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Honoring Mark Shields and his decades of political analysis

For more than 30 years, Mark Shields has provided critical context and perspective to some of the most historic moments in American politics. He became a weekly guest on "The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour" during the 1988 presidential election, bringing a wealth of political experience. And through it all, he's been a guiding force. On his last regular NewsHour appearance, we pay tribute to his legacy.

We at the NewsHour would like to hear your memories of Mark, and give an opportunity to offer well-wishes, too. Fill out this form or send an email to messages@newshour.org.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now we have come to the moment that I hoped wouldn't ever come, when we say our farewells and pay tribute to Mark Shields as our regular Friday night analyst, alongside David Brooks.

    Before we hear from the two of them, we want to share with you a look back at Mark's remarkable run.

  • Jim Lehrer:

    Finally tonight, some Friday night conversation and analysis with and from Gergen and Shields.

    Shields and Gigot.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And to analysis of Shields and Brooks. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    For more than 30 years, Mark has provided critical context and perspective to some of the most historic moments in American politics.

    Impeachments.

  • Mark Shields:

    The attitude in the country remains that Bill Clinton lied. They don't want him to leave.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    War.

  • Mark Shields:

    War should not be the first resort. It has to be the last resort.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    White House firsts.

  • Mark Shields:

    This is a person of enormous talent.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And the current president.

  • Mark Shields:

    Donald Trump is criminally uncurious.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    There from the beginning, his wife of 54 years, Anne Shields.

    Tell me what you remember about the early days of Mark doing the "NewsHour."

  • Anne Shields:

    Whenever there was big political news, they would call Mark, and it just kind of migrated eventually to a Friday night regular venue.

    Mark liked it, and I think Lehrer liked it a lot. So, that made it a go.

  • Jim Lehrer:

    As seen by the Gergen/Shields 1988 Politics Observation Team.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Mark became a weekly guest on "The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour" during the 1988 presidential election. He brought a wealth of experience on Democratic campaigns, in '68, Robert Kennedy, in '72 Edmund Muskie, and, four years later, Mo Udall.

  • Robin MacNeil:

    It's the absolute authenticity of the guy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    To our co-founder, Robin MacNeil, Mark embodied the goal of the program.

  • Robin MacNeil:

    Jim Lehrer and I set out to say, hey, talking heads are some of the most valuable ways human beings communicate. And why not make the most of it and get the best talking heads we can?

    And so Mark fitted perfectly into that.

  • Mark Shields:

    David is wrong in this instance. And it's the first time tonight.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    He's challenged his conservative counterparts on the issues.

  • David Green:

    My favorite moments in television have been Friday nights with Mark Shields.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    David Gergen was his first sparring partner, sharing the desk with Mark for six years.

    What is it about him that you think makes him different?

  • David Green:

    He knows a heck of a lot more about politics than I do. But he had a humility about him, as well as that Irish wit, that just made him a great partner.

    Judy, something else on television, as you know, it can be a highly competitive field. And, often, you may be paired with somebody who you can't quite trust. You never know when you're going to get a knife in the back.

    I always knew with Mark I could totally trust him.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    There have been heated moments.

  • David Brooks:

    Mark and I went at it last week because we passionately disagree.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Our current pair, Mark and David Brooks, were at odds on the war in Iraq.

  • Mark Shields:

    What are we going to do afterwards? Who is going to be with us? Are we going to be the first Western Christian pro-Israeli occupying force, military occupying force of an Arab nation in that region?

  • David Brooks:

    There's about 12 questions there, David. I'd say they're all irrelevant.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Still, he's always kept it fun. Mark, they spent three hours talking. So what do we assume has taken place here?

  • Mark Shields:

    Well, we assume, first of all, Judy, that this week will be a yawn. The past Democratic…

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So we can all go home then?

  • Mark Shields:

    Well, I mean…

  • David Green:

    That's right. They're looking for airplane tickets this afternoon.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You're not supposed to say that, Mark.

    And kept it civil, whether with us at the "NewsHour," or at CNN's "Capital Gang," where he debated the late Robert Novak, alongside a good friend, my husband, Al Hunt.

  • Al Hunt:

    We have spent literally thousands of hours together, dinner with you and Anne.

    Just a problem of communications, Mark?

    We did a 17-year program together, conventions, out there on the campaign trail, and 30 years of Georgetown basketball. I have learned a lot. And, wow, it has been fun.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, it's hard to condense Mark Shields into one conversation, much less an answer, but you are such close friends with him.

    What sets him apart? What makes Mark special?

  • Al Hunt:

    He's always interested in a lot of different things, but those things which he's really interested in, politics and family and faith and sports, he gets deeply engaged. He's not a passive observer.

    We don't need passive observers for things that matter. Sports matter, Judy.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That love of sports even inspired a Shields and Brooks spinoff.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    It was in the newsroom, very casual, no scripts, no pre-interviews, no notes. They both just sat down, and we riffed.

    This is where we talk about the sport of politics, and politics of sport.

    He could also drop the velvet hammer on just about anything, not just politics.

  • Mark Shields:

    That's typical of you. You like everything except America. I like American sports. Basketball.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    He's become family to our newsroom.

  • Linda Winslow:

    What was it like to work with Mark Shields? It must be heaven, is usually the comment that I got. And it was heaven.

  • Joe Camp:

    I'm not sure, in the past 30 years, that I have met a more gracious, kind person to work with.

  • Cat Wise:

    Even as a young, green reporter, he really listened to what I had to say, was so respectful, so interested in my take. And that really stood out to me.

  • Leah Margosis:

    Mark always brings a great energy into the makeup room with him. And no matter what is going on with him, he always asks, how are you? And he means it. And it's sincere and it's earnest and it's unselfish. He is a man of deep character and integrity.

    And I cherish our friendship.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    He's beloved by his current and former producers, even for his strict preshow routine.

  • Alex D’elia:

    There is a small audio booth down the hall from the studio and the control room. That's his office. That's where he sets up.

  • Beth Summers:

    You have to have the blue paper. You have to have the highlighters in various colors.

  • Saher Khan:

    I remember getting a call from him one day: "Just a reminder, I like this on blue paper, in this format, and please keep them stapled."

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And also for his one-liners.

  • Mark Shields:

    And he caved like a $2 suitcase.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    One Friday night, I was doing the political rap with Mark, and the lights went out in the studio.

    We just lost some lights and power here.

    I just kept talking because Mark said, "We're always in the dark anyway."

    It's a funny line, but not true. Mark Shields, at least, was never in the dark.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A lot has changed in the last year, as Shields and Brooks, and the world, have gone virtual.

    Mark, how is it going?

  • Mark Shields:

    