BRIAN LAMB: Mark Shields can you remember the first time you knew that humor works in front of an audience?
MARK SHIELDS: No, I really can’t, I recall humor, the importance of it growing up in telling a story but I can’t remember that epiphany when I said ”wow, what a difference it makes”.
LAMB: So what role does humor plays in your life?
SHIELDS: Well, that’s a good question. I mean, humor -- I think it’s great for putting life and it’s trials and tribulations into perspective and it’s a great antidote to self importance and great antidote to pomposity, so in that sense I welcome humor, I appreciate humor and occasionally I’m lucky enough to use it.
LAMB: Can you remember when you first knew that an audience will listen to you at all.
SHIELDS: I do, I was -- as a matter of fact working for Senator William Proxmire at the time, the Democratic Senator from Wisconsin and he had -- as was his custom, he was a man of incredible discipline and he had committed to the United States ratifying the genocide convention and towards that end he gave a daily speech on the senate floor in support of it and I was tasked -- that’s a word that you don’t hear very often, at least for me, used as a noun or a verb, my responsibility was to write a daily speech which sometimes I did under great deadline pressure much to the consternation of the Senator and word got out that I did this and was asked to give a speech, to speak on genocide convention, at the Willard Hotel and at a luncheon and I did and the crowd seemed to respond and liked it and I said ”wow, that was fun”. So after that I accepted opportunities where there was to speak, within reason, you know, I didn’t speak to the Arms of Krupp or other groups that I found particularly offensive.
LAMB: What have you learned about audiences over the years and what they -- when they start to respond to you? Because I know you do -- how many times do you speak in a year?
SHIELDS: It depends on the year quite honestly because the presidential year for example you get asked a lot more than you can give because you are covering the campaign and when there is a change of administration there’s always more invitations to speak because people feel somehow you must know something. Nothing worse for a speaker on politics than a re-elected president. Whether it was George W. Bush, no reflection on Barack Obama or Bill Clinton, because that means continuity rather than change but the -- as far as the speaking itself is concerned, I enjoy it and I enjoy the challenge, you’re walking into a room full of strangers, most cases you’ve never met them, they’ve never laid eyes on you, they may have seen you on television in passing or whatever and they are going to walk out of there in an hour with some sense of you and in that sense it is a challenge and when you’ve got 45 minutes to make them think, make them laugh, that’s the highest praise you can get coming out is someone coming up and it occasionally happens, ”you made me think and you made me laugh” and that’s high praise indeed for me as a speaker.
LAMB: Let’s lay down the basics for Mark Shields, born where?
SHIELDS: Weymouth, Massachusetts, May 25, 1937.
LAMB: Parents did what?
SHIELDS: My dad was a salesman, a paper salesman and a civic -- involved in the town and governance and politics. My mother had been a school teacher but at that time when school teachers married they could no longer -- they were now sullied – they were stained women something of that sort because they no longer could teach in the public schools of Massachusetts as a married woman. So she was a mother and homemaker.
LAMB: How many brothers and sisters?
SHIELDS: Had one brother who died and one older brother and one older sister.
LAMB: Still alive?
SHIELDS: Still alive. My brother and sister are both alive. My brother sadly has done very well and become a Republican because we were born Democrats and baptized Catholics. I think it’s the way that it was put to us and he is very well -- he is terrific when I talked to him yesterday, we occasionally argue about politics but not -- with great affection and admiration.
LAMB: Who had the most influence on you as you were growing up? Just anybody, not just your parents.
SHIELDS: Certainly my parents did, my parents had enormous—we got five newspapers a day and it was -- Weymouth, Massachusetts was a middle class to lower middle class town, it had been -- it was a blue collar town. I think today it has the highest per capital union membership of any town or city in the State which is partly a reflection of changing residential patterns. But we were an aberration in that sense, I mean my folks were intimately involved and engaged and cared about it. My dad was on the school committee and cared deeply about the public school as we all went to public school, as I said my mother taught in it, but we got the New York Times on Sunday which people in our neighborhood didn’t. We were considered sort of oddballs, I mean, by the age of -- I don’t know, I mean, 10 or 11, I knew all of then 96 United States Senators and I can -- the first time I ever saw my mother cry was the night that Adlai Stevenson lost in 1952. So I mean it was that kind of a -- so I have to say my family had the most -- my parents in particular had the most immediate and profound influence upon me.
LAMB: Which is -- which president was the first one you ever saw in person?
