Pixel Tracker

Thursday, March 21 , 2019, 4:05 am | A Few Clouds 47º

 
 
 
 
Advice

Mark Shields: Republicans Snubbing Henry Hyde’s Focus on Preparation, Experience

Yes, it is true that, as a political reporter, you do find yourself liking some people you cover a lot more than you like others.

For example, in my 50 years in Washington, of all the House members I have met, the late Rep. Henry Hyde — a conservative Illinois Republican probably most widely remembered today for the amendment bearing his name, which has prohibited federal funds from being used to pay for abortions — remains one of my all-time favorites.

Hyde was smart, good company and brimming with self-deprecating humor, and he never demonized those who disagreed with him.

Speaking one night at a Washington dinner where more than a few self-important types were present, he confessed: “I came here 25 years ago to change the world. Now I just hope to get out of this room tonight with my dignity still intact.”

Not a fan of the trendy, Hyde, a native Chicagoan, disapproved of Californians’ lack of interest in politics.

“I once mentioned the majority whip in Los Angeles,” he cracked, “and they thought I was talking about a leather bar in Malibu.”

But it was Hyde’s wit and eloquence in public debate that were so special. On March 29, 1995, I sat in the House press gallery and listened to him almost single-handedly kill the popular Republican-backed constitutional amendment to impose term limits on members of Congress.

“I just cannot be an accessory to the dumbing down of democracy,” he said. “... America needs leaders. It needs statesmen. It needs giants, and you do not get them out of the phone book.

“New is always better? What in the world is conservative about that? ... Tradition, history, institutional memory — do they not count? ... Ignorance is salvageable, but stupid is forever. ... Why do you want to drive experience into obscurity?”

But Hyde’s line that carried that debate was this: “When the neurosurgeon has shaved your head and they have made the pencil mark on your skull where they are going to have the incision and he approaches with the electric saw, ask him one question: ‘Are you a careerist?’”

Hyde was serious about his work and the work of Congress, which must deal with urgent national questions of “life and death, war and peace.” He respected serious preparation, study, experience and credentials.

But compare Hyde’s values with those in the 2016 Republican presidential contest, where experience in studying, reflecting on or making public policy is considered a liability by many and disqualifying by more than a few.

The most popular Republican candidate, according to every major public poll — who is also the current leader in Iowa, where the presidential primary actually begins — is Ben Carson, who was born into poverty, raised by a single mother and, through hard work and obvious ability, became one of the most respected pediatric neurosurgeons in the country. He is also a best-selling author and a popular public speaker, and he and his wife have established a scholarship fund for disadvantaged children.

There is much to admire in Carson. But his lack of preparation and misinformation about serious public questions are frankly shocking.

In the most recent Republican debate, Carson endorsed an undefined U.S.-led military action against the Islamic State group: “I think in order to make them look like losers, we have to destroy their caliphate.”

He has no tax or budget plan other than his pledge to eliminate the home mortgage and charitable deductions and cut the taxes of those at the top by nearly two-thirds. He’s opposed to an increase in the minimum wage because “every time we raise the minimum wage, the number of jobless people increases.”

That is demonstrably untrue, as is his statement that Adolf Hitler was able to carry out the Holocaust by disarming German citizens.

Hyde was right. America needs leaders, statesmen and giants, and you don’t get them out of the phone book — or, miraculously, just out of the operating room or a “reality” television show.

Mark Shields is one of the most widely recognized political commentators in the United States. The former Washington Post editorial columnist appears regularly on CNN, on public television and on radio. Click here to contact him, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

Support Noozhawk Today!

Our professional journalists work tirelessly to report on local news so you can be more informed and engaged in your community. This quality, local reporting is free for you to read and share, but it's not free to produce.

You count on us to deliver timely, relevant local news, 24/7. Can we count on you to invest in our newsroom and help secure its future?

We provide special member benefits to show how much we appreciate your support.

Email
I would like give...
Great! You're joining as a Red-Tailed Hawk!
  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.