb &#8212; "He who speaks the truth must keep one foot in the stirrup" &#8212; Mick Mulvaney's tenure as White House chief of staff ended three weeks later.<p>Updated: Sat Oct 24, 2020</p> 687122a8f9443758968ec432f1d7fab4 2020 Campaign: Shortages of Wit and Wisdom for 10/17/2020 https://www.creators.com/read/mark-shields/10/20/2020-campaign-shortages-of-wit-and-wisdom Sat, 17 Oct 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p>This bizarre presidential election year has suffered from acute shortages of both wit and wisdom, a fact that was highlighted for me by the passing of Roberta McCain, the remarkable 108-year-old mother of the Arizona senator and 2008 Republican presidential nominee.</p> <p>A few years back, when public (dis)approval of the U.S. Congress fell in national polls down to just 16% positive, Sen. John McCain kidded that such miserable numbers meant that support for Congress was down to "paid staffers and blood relatives." Barely weeks later, Congress' approval number fell further to just 10%, prompting McCain to report that he had received a stern call from his mother giving him an earful of her own untender feelings about Congress: "I can now report that we're down to paid staff."</p> <p>When Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, as a presidential candidate, accurately cited his bipartisan unpopularity among his Senate colleagues as a credential for promotion, then-Vice President Joe Biden praised Cruz for serving as "an inspiration to every kid in America who worries that he'll never be able to run for president because nobody likes him." <p>Updated: Sat Oct 17, 2020</p> be799092b599f2919415d4f9fc655b14 Painfully Public and Publicly Painful for 10/10/2020 https://www.creators.com/read/mark-shields/10/20/painfully-public-and-publicly-painful Sat, 10 Oct 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p>When I was a younger man &#8212; shortly after the cooling of the Earth &#8212; I worked in and managed political campaigns. In addition to Ohio Gov. John Gilligan and Boston Mayor Kevin H. White, I worked on the presidential campaigns of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy of New York, Sen. Edmund Muskie of Maine, and Rep. Morris K. Udall of Arizona, as well as the vice presidential run of Sargent Shriver. A casual student of 20th-century American political history will point out that none of these White House candidates ever got to give an inaugural address or lead an inaugural parade. I have some idea of what electoral defeat feels like.</p> <p>I admire people who run for public office. For most of us, life is a series of uncelebrated successes or private setbacks. If you and I are the two finalists for the Big Promotion we both have our hearts set on, and you get the prize, when the news of your triumph breaks, it doesn't include, "Shields was passed over because of lingering questions about his expense account" or "his, frankly, eccentric behavior at the company Christmas party." </p> <p><span class="column--highlighted-text">But when you dare to run for public office, everyone you ever sat next to in high school homeroom or double-dated with or carpooled with knows whether you won or, more likely, lost. The political candidate dares to risk the public rejection that most of us will go to any length to avoid.</span><p>Updated: Sat Oct 10, 2020</p> e6b2dc3671536c4bd80eebad634c4d4a Before I Vote For You, I First Want To Like You for 10/03/2020 https://www.creators.com/read/mark-shields/10/20/before-i-vote-for-you-i-first-want-to-like-you Sat, 03 Oct 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p>At the difficult art of winning highly competitive elections, former U.S. Sen. William Cohen, R-Maine &#8212; who never lost one &#8212; was very good indeed. Elected at 29 to his hometown Bangor City Council in 1969, Cohen would become that city's mayor in 1971 before being elected in 1972 to the first of three terms in the U.S. House from Maine's 2nd Congressional District. In 1978, Cohen won the first of three six-year terms as U.S. senator before voluntarily leaving in 1996 and becoming Secretary of Defense in Democrat Bill Clinton's administration. </p> <p>An engaging man with an earned reputation for working across Washington's partisan divide, Cohen offered this astute advice for electoral success: "I don't care how great your ideas are or how well you can articulate them. People must like you before they will vote for you."</p> <p>Come with me back to 1984, when the Gipper was in the White House and running for reelection, and this polling question was first asked:<p>Updated: Sat Oct 03, 2020</p> 942e9d8e501efb5ac2e7c5f814a6f599 Our Most Personal Vote for 09/26/2020 https://www.creators.com/read/mark-shields/09/20/our-most-personal-vote Sat, 26 Sep 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p>In the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004, the Democratic nominees, former Vice President Al Gore and Sen. John Kerry, were both seen by the nation's voters as more knowledgeable and more intelligent than the Republican standard-bearer in both elections, George W. Bush. <span class="column--highlighted-text">But those same voters in both campaigns found Bush to be more honest, trustworthy and likable than either Gore or Kerry. In explaining why Bush defeated Kerry, respected Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart put it bluntly: "Voters value 'I Like' over IQ."