SHIELDS: First president, Harry Truman, they roused me out of bed like 5 o’clock in the morning, he was driving through Weymouth in -- his 1948 campaign, he was on his way to Brockton and what I remembered about it -- learned about it afterwards, Brian, was he was such an underdog, the only Massachusetts politician who would appeared with him was Lieutenant governor Jeff Sullivan, had been mayor of Worcester someone of no particular distinction but the others all had important things to do and it’s one of the fundamental truths of politics. Everything is a poll of politics, I’ve been involved before I became a journalist, I was involved in politics and political campaigns and you can always tell who shows up and you treasure the people who do. I remember, working in 1972 with Sargent Shriver when he was the vice presidential nominee with George McGovern and then I remember Fritz Hollings showing up in South Carolina why we were in South Carolina Pat Caddell will explain that someday, the boy genius pollster of the McGovern campaign, why we were in South Carolina. But you know, showing up on the State House steps and I say ”wow”, I mean you know that you are going to get your head handed to you, not simply in South Carolina but especially in South Carolina and when he shows up, Jack Gilligan, the governor of Ohio showed up, Pat Lucey, the governor of Wisconsin, you treasure those, people come up with very creative excuses why they can’t be with you when you’re losing. Like ”my nephew is graduating from driving school and I’d love to be with you but we had a family appointment at the taxidermist, we’re getting our cat stuffed, I mean it’s just all kinds of creative excuses because people don’t want to be seen, the only American sin, the original American sin is losing, you can do anything except lose and people avoid losers. But there I saw Harry Turman at the age of 11, as he was going on his great comeback upset victory of 1948.
LAMB: Which president have you personally known the most? Up close and personal, as they say.
SHIELDS: I don’t know if I’ve known any of them really that well. I’ve met them, I’ve talked to them at different times but I can’t say that one was -- I mean I admired many in different ways, most of the people I was close to didn’t become president, I hoped not because I was working with them or for them at the time. But I admired Gerald Ford and -- whom I did not know well but spent some time with and I always thought he was the most emotionally healthy of all the people I’ve ever known who was president, not that the others were basket cases but he became president -- most people become president -- and Bill Clinton was not the exception, sometime around the 4th grade, they get that bug and as the late and very great Mo Udall who sought that office once put it, the only known cure for the presidential virus is embalming fluid and they’re driven to that office.
Gerald Ford wanted to be Speaker of the House, when he was the Republican leader of the House the Republicans were in the minority, along the way he became president, and he knew who he was, he was comfortable with who he was, and I always wish I’d known Harry Truman because I felt that he liked being Harry Truman, he never thought of being anybody else but Harry Truman and I felt that way about Gerald Ford.
LAMB: Thirty years ago -- this is your life Mark Shields. Thirty years ago here you are appearing on this network on a call-in show of all things. Let’s watch.
SHIELDS: ”It’s baloney on both sides, there is no thinking, Ronald Reagan is a phony on defense, a phony. Ronald Regan never says that in the defense of this country we are going to take one 18 year old kid out of Bethesda, Maryland, or out of Palos Verdes Estates California and ask him to serve, no, no, no. We are going to staff this army, we are going to fill it up with kids from working class American families, poor kids, black kids, white kids, brown kids, who can’t get jobs, that’s what our army is. Now this is where I say Fritz Hollings is interesting, right and bright. He says what we need in this country is a demonstration of will power not fire power. We’re talking about MX’s we are talking about nerve gas and baloney and all that stuff, you know, where the hell is the commitment, there is no -- I don’t know if you could get a draft call passed the Congress of United States right now, all these tough Republicans, all these tough, let’s spend more, spend more, borrow more.”
LAMB: Spend more, borrow more, Republicans.
SHIELDS: Listen, it’s bipartisan at this point. I agree with it and I may have mellowed a little bit my delivery but I will say this that Fritz Hollings who I mentioned in that Senator from South Carolina, somebody I admire enormously, he run for president in 1984 and New Hampshire primary, went up to Dartmouth college. And there he stood before these privileged and many cases pampered ivy league students and said ” I want to draft everybody in this room because I want our military, it has to be a cross section of the country, defense of this country is everybody’s responsibility” and silence in the room and he spoke candidly, he said things that you wish candidates for presidents will do instead of pandering to audiences and constituencies, Robert Kennedy did the same thing when he ran in 1968, I worked for him. Went to college campuses, he said ”I want to draft you, I want you -- it isn’t right that you are against this war, but it’s being fought by kids who are not lucky enough to go to this school, it was Creighton university in Nebraska -- I was working in the Nebraska primary he did that.
So I do believe that, I do believe, I think we have a lot more thoughtful and responsible foreign policy, we’d have a lot less swagger and one of the things about Gerald Ford that I -- again 10 battle stars, silver star, four bronze stars a Naval officer in World War II, and Jim Webb was a perfect example of that, the senator from Virginia, he said ”all these think tank commandos in this town, let’s go in and get tough”. And he said ”you don’t send force, you send young men and women who have lives and families and hopes and dreams and you better think twice, three times before you send them in”. And I just -- I do feel -- I feel that you know the obligatory line for every politician, Democrats and Republican is how much we admire the people in the military and what a great job they do and isn’t it wonderful and I just ask, ”when was the last time a person in the United States went to a funeral for anybody who came back in a pine box” and I can’t find it, maybe Mark Knoller of CBS could find it for me, I can’t find one. And one of the reasons is they don’t know anybody who is in the military, they don’t know them, they aren’t the sons of their cabinet officers or the CEOs or the network correspondence or columnists and it just -- when we were debating going to war in Iraq and my assistant Diana Drudge and I called all 535 officers on Capitol Hill and I asked just one question, ”does the senator or member of congress have a child in the enlisted ranks in the United States military”. Ask me so why the enlisted ranks, because three out of four of the casualties come from E5 or below in the listed ranks I mean with all due respect to officers like yourself, and admirals and generals they just generally aren’t there, exception obviously to second lieutenants but -- and of the 535, one, Senator Tim Johnson, of South Dakota, had a child Brooks, who was a sergeant in 101st Airborne and that’s -- we’ve totally divorced from peril those in power and I grew up in Massachusetts where we had two Republican Unites States senators Senator Leverett Saltonstall and Henry Cabot Lodge, Leverett Saltonstall whose 19 year old son Peter left Yale to join the Marines to go to the pacific in World War II and he died in combat. Henry Cabot Lodge resigned from the United States senate to become a tank commander fighting Hitler’s armies in North Africa. I mean it was the President’s four son all served in World War II, I mean there is something -- there is just something wrong with this and that kind of wild-eyed guy, forty years ago, I think he was onto something.
