A famed, longtime political commentator named Mark Shields died Saturday at 85.
For 33 years in mostly civil and respectful discussions on TV, he took the liberal, left wing or whatever side of discussions with conservatives about issues that shaped this country under six presidents for the PBS NewsHour and other networks before his retirement in 2020, CNN reported.
CNN also was where Shields appeared on the “Capital Gang” on CNN from 1988 until 2005 opposite conservative icons like Robert Novak and Pat Buchanan.
Before social media made everyone’s political thoughts widely accessible and cable TV news channels trended toward yellow journalism as they do now, people like Shields and Novak spoke for those whose only outlet for expressing their beliefs was at the ballot box or on newspaper opinion pages.
Something struck me when reading a report of Shields’ passing: his optimism that politics can lead to “conflict resolution and pragmatism about the need for compromise.”
But also, he said, “At their worst, politicians – like the rest of us – can be petty, venal and self-centered.”
“But I believe politics, at its best, can help to make ours a world where the powerful are truly more just and the poor are more secure.”
Not surprisingly, there was not a word about the famed political pundit’s passing on Fox while CNN featured the story. Both networks have not been shy in recent years about fanning the flames of political and societal division for commercial gain.
In these cynical times, it seems many on social media believe everyone running for political office, or already elected, are crooks or liars or part of a conspiracy of some sort — especially if they represent the other side of the argument on an issue.
But, as Shields said, politicians can be “like the rest of us” in how they deal with their everyday lives. And some may have had less-then-perfect lives before they ran for office.
It’s in this vein that I think of the latest controversy surrounding Republican U.S. Senate nominee Herschel Walker.
Walker, a former college and pro football star, has four children by different women and says he never hid them from the public.
Indeed, he reported he had four children when then-President Donald Trump appointed him in 2018 to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition.
Though Walker has chided Black men for being absentee fathers in the past, he said he has taken care of all of his children. And he says he did not mention all of his children — other than very social media-conscious son, Christian — to avoid using them to gain political advantage.
His opponent in the November election, incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., is still lead pastor of historic Ebenezer Baptist Church which he led before his election to the Senate in 2020. However, his personal life also has been equally messy.
Warnock recently asked a court to seal his divorce case which has included a contentious custody battle with ex-wife Oulèye Ndoye, according to the Washington Examiner.
Ndoye accused Warnock of “harassing” her and neglecting their children and Warnock has sought to subpoena her college records, according to one report.
An 11-page filing by Ouluye Ndoye wants a judge to grant her additional custody of their two young children so she can complete a Harvard University program, citing an agreement she struck with Warnock while he was campaigning for the U.S. Senate in early 2020, the AJC reported.
It also asks for Warnock’s child support payments to be recalculated because of his “substantial” increase in income after his 2020 victory — on top of continuing to be lead pastor of Ebenezer Baptist, according to the AJC.
Ndoye said Warnock’s victory led to a “substantial change of circumstances regarding the welfare of the children” after Warnock’s victory. The senator had not reimbursed her for some child care costs that she had to pay because of a change in his schedule because of his job in the U.S. Senate, she said, which left her “financially strapped” when she should be concentrating on work- and school-related duties, her filing states.
In the April filing, Warnock said he wanted the file on his divorce sealed because his opponents could use the “public records in order to gain some political advantage or gain,” the Washington Free Beacon reported.
I’m not sure Walker’s messy past is an issue, especially since he never actually hid his children.
Our candidates are human. Many have had messy lives.
Ugly pasts for successful politicians are nothing new. For Bill Clinton, it was a former Arkansas state employee named Gennifer Flowers before he was elected president in 1992. For former President Donald Trump, it was adult film actress Stormy Daniels before his 2016 election.
Walker is a first-time candidate for any office which shows in his often unpolished way of speaking. But his celebrity status in Georgia gave him an advantage in seeking a high-level elected office others without such status were able to gain.
Let’s leave the issue of Senate candidates’ children to the sad commenters on Facebook and the pundits on heavily partisan websites and radio shows.
Let’s move on to the real issues that affect our everyday lives — the economy, gas prices, etc. Dealing with them may get us to a place “where the powerful are truly more just and the poor are more secure,” as Shields once wrote.
Tom Spigolon is news editor of The Covington News. Reach him at email@example.com.