Tom Shields, my big brother, lived a long and good life. When he died earlier this month, he was widely -- and deservedly -- praised for generously giving millions to fund struggling inner-city Catholic schools and scholarships for hundreds of kids who hadn't been so lucky in life's lottery as he, our wonderful sister, Ann, and I were to be ...Read more
MADISON, Wis. -- Why, during a recent visit here -- while asking some trusted Wisconsin sources for their candid assessment of Scott Walker, the state's governor, an undeclared but leading 2016 Republican presidential candidate -- did I keep thinking about a conversation I'd had 17 years ago with one of my favorite American politicians and the...Read more
About the time the Dodgers abandoned Brooklyn for Los Angeles, my savvy precinct captain drilled into all her workers this rule: A week is a lifetime in politics, and a month is an eternity. This should be a warning for all wise people handicapping the 2016 presidential race who have already conceded the Democratic nomination to former ...Read more
It was not a pretty sight. Republican officeholders in Indiana and Arkansas, having been charged by not just their political opponents but also their strongest corporate allies (think Wal-Mart and NASCAR) with damaging the states' images and the business climate by passing legislation to effectively give legal sanction to discrimination ...Read more
In the cliffhanger presidential election of 1976, when Democrat Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford, the Republican president, the margin of victory in 20 states (totaling 299 electoral votes) -- including California, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Hawaii -- was less than 5 percent of the vote.
In 2012 when President Barack Obama ...Read more
"There are three things which are real," said John F. Kennedy, "God, human folly and laughter. The first two are beyond our comprehension, so we must do what we can with the third." As a national candidate, the then-senator did just that. Sensitive to the charge that his multi-millionaire father was trying to buy the Democratic presidential ...Read more
The late Rep. Morris Udall of Arizona, who finished second in the campaign for the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination, warned his fellow citizens with the wisest of advice: "Beware of the presidential candidate who has no friends his own age and confidants who can tell him to go to hell."
That same year, an emotionally secure President ...Read more
There was a lot more drinking in Washington, D.C., before May 15, 1978. That was the date, as of this writing, I had my last drink. This may help explain why I, as an Irish-American, so dread March 17 and St. Patrick's Day, which has regularly been turned into an excuse for officially sanctioned public drunkenness, forced gaiety and throwing ...Read more
An incorrect statement left uncorrected leads often to deception, disillusion and dishonesty. Take this hypothetical: I've agreed to speak at a local event, and the emcee, in her introduction, says something like, "Mark Shields went to the University of Notre Dame, where he played basketball." It's true that Notre Dame is my alma mater and ...Read more
The three most recently elected U.S. presidents collected in private contributions for their respective campaigns that brought them to the White House $31 million (Bill Clinton), $96 million (George W. Bush) and $746 million (Barack Obama). According to the reliable Center for Responsive Politics, total spending in the 2014 midterm elections ...Read more
When he was secretary of state, Henry Kissinger was often -- and deliberately -- seen in the company of attractive actresses, including Jill St. John and Candice Bergen. Kissinger, whom nobody ever accused of being a matinee idol physically, offered this explanation for his seeming appeal to beautiful women: "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac....Read more
When the Gallup poll last asked, Pope Francis was rated favorably by 76 percent of Americans (including 78 percent of Protestants and 73 percent of those with no religious affiliation) and unfavorably by only 9 percent, a better than 8-1 favorable rating. These are numbers that almost any political candidate would die for.
Politicians, being ...Read more
As a young Illinois state senator at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, he delivered a memorable keynote address, which, almost overnight, vaulted him into presidential consideration. Even his most unforgiving critics acknowledge Barack Obama's oratorical gifts. For many, he is to speechmaking what Frank Sinatra was to crooning or Ted ...Read more