LAMB: You served in Marine Corps for how long?
SHIELDS: Two years.
SHIELDS: I was going to be drafted, I mean I was facing a draft and to be in the Marines rather than in the army.
LAMB: What year?
SHIELDS: 1960 to 1962.
LAMB: What impact did serving in the Marines have on you?
SHIELDS: The Marine did a lot more for me than I did for the Marine Corps. I think Marine Corps values are admirable and they are incredibly egalitarian, even though I’d been to college and -- but I came from -- I guess you could say not a cloistered background but I mean one that was not as wide ranging and it’s probably ethnic and racial exposure the first time I ever slept in the same quarters with African Americans, or took orders as a regular course from African Americans, was at Parris Island, South Carolina Marine Corps boot camp and the only reason I did that was because of a president of the United States named Harry Truman who said in the final analysis it was unacceptable and literally un-Americans to ask people to fight and die for their country and then be segregated by race, I mean we had four, five, six college graduates in our platoon, we had kids who were high school dropout, we had kids who were given the option by a judge, you can go there or you can go to juvenal detention. I mean it was a remarkable experience and everybody was the same you came out of it with the sense of mutual responsibility that I depended upon other people and they depended on me.
LAMB: What was your highest rank?
SHIELDS: Lance Corporal.
LAMB: So you never wanted to be an officer?
SHIELDS: I didn’t, no. They offered -- they did approach me at one point about whether I was interested in it but I was interested quite honestly in serving and fulfilling my responsibility and returning to civilian life.
LAMB: We are going to go back to another point in your appearances here, it was on the same show in July 22, 1983. You are talking about the Washington Post and I want to get into a little bit of your experience there and what’s going on today. Here is Mark Shields.
SHIELDS: The Post is a very, very influential voice in the nation’s politics. When you have the most important, certainly political city in the country, Washington DC and the Post has been the dominant voice in that city for a long time. Members of congress, Federal policy makers, whether they want it or not, that’s their principal link with the print journalism. I mean sure you get the Times, you get the Wall Street Journal and other news papers, the hometown papers and the L.A Times but the Washington Post is delivered at their doorstep at 6 o’clock in the morning, the people they meet and talk with that morning by 10 o’clock, there is a general assumption or a prevailing working assumption that everybody has read the Post.
LAMB: Everybody has read the Post, can they still say that?
SHIELDS: I don’t know, I mean I -- probably not. I mean they may have very well of -- glanced at the website looking at an aggregator and if there is a post story that -- directed them that way.
LAMB: How long did you work for the Post?
SHIELDS: I worked for The Post from 1979 to 1981.
LAMB: Why did you leave?
SHIELDS: I left because -- how I happened to go there was kind of fascinating, Meg Greenfield, I’d written a piece or written a couple of pieces op-ed pages at different times, I hadn’t been in journalism, I had been in politics and she approached me and said would you like to write political editorials for The Washington Post? And not knowing any better I said ” yes” but those are unsigned, I’ve got to get some ego satisfaction and she said ”OK, come write a once a week column” So I did that from 1979, through the campaign 1980 and we covered the whole campaign which was great. It was Ronald Regan against Jimmy Carter and in 1981 I just -- I’m not an employee, I’ve been on my own essentially since 1968, I mean being – I’d do, something for a period of time but I’m not somebody who is an institutional person or an organizational person and I liked that, being able to try something different, go on a different direction, so after two years there, very happily I just wanted to strike out on my own.
LAMB: You still write how many columns a week?
SHIELDS: I write one column a week for Creators Syndicate.
LAMB: So you’ve spent a lot of time around politicians and I want to ask you -- let’s see if we can get you to name five of your favorite politicians? Five people that you remember and give us the reason why you remember them and I might as well throw it out first because you’ve got a story to tell about Bobby Kennedy and you’ve written a lot about that, you still write about it to this day, what was your relationship with Bobby Kennedy?
