Mark Shields: Clearing the desk of random thoughts

Mark Shields

Mark Shields

Here are a few admittedly random opinions and thoughts, more or less collected from my bedside table and pants pockets.

If the country in 2016 is to actually debate about whether to send Americans into harm’s way in combat in the Middle East, let’s remember the words of former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who candidly wrote in “The Age of Turbulence,” his 2007 autobiography, “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: The Iraq war is largely about oil.”

Memo to presidential campaign folks and press people: National campaigns are not about the candidates; campaigns are – and should be – about the voters and the people.

Sen. John McCain said it best: “I don’t see why a good teacher should be paid less money than a bad senator.”

Every presidential debate is a job interview, and the voters are the boss who hires or denies the candidates applying for the job.

There is something really wrong about our national priorities when presidential candidates repeatedly promise to eliminate any federal taxes on unearned income from stocks or dividends but have absolutely nothing to say about the national shame of looking the other way while more than 16 million vulnerable American children – an increase of about 3 million in just five years – live among us in poverty, with inadequate food, shelter and guidance. The U.S. has one of the highest child poverty rates among developed nations. There is a big difference between fame and success. For example, consider Kim Kardashian and Mother Teresa.

Why are Iowa Republicans – who in the past have flocked to the religiously and culturally conservative candidacies of televangelist Pat Robertson, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Sen. Rick Santorum – so different from New Hampshire voters, who, just a week later, gave a cold shoulder to each of those candidates? One explanation: Almost four times as many Hawkeye voters as Granite Staters in the most recent presidential election identified themselves as “white born-again Christians.” According to the Gallup Poll, New Hampshire residents rank 49th in weekly church attendance, whereas Iowans are tied for 23rd.

As war is debated or recommended in this campaign year, let us remember what Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf said when he was repeatedly praised for his leadership of U.S. troops in 1991’s successful Gulf War: “It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.”

If Las Vegas is so darn smart, then why is it in a place where the average daytime high temperature in July is 106 degrees?

My personal Oscar pick for best actress – for her heart-touching portrayal in “Brooklyn” of a young, homesick Irish immigrant in the 1950s – is Saoirse (it’s pronounced SEAR’-shuh, honest) Ronan. Do yourself a favor and see her. Let’s all agree to seek out and visit a forgotten friend, to keep a promise, to make a child laugh, to speak our love, to be grateful.

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