</span></p> <p>Our vote for president is actually the most personal vote we Americans get to cast. Aware of the enormous impact every president has over our lives &#8212; both national and individual &#8212; we learned painfully that the national tragedies of both Vietnam and Watergate were directly attributable to defects of character and personality &#8212; along with acute absence of honesty &#8212; of elected American presidents.</p> <p>In the most recent Wall Street Journal-NBC News national poll, 2020 voters listed the three most important qualities in deciding how to vote for president to be "having the ability to bring the country together" (36%); "being honest and trustworthy" (35%); and "having strong leadership qualities" (33%). Democrat Joe Biden held a statistically insignificant 45%-43% edge over President Donald Trump on the "strong leadership qualities" question. But on "bringing the country together," Biden was judged to be better than Trump by the lopsided margin of 52% to 28%. And on "being honest and trustworthy," voters again picked Biden over Trump by a decisive 47% to 30% margin.<p>Updated: Sat Sep 26, 2020</p> d1fed479a442ca6d01e5c321a895a2cf Presidential Debate Questions I Would Ask for 09/19/2020 https://www.creators.com/read/mark-shields/09/20/presidential-debate-questions-i-would-ask Sat, 19 Sep 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p>The political shadowboxing before presidential debates is cleverly choreographed. Take the 2000 contest between then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush and then-Vice President Al Gore. Before that year's first general election debate, the Bush team did a superb job of lowering expectations for Governor Bush by emphasizing to reporters what an experienced and superb debater Gore was. So, when Bush more or less held his own in the opening debate, the Texas governor got a lot of the "better than expected" press coverage his campaign had all the time been angling for.</p> <p>But President Donald Trump is, as we know, unorthodox. Instead of building up the long U.S. senatorial and 2008 and 2012 national debating experience of former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump scorns the Democratic nominee repeatedly as lacking mental acuity and physical stamina, publicly branding him "Sleepy Joe" and saying things such as, "He doesn't know where he is" and, "Biden can't put two sentences together." Trump is, for some reason, doing his best to lower voters' expectations about Biden. When Biden shows up like Bush did 20 years earlier, answering the moderator's questions and speaking in complete sentences with a dash of humor, he will have totally exceeded those low expectations and measurably helped his campaign.</p> <p>If I had the chance (which I will not) to ask Trump and Biden questions in the presidential debate, here are a few I'd like to hear them answer.<p>Updated: Sat Sep 19, 2020</p> 288716347fd475a0815e728fd782ce04 America's Most Trusted 'Referee' for 09/05/2020 https://www.creators.com/read/mark-shields/09/20/americas-most-trusted-referee Sat, 05 Sep 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p>What do presidential candidates George H.W. Bush, Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, Ross Perot, Al Gore, George W. Bush, John Kerry, Barack Obama, John McCain and Mitt Romney all have in common? On the biggest night each of their political careers, when they &#8212; live and on national television without teleprompters or prepared texts &#8212; were being scrutinized and judged by up to 80 million of their fellow citizens on their fitness to be president, all of these men agreed to accept and to trust journalist-anchor Jim Lehrer to moderate their presidential debate.</p> <p>Jim Lehrer, my friend and PBS colleague, departed these earthly precincts in January. I know that France's Charles de Gaulle said that "the cemeteries of the world are full of indispensable men," but with genuine admiration and respect for the just-named 2020 debate moderators &#8212; Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace, USA Today Washington Bureau chief Susan Page, C-SPAN political editor Steve Scully and NBC White House correspondent Kristen Welker &#8212; Jim Lehrer could truly be irreplaceable.</p> <p>Let us understand the total pressure of a presidential debate when not only the nominee's campaign but also her/his career is, for 90 minutes live, coast to coast, on the line. It is the only time in these marathon campaigns when we, the voters, have the chance to "interview" the would-be presidents and see how each defends, explains and reacts, as well as what their body language and facial expressions reveal. <p>Updated: Sat Sep 05, 2020</p>