SHIELDS: Well, I worked for Robert Kennedy and I knew him slightly when I worked in the Senate, I worked in the Senate for Senator Proxmire, I worked on labor and civil rights issues for the senator and I knew senator Kennedy not well there, but I went to work for him when he run for president in 1968, it was in Nebraska, Oregon and then California for the California primary which he won of course and then he was murdered. And I just felt that Robert Kennedy -- there is two types that – we’re looking for in American politics. We are looking for a conservative with an obvious heart, you can say there is a real human quality to him and then looking for a liberal who is tough, who’s got a real backbone and I just felt that Robert Kennedy was the embodiment of that. I think he was the -- in many respects the last tough liberal this country has had and he’s certainly the only candidate in the Indiana primary in Gary, Indiana, a tough town, in an open convertible and alongside of him his Tony Zale the former middle weight champion of the world tough Slovak fella, a product of Gary, the other side was Dick Hatcher, the African American mayor, and on both sides you can see both communities cheering. And he was that candidate in my judgment who would have brought together white working class and blue collar Americans and African Americans in a way that nobody before or since had ever done and he would have made an enormous difference in that sense. He was opposed not simply by big business, great chunks of big labor including the AFLCIO opposed him vehemently for what he’d done as Attorney General on corruption but also because of they were supporting vice president Humphrey who has been a long time supporter of theirs. So I mean it was interesting, he would have -- I think been elected with fewer encumbering fences in that sense, I mean or obligations than I can imagine.
LAMB: Where were you? Where you in that hotel when . . .
SHIELDS: No, I was in San Francisco, I’d been responsible or involved in getting out the vote in California so I was in the Bay area when he had been shot.
LAMB: What was it like hearing that this man has been shot?
SHIELDS: I just remember hearing it at a rally in San Francisco, Ted Kennedy was there and it was just -- everything went out, I mean the air went out of the room, the music stopped, the laughter, everything it was just sort of a sense of dread and disbelief, I mean, you have to understand it was four and half years since his brother had been killed, I mean that -- so it was only two months since Martin Luther King had been assassinated and I had been in Ebenezer Baptist Church for Martin Luther King’s funeral which still remains one of the most remarkable events I’ve been privileged to attend, I mean -- and a sweltering day in Atlanta.
LAMB: How does this compare though -- and I’m not looking for moral equivalence how does this compare, the feeling when this country back run in 1968 after Jack Kennedy had been killed and then Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King and all that, compared to the day when we are dealing with all these attacks like the kids that were killed and all that stuff that happened in Newton, and the way that the country felt?
SHIELDS: I think -- those were national expressions, I mean Newtown was a trauma that -- and the slaughter of the innocents I mean and the more we read about it the heroism and the selflessness, the teachers involved, I mean it just -- I mean that’s a separate experience which we are still processing. But as far Brian as -- America in 1968 had a nervous breakdown and if you think about it we had the anti-war thing which again was draft inspired, I mean you abolish the draft which was done with liberal support.
LAMB: What year, do you remember?
SHIELDS: 1973, but it was going down because it gone to the lottery system and -- but I say that because the war in Vietnam became a moral issue when as that young punk on your show pointed out when the draft notices started getting out of Youngstown and out of Fort Wayne and into Shaker Heights and into Bethesda, Maryland and Grosse Pointe, Michigan, that’s when it became -- and when the nicer neighborhood were getting draft notices as long as they had their college deferments and they could avoid military service it was just an unpleasant interlude, then it became a - college presidents had their offices taken over, at least four dozen campuses, when Martin Luther King was assassinated 138 American cities went up in flames and Robert Kennedy was assassinated, I mean the Chicago convention that year, I mean it was just trauma upon trauma, there was a sense that events were in the saddle that not -- nobody was in control.
LAMB: What did it do to you personally that Robert Kennedy was killed.
SHIELDS: I could remember my wife who have been on the campaign with me and flown the day of the convention . . .
LAMB: Were you married then?
SHIELDS: Yes, and still married to the same woman and happily. . .
LAMB: Isn’t Ann a lawyer too?
SHIELDS: She is a reformed lawyer, retired lawyer, yes, that’s right. And we just went away, we went to Cape Cod and went to a place with no phone and I was at that time I was still drinking, I have not had a drink since May 15, 1974 it took me that long to find out that God made whiskey so the Irish and Indians wouldn’t run the world but just . . .
LAMB: I mean were you an alcoholic?
SHIELDS: I think yes.
LAMB: And you’ve been dry since 1974?
SHIELDS: Yes, since May 15, 1974. If I wasn’t an alcoholic I was probably a pretty good imitation of one.
LAMB: What made you quit?
SHIELDS: You know I had stopped at different times and I had a very good friend John Riley –who worked for—the late John Riley we used to drink together, I mean when I say drank I, we drank too much, I mean we weren’t drinking out of paper bag, I mean I don’t mean people who drink out of paper bags are bad, but I mean I just don’t want to give the wrong impression and -- but you know, it does affect -- when you drink a lot of beer you drink a lot, I mean I saw a sign on a wall at a AA meeting once saying if you drink a lot of beer you drink a lot. And I drank a lot of beer and so John stopped drinking and joined AA in late 1975 and we -- still our friendship maintained then I -- whatever it was an archangel or holy ghost or whatever it was, I mean I said ”gee, that makes sense, I’m going to try it” and May 15, 1978, after three days after my daughter’s sixth birthday I was lucky enough to enter a wonderful program and which I have great admiration and respect.
LAMB: Go back to the fact that you went to Cape Cod. .
SHIELDS: So we went take some wines and books and went away and I got a telegram down there from John Gilligan who had been running for the United States Senate in Ohio and asked me if I will come to Ohio, at least talk to him about running his senate campaign in Ohio that year, he was in the middle of it and he had -- so that was -- but I mean, I guess it, I just wanted to get away before anything else I wanted to get away.
