Mark Shields (1937-2022)

via the Washington Post:

Mark Shields, a onetime campaign manager who became one of Washington’s most respected political commentators, both as a syndicated columnist and as a genial liberal counterpart to several conservative sparring partners on the “PBS NewsHour,” died June 18 at his home in Chevy Chase, Md. He was 85….

The Wall Street Journal once called Mr. Shields one of the “wittiest political journalists in America” and “frequently the most trenchant, fair-minded, and thoughtful.” In a statement, PBS NewsHour host Judy Woodruff said, “Mark Shields had a magical combination of talents: an unsurpassed knowledge of politics and a passion, joy, and irrepressible humor that shone through in all his work.”…

He was, by his own admission, a traditional Massachusetts liberal in the mold of one of his political heroes, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.). He helped organize Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign, which was gaining momentum before Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles in June 1968.

Thereafter, Mr. Shields tended to view politics with a touch of sorrow-filled regret. He often mused that if Kennedy had been elected, he would have become the most inspiring and transformative president in a generation. Instead, Mr. Shields measured the aspirations and achievements of later politicians with a bemused sense of humor, brushed with the disappointment of reality….

In one of his final appearances on “NewsHour” in 2020, Mr. Shields noted that the Democratic Party had traditionally been the political home of lunch-pail, working-class White men. The problem facing the party in the 21st century, he said, “is one of attitude as much as it is of platform. I mean, the Democrats, that were once a shot-and-a-beer party have become a sauvignon blanc party arguing about which wine is more sensitive.”

via David Brooks in 2020:

Every Friday evening for the last 19 years, Mark Shields and I have gathered to talk politics on the “PBS NewsHour.” When people come up to me to discuss our segment, sometimes they mention the things we said to each other, but more often they mention how we clearly feel about each other — the affection, friendship and respect. We’ve had thousands of disagreements over the years, but never a second of acrimony. Mark radiates a generosity of spirit that improves all who come within his light….

Mark’s father was the first Catholic to serve on their town’s school board. The first time he saw his mother cry was when Adlai Stevenson lost to Dwight Eisenhower. Mark went off to Notre Dame and then served in the Marine Corps, before working as a congressional aide.

This was the mid-60s. Evidence that government worked was all around. The G.I. Bill had worked, though mostly for whites. Mark had served with Black Marines because Harry Truman had the courage to integrate the military. Mark saw the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, the Fair Housing Act of 1968….

I don’t know if it was midcentury liberalism or the midcentury record of the Boston Red Sox, but Mark instinctively identifies with the underdog. Every year he invites me to do an event with him with Catholic social workers. These are people who serve the poor and live among the poor. They have really inexpensive clothing and really radiant faces, and in their lives you see the embodiment of an entire moral system, Catholic social teaching, which has its service arm and, in Mark, its political and journalistic arm.

He comes from a generation that highly prized egalitarian manners: I’m no better than anyone else and nobody is better than me.

via Paul Begala:

To me, Mark represented an inclusive and empathetic liberalism. He spoke in terms of values, not programs. (No one cares that you voted to expand Section 8; but they do care that you helped a poor family afford an apartment.) At a time when politics is increasingly driven by purity tests, Mark wanted everyone at the table. “There are two kinds of political parties,” he would say. “Just like there are two kinds of churches: those who seek out converts, and those who hunt down heretics.”

The Francis Factor: A Discussion on the First Six Months of Pope Francis’ Leadership, 2013:

Mark Shields, a national columnist and commentator, recalled the joy of Christianity that Pope John XXIII displayed. He believes Francis brings that sense of joy about the gospel as well. He remarked that Francis does not focus on talking about loving and caring in the abstract, but living it out in his interactions with those he encounters. Shields also stressed the communitarian mentality of Pope Francis, his tendency to ask “are we better off?” This again contrasts with the typical embrace of individualism in our society.

The Catholic Case against Libertarianism: Steve Schneck and Mark Shields, 2014:

Shields argued that nonjudgmental tolerance has become the highest virtue in a society where individual economic acquisitiveness and self-expression are so honored. He contrasted this “me culture” with Catholic teaching’s “we culture.” And he argued that the strength of a nation is based on the willingness of the people to make sacrifices for the common good. Shields spent a great deal of time talking about the importance of national service, seeing it as vital in fostering this type of shared sacrifice by getting Americans to look beyond themselves and their own interests. Ultimately, he argued, “We need the politics of the common good again.”

Pope Francis, Catholic Social Thought, and US Public Life, 2017:

You’re gonna put together a majority in the country when you’ve got a third of Democrats who are pro-life? There’s got to be room for and voices for and attention paid to people like Bob Casey and Joe Donnelly. There wouldn’t have been an Affordable Care Act without the votes of pro-life Democrats.

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