Mark Shields, a television expert known for his sharp intelligence, has died at the age of 85

Mark Shields, an insightful analyst of America’s political virtues and failures, first as a strategist for the Democratic campaign and then as the happiest television commentator who outraged the masses for four decades with his outspoken liberal views and sharp wit, died Saturday at his home in Chevy Chase, Maryland, aged 85 .

His daughter, Amy Shields Doyle, said the cause was complications from kidney failure.

Politics loomed large for Mr. Shields even as a boy. In 1948, when he was 11, his parents woke him up at 5 a.m. so he could catch a glimpse of President Harry S. Truman as he passed through Weymouth, the Massachusetts town south of Boston where they lived. He recalled, “The first time I saw my mother crying was the night Adlai Stevenson went missing in 1952.”

A life immersed in politics began in earnest for him in the 1960s, not long after he spent two years in the Marines. He started as a legislative aide to Senator William Broxmere of Wisconsin.

He then worked alone as a political advisor to Democratic candidates. His first national campaign was the ill-fated presidential race of Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. Mr. Shields was in San Francisco when Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles. “I would go to my grave thinking Robert Kennedy would have been the best president of my life,” he told the New York Times in 1993.

He’s had successes, such as helping John Gilligan become governor of Ohio in 1970, and Kevin H. He worked for men who sought in vain for national office in the 1970s, among them Edmund S. Musky, R. Sargent Shriver, and Maurice K. Udall.

“At one point, I had the NCAA internal record for letters of excellence written and delivered,” said Mr. Shields.

As the 1970s came to an end, he decided on a different path. Thus began a long career that made him a key player in American political journalism and criticism.

He got his start as an editorial writer for The Washington Post, but the anonymity inherent in the job troubled him. Request a weekly column and get it.

It didn’t take long for him to set out on his own. While he continued to write a column, which was distributed every week by the Creators Guild, it was on television that made his sure mark.

From 1988 until it was canceled in 2005, he was a moderator and panelist on “Capital Gang,” a weekly CNN talk show that interviewed liberals like Mr. Shields with their conservative counterparts. He was also a panelist on another weekly public affairs program, Inside Washington, seen on PBS and ABC until it ended in 2013.

In 1985 he wrote On the Campaign Trail, a somewhat irreverent look at the 1984 presidential race. Over the years he has also taught courses in politics and journalism at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania.

His longest tenure as a commentator on “PBS NewsHour” was from 1987 until 2020, when at the age of 83 he decided to quit his regular job. Describing himself as a liberal of the New Deal type, Mr. Shields was the antithesis of a series of conservative thinkers, including William Safire, Paul Gigot, David Gergen, and, over the past 19 years, David Brooks.

In praise of his colleague, Mr. Brooks wrote in his book New York Times Column In December 2020, “To this day, Mark argues that politics is about searching for converts, not punishing heretics.”

Shields’ style was wrinkled, his face increasingly cheerful, and his clear New England accent. He happened, as The Times noted in 1993, that he was “just a guy who likes to argue about current events in the barbershop—the expert next door.”

His calling card was a no-nonsense political sensibility, infused with audience-pleasing humor that penetrated the dominant personality trait of many office-holders: vanity. Not surprisingly, his targets, prominent conservatives among them, did not deal kindly with his arrows. And he did not always adhere to modern standards of health.

Of President Donald J. Trump, Mr. Shields said lightly that “the hardest thing to ever do is ask Republicans to vote for tax cuts.” House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy was an “invertebrate”. Senator Lindsey Graham made Tonto, a loyal friend of the Lone Ranger, “sound like an independent spirit.” In both major parties, he said, many people suffer from the “Gene Rolex” – which makes them starved of money for the wealthy.

When asked in a 2013 interview with C-SPAN which presidents he admired, Gerald Ford, the Republican who took office in 1974 in the wake of the Watergate scandal, was cited. He said Ford was “the most emotionally healthy”.

He said, “Not that others were bad cases, but that they got it wrong, and as the late and great Mo Udall, who sought this position, once said, the only known cure for the presidential virus is embalming fluids.”

He asserted that politics was “a contact sport, a matter of accepting an attachment or two,” and the loss was “the original American sin.”

“People come up with very creative excuses for not being able to stay with you when you lose,” he said. Like ‘My nephew is graduating from a driving school,’ and ‘I’d like to be with you but we had a family date at the taxidermy. “

And yet, for all their weaknesses, he had a great admiration for politicians, whether Democrat or Republican, just for entering the arena.

“When you dare run for public office, whoever you’ve sat next to in the high school room or been on double-dating with you or huddled in the car knows if you probably won or lost,” he said. “A political candidate dares to risk the public rejection that most of us will do everything we can to avoid.”

Mark Stephen Shields was born in Weymouth on May 25, 1937, one of four children of William Shields, a paper seller involved in local politics, and Mary (Fallon) Shields, who was at school until she married.

In 2009, Mr. Shields wrote: “In my Irish-American family in Massachusetts, I was born a Democrat and baptized a Catholic. If your luck is holding out, you were also raised to be a fan of the Boston Red Sox.”

He attended schools in Weymouth and then the University of Notre Dame, where he majored in philosophy and graduated in 1959. With military enlistment approaching, in 1960 he chose to enlist in the Marines, emerging in 1962 as a corporal. He said he learned a lot in those two years, including concepts of leadership encapsulated in the Navy’s tradition of not even feeding officers to their subordinates.

“Would our country be a more just and humane place,” Written in 2010If the top officials in Wall Street, Washington, and the executive wings think ‘Officers eat at last? “

When he began his career in politics, he met Ann Hudson, an attorney and federal agency official. They married in 1966. In addition to his daughter, a television producer, he is survived by his wife and two grandchildren.

There were bumps along the way, including a period of heavy drinking. “If I wasn’t an alcoholic, I was probably a good imitation of one of them,” he told C-SPAN, adding, “I haven’t had a drink since May 15, 1974. It took me a long time to figure out that God made whiskey so that the Irish and Indians wouldn’t run the world. “.

He said that some of his happiest moments were when he was working on political campaigns: “You think you’re going to make a difference that’s going to be better for the country, especially for widows, orphans, and people who don’t even know your name and you’ll never know yours. Boy, maybe that’s as good as it gets.”