LAMB: All right, we’ve talked about Robert Kennedy, would you put him at the top of your list?
SHIELDS: On my list I have to have Tip O’Neil, I have to have Mike Mansfield, Mike Mansfield, probably is as unknown and remarkable a man as I’ve ever known in Washington.
LAMB: Senator of Montana . . .
SHIELDS: The Senator from Montana -- quick story, can I tell a quick story about Mike Mansfield?
LAMB: Tell a long story.
SHIELDS: OK, Mike Mansfield is -- his parents were Irish immigrants, his mother died when he was just an infant, a toddler, and his father couldn’t raise the two of them so he put them on a train. He, Mike and his sister out to Montana, where a bachelor uncle said he would take responsibility for them and he is brought up in this sort of austere and he is a rebellious kid and at the age of 14 he finds himself in a juvenal home or reform school or whatever you want to call it, runs away from the reform school and with forged baptismal certificate enlists in the United States Navy at the age of 14. He makes three crossings of the Atlantic, they find out that it is a forged certificate, he is thrown out, and he joins the United States Army, he serves -- the army tells him that they will send him to China, he’s got this passion, he wants to see the -- Asia. Certainly not the first time that a military service lies to an enlistee what they were going to do for him and he doesn’t go, he completes his hitch, he goes across the street to the Marine Corps recruitment and he says ”will you send me to China?” and the sergeant says ”we will send you to China” he joins to Marines and off to China he goes and he serves in China, and he comes back. By the age of 20, he has served honorably in all three branches of the United States military. There was no air force of course at the time, goes back, falls in love with a woman in his hometown of Montana, who is a school teacher and who said ”I will have nothing to do with you until you finish school. Finishes high school in a year, goes on to become a professor of Asian history at the University of Montana, get’s elected, serves 34 years in the United States, majority leader longer than anybody in history. United States ambassador to Japan under both President Carter and President Regan and when he dies, written on his tombstone at Arlington at his request is ”Michael Joseph Mansfield, born March 16, 1903, died October 5, 2001. Private United States Marine Corps.” No majority leader, no ambassador of Japan. And he was a remarkable man and he -- I was involved in working on the voting rights act of 1965 on Capitol Hill which was the real fight and it wasn’t--before we passed the civil rights public accommodation which changed, you know, people go to hotels and restaurants and it changed customs but you’re talking about changing power and there was a total filibuster led by Democrats, the south was all Democratic senators then and every day the leaders of the senate Everett Dirksen the Republican, Mike Mansfield the Democrat and Phil Hart who was the Democratic sponsor of the legislation and Jacob Javits from New York the Republican and Phil Hart of Michigan would meet and at 4 o’clock they’d come out and talk to the press. And you remember Dirksen and Dirksen was just this marvelous figure I mean great copy had marvelous flourishes, and great rhetoric. Mansfield was very taciturn and Dirksen dominated these events. Finally, after a couple of weeks of this a Chief of Staff of another Midwestern Democratic senator comes to see Mansfield’s top guy and says ”look, every day they have these meetings outside of Dirksen’s office, couldn’t we at least a couple of days a week, have it outside of Mansfield’s office so that people will say that the Democrats, the Democratic president is pushing this, democratic leader”, and Mansfield’s guy goes to see him and says ” senator this has been brought to me, I think it is a legitimate complaint, could we do it?” and Mike Mansfield turns on his staff person and he was very close to him turned to him and said very closely, ” Let me tell you one thing certainly. You understand, last year in 1964 the Republican Party lost its way on Abraham Lincoln’s values to civil rights with Barry Goldwater who I happened to like and they suffered a terrible defeat. Anything that helps American people to see the Republican Party is returning to the values of Abraham Lincoln is good for the Republican Party and it’s good for the United States of America. I don’t want the subject brought up again.” That to me is leadership of just -- noble . . .
LAMB: Explain this, he used to have the record at Meet the Press for the most questions asked and answered 57 I think was the number.
SHIELDS: Yes, I heard that, I heard 26 on Face the Nation or something.
LAMB: What was -- how do you describe somebody in today’s world who could say yes, no
SHIELDS: Won’t say, how about won’t say, can’t say don’t know. How about somebody saying don’t know. He just did, I mean that was -- he wouldn’t take briefings from the CIA because he thought they were just seductive which they were, to get you not to talk about subjects ”sir we can’t talk about that because we’ve already briefed you on it.” I mean he was a formidable critic and adversary of Lyndon Johnson and Jack Kennedy on Vietnam.
LAMB: And Tip O’Neil seems to be Massachusetts, you’re Massachusetts, Boston College you’re Notre Dame, Irish Catholic you’re Irish Catholic, all of that, why did you admire him?
SHIELDS: Why did I admire him. He was -- he had about him, Mary McGrory who was just revered as a writer and as a friend and as a wonderful human being, said he was a stranger to self-importance which is important to me and I mean not forgetting where you came from and all the rest of it and he was a stranger to self importance. I remember once and he said -- I’ve got to tell you the funniest thing that happened. He said ”I’m sitting out there in the House and Elena Kelly comes in, my secretary, and she said ”Mr. Speaker, Eddy Anderson is on the phone” and he said ”I’ll be honest with you Mark, Eddy Anderson is a fellow from the old neighborhood and things hadn’t worked out very well for Eddy so I said I’d take the call and said ”Eddy old pal, how are you?
And he says ”Tip, I’m in a barn in Summerville and he said ”yes” and he said ”I’m with a couple of guys and they don’t believe I know you” and he said ”Eddy you’re a great old pal”, he said, ”Well Tip will you just tell these guys that I know you? So he puts them on the phone and he said ”Hey, Eddy is a great pal of man, this is Tip O’Neal in Washington and so forth put Eddy back on the phone and he said ”Eddy, is there anything else I can do and Eddy said ”No Tip, we are just proud of you we see you on C-SPAN” and he said ”I’ve got to tell you Tip you look like W.C Fields up there.” Now anybody who can tell a story like that about himself, and he just always I mean, he gave the benefit of the doubt to the people who didn’t have high powered representation here in Washington, who didn’t have chauffeur driven cars, who didn’t have three or four staff people carrying their briefcases for them and then there was just something that he knew who he was, not unlike Gerry Ford.
LAMB: That’s three.
SHIELDS: That’s three, who else would I include? Certainly I mentioned Gerald Ford, Mo Udall to me was an exceptional man. Bill Proxmire was a remarkable man and a man whom I had for whom I had great admiration and affection Sarg Shriver as well. (Ed Muskie lot of Kevin White the mayor of Boston, but Mo Udall was -- he was a gentle giant . . .
LAMB: Who was he, first of all?
SHIELDS: He was a congressman from Arizona and -- who ran for president in 1976, he finished second to Jimmy Carter for the nomination and the reason he didn’t win, I’m convinced, he had a marvelous sense of humor as did Tip, which I guess is the common denominator in people I like is that he was a gentle giant as they say with laughter in his soul and steel in his spine, I mean he took on established leadership of his own party but he could never convince himself, Brian, that the Western world would collapse if he didn’t win and I think there has to be something of that in a successful presidential candidate, the indispensability factor and he didn’t have it.
Mo just had too wide of a perspective of who he was and what he was about, but he is just a -- he was a marvelous, marvelous man.
LAMB: Let me ask you this, we watched him in the press only die with Parkinson’s disease out at the soldiers’ here and I remember stories of people going out to visit him including John McCain and did you ever go visit him?
SHIELDS: I did. And I will say this about John McCain, John McCain’s 2000 campaign when he ran for president is the most memorable campaign that -- of any that I’ve ever covered I’ve been around. I mean it was just -- we will never see it again here he was facing George W. Bush who had all the face cards of the Republican Party backing him and the three Republican governors and New Hampshire and all the money.
And John McCain went out and held 114 town meetings and he stayed there until every question was answered and you’d see people, you see the light bulb going on in people’s heads, they’d say, ”when are we going to get the patients’ bill of rights?” and John McCain would say, ”we are not going to get a patients’ bill of rights as long as my party is owned by the insurance companies and the democrats are owned by the trial lawyers, next question.”I mean it was just this refreshing candor and you’d see it in people’s responses and he was totally opened to the press, I mean there was a candor and an openness and sort of a welcomeness I mean that no one had seen before and no one certainly has seen since.
LAMB: For the moment though go back to Mo Udall and if you saw him at the end, I mean the picture I have, I remember him giving speeches and being tremendously funny, I mean we covered him a lot and all that but his death was -- how long was he in that hospital and he wasn’t’ -- he wasn’t able to talk was he?
SHIELDS: No, no. It was just I mean, that’s what McCain used to do was go out and read to him and it was a terrible, terrible death, I mean a long illness, debilitating and it was so sad I mean, because he had that , as you put it, that marvelous wit and he seemed aware.
LAMB: And you worked for him?
SHIELDS: I worked for him when he ran for president in 1976 and I -- I was managing because -- I’d stayed out of that campaign because my wife Ann was taking the bar exams that year after being married to me long enough she realized that I had this uneven work and income pattern.
LAMB: Where did you meet her by the way?
SHIELDS: I met her in Washington, she was, my roommate was dating her roommate, that’s when men had male roommates and women had women roommates, and that’s when I met her.
LAMB: While we’re on roommates, I remember John Sears famous political name being your roommates at Notre Dame.
SHIELDS: He wasn’t my roommate but he is a good friend of mine.
LAMB: He wasn’t your roommate, OK.
SHIELDS: No, John’s younger than I am, he was a . . .
LAMB: Who was he?
SHIELDS: John Sears was -- is -- I once did this, I was writing a piece and I have one call to make in a political campaign, I’d call John Sears and my editor says ”no, no”, if I had two calls to make one of them would be to John Sears because you want everybody else to think that they are the other call and that’s how highly I thought of John Sears and I think of John Sears.
John Sears was the genius, he was 29 years old and he and Pat Buchanan were the two people on the payroll working for Richard Nixon who was coming back from having lost in 1960 to Jack Kennedy, having lost to Pat Brown in 1962 in California and his comeback campaign was basically1966 to 1968. He campaigned for the Republican candidates, they did very well, it was a good Republican year and Nixon had been the one guy who had been out there for all them -- and Sears and Pat Buchanan was writing the words and Sears was doing his politics and then John went into the White House as the White House counsel and Mitchell and -- I’m trying to think who else, somebody else, really didn’t like him, he was too friendly to the press. So he got bounced out of the White House and his comeback was with Ronald Reagan, he is the Ronald Reagan architect of the 1976 campaign.
LAMB: What’s he doing today?
SHIELDS: John is in Miami and he is basically retired, I mean John is now 70 but he still has his hand in his practice, he’s had a very successful law practice.
LAMB: Here is – at the top of my list. One of the clips I have of you was back in 1992 and you were at the National Press Club saying some strong things.
SHIELDS: What happened to the Republicans was that they reinforced that perception and that prejudice against the Republicans as the party of the wealthy by nominating George Bush, in spite of Pork rinds, and WMCQ, and country and western music and all the other little trappings we’ve heard, this is a guy who will have a dash of coffee and his biggest social offence was once ordering the house chablis.
Now that works pretty well in good times, it kills you in bad times, it absolutely kills you.
LAMB: Did they pay you to speak to the Notre Dame club of DC
SHIELDS: No, no, the Notre Dame club I’d do anything for Notre Dame.
LAMB: You were that tie today on top of it
SHIELDS: This is Irish, this isn’t Notre Dame is blue and gold. You know that, of all people, for goodness sake’s, I mean having been vanquished by them so many times, but that’s a theory I had, the two parties with the perception of the Democrats is that they’re kind of down scale sort of not well educated, that’s been their constituency. So the Democrats love to nominate people with ivy league pedigrees who speak in complete paragraphs, Stevenson, Kennedy, Roosevelt, even Bill Clinton, Barack Obama. The Republicans are seen as the party of the landed gentry and the well off, like to nominate candidates who come from humble origins whether it’s Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan, Hubert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, Gerry Ford and that’s why George H.W. Bush another man whom I like and admire enormously at a personal level an incredibly thoughtful man, he reinforced the perception of the Republicans as the party of the landed gentry and it became a problem in 1992 in a time of economic downturn.
LAMB: Which campaign did you dislike the most?
SHIELDS: The 2012 campaign was a pretty bad campaign because I don’t think either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney really likes politics that much and you’ve got to have people who like politics.
LAMB: How can you not like politics and run for president?
SHIELDS: I mean you’ll have to ask them, I mean or their doctors, I mean I just -- but I don’t think either one of them got much joy out of it, I mean . . .
LAMB: Do you still get joy out of it?
SHIELDS: I do, not as much, I mean there was a time you’d stay up late at night and everybody will have a funny story and I think there is less of that now, I think there’s less letting down of hair, I mean there is a lot more control in the campaigns and a lot less accessibility.
LAMB: I remember it seems like 30 to 40 years ago that journalists like you would know these folks, having had drinks with them and all that, and today it seem like it doesn’t happen.
SHIELDS: Yes, I think that -- I don’t know if it’s true for everybody but certainly is true, I think -- in Obama’s case I mean he came here and was elected in 2004 and landed immediately Dick Durbin who was his colleague said ”this is your chance to run” which is sort of selfless for a senior colleague to say something like this is your chance to run, and to a considerable degree he was exploring it from that point forward but yeah there isn’t that Jack Germond being a perfect example of that -- obviously a great political reporter but I mean who made a point of getting to know these guys in the off season and having the feel for them and it is a great way of knowing people when they are not running.
LAMB: In your lifetime, 17 years with Capital Gang, CNN, 17 years, why did they give it up?
SHIELDS: You know, Robert Novak was my great colleague and wonderful friend, his idea of the show, he was leaving the McLaughlin Group where he was unhappy and this was his rump group and off we went. I’d say he -- we -- but he as the executive producer made two mistakes. I mean, one, as far as Capital Gang was concerned he agreed to go to an hour CNN had this very popular show at 7:00 on a Saturday night and it was a great half hour show.
LAMB: Capital Gang?
SHIELDS: Capital Gang, it was a half hour show, that’s what it was. We did the week and he had a brilliant idea which was to bring on a newsmaker, we were accused of being too cozy or whatever, but to bring on a Senator or a Governor or a cabinet member and they’d be part of the discussion, you wouldn’t interview them, you’d say what do you think about this, Frank or this or that, and we would do it on a first name basis. And boy it you’d really get a sense of these people, I mean some could take it, others wouldn’t, I mean others were used to being deferred to but it wasn’t an hour show and I just -- I think that when you do an hour show you have to go to hamburger helper you know what I mean, sort of expand how this one -- let’s do a longer piece on Bureau of Engraving and it was a high energy show for half hour. And I think that was a mistake, even CNN was going through all kinds of changes to it but you know 17 years is a pretty damn good run, I mean nothing to compare to C-SPAN and you.
LAMB: But by the way we are 50 minutes into this and we haven’t gone to the hamburger helper yet but I do want to take advantage of the seven minutes we’ve got left. You also did Gergen and Shields, Gigot and Shields, Brooks and Shields.
SHIELDS: I like to say Shields and Brooks, Shields and Gigot, Gergen and Shields.
LAMB: I did that only because you lasted longer than all of them. Which one did you like the best?
SHIELDS: That’s a good question, good question for you to ask and bad one for me to answer. The -- everyone of them, I did David Gergen was six years, from 1987 to basically 1993 I think, and he left of course to go to -- sort of sort of tarnished his Republican credentials by going to work for Bill Clinton.
LAMB: You can hear Republican saying though that that’s the kind of Republican that they -- I mean you can probably say that’s the kind of Republican they have on PBS.
SHIELDS: I mean you can’t say that about Paul Gigot, the editor of the editorial page of the Washington -- Wall Street Journal but he’s gone though. But he did it -- Paul did it from 1993 to 2001 and the only reason he left was he went to New York, it’s a Washington based . . .
LAMB: To run the page?
SHIELDS: To run the page, yes. I mean he got the promotion . . .
LAMB: So which one of the three did you like the best?
SHIELDS: And then since then I’ve been doing it with David Brooks. All three of them have been terrific, I’ve been very, very fortunate I mean in all three.
LAMB: What’s the difference? In those three Republicans, or three conservatives, three whatever they are?
SHIELDS: What’s the difference, I mean I don’t know, I mean, I’ve done it with David Brooks longer, I mean this year we are coming up on 12 years so I’ve kind of watched David grow from this young fire brand to the Walter Lippmann of his generation, it’s been kind of a fun thing . . .
LAMB: So the greatest journalist in your life time that you’ve ever read or you’ve ever known beside yourself? Somebody that you admire.
SHIELDS: Well, Mary McGory, I just -- the way she wrote, I mean the fact that Mary McGory was a columnist for the Washington Post before that for the Washington Star and just a couple of things about Mary, she was a shoe leather reporter, she went to the event, she didn’t just do the thumb sucking, I had lunch with the Secretary of State and this is what he said blah, blah, blah. I mean she continued to do that and she said -- asked about are you subjective and she said, ” only about 85 percent of the time.” She said ”I hated the Vietnam War and I hate the way we treat kids” and she did, and she was somebody who lived it and on her spare time she devoted her effort and energy and recruited her friend -- not even recruited them, she absolutely demanded and commanded that we work and help out at St. Anne’s orphanage which was her passion.
LAMB: Here you are on Inside Washington, a program that you now appear on periodically.
SHIELDS: Yes, yes, let’s get that straight.
KRAUTHAMMER: I think all he needs is a name change and I have a suggestion, Jeb Ochocinco that way he covers Hispanics and wide receivers at the same time. I think it would be a tremendous asset to him.
SHIELDS: It is interesting, the other thing he does need too is a speech coach he gave one of the two or three dullest speeches at the Republican convention and that -- believe me, that was a competitive thing, as for Chris Christie I mean, I’m the last person in the world to tell him to join a gym but watching him get out of a SUV was like watching the Russians get out of Afghanistan, it took that long.
LAMB: You got them on that one, they liked it, they all laughed.
SHIELDS: They did, they did like that. Best natural politician in the country, Chris Christie.
SHIELDS: I mean, he’s just -- he is uncontrived in public, he is instinctive and he’s -- at a time when the brand of politics and politicians is in the cellar he is I think the only major national figure who has positive ratings from both Republicans and Democrats.
LAMB: Would this country go for another Bush?
SHIELDS: Jeb Bush, I think Jeb Bush is so different, the question is will the Republicans understand Jeb Bush, Jeb Bush understands this point, in 2040, Texas will be 20 percent Anglo. When George H.W. Bush was elected president, he carried New Jersey, he carried Illinois, he carried Ohio, he carried Michigan, he carried California, those states are no longer -- he carried Maine and Vermont. Those States aren’t even competitive for the Republicans now and if the Republican party is ever going to be competitive again, they’ve got to understand what Jeb Bush has been telling them, especially on reaching out to Hispanics, I mean the fastest growing constituency in the country, that naitivism or whatever you want to call it that has sort of dominated the Republican nominating process which really if you think about it came back and bit Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney ran against Rick Perry whom he was worried about and Newt Gingrich whom he was worried about, OK on the right side of immigration accusing Rick Perry of being soft because Texas had passed the dream act with four Republicans in the entire legislature voting against it and because Newt Gingrich said a family that have been part of the community for 25 years in a church and had been participating and paying taxes shouldn’t be summarily dismissed. So this is -- I mean Jeb Bush is a possibility but he’d better get a speech coach, go back and look at his speech on C-SPAN and it was I mean, forget Ambien, he’ll put you to sleep.
LAMB: When was, this is the last question. When was Mark Shields the happiest in politics?
SHIELDS: You know, I said at the time in retrospect, working for Jack Gilligan in Ohio when he was elected governor, I managed his campaign and Kevin White when he was re-elected mayor of Boston in 1975 and I was involved in the leadership of his campaign, Robert Kennedy. When you are doing -- the Robert Kennedy thing in retrospect because when you are doing what you enjoy doing, what you like doing, what you do well and you think you are going to make a difference that’s going to be better for the country and especially for widows and orphans and people who don’t even know your name and never will know your name, boy that’s probably as good as it gets.
LAMB: Mark Shields, columnist, raconteur, television commentator, thank you very much for your time.
SHIELDS: Thank you very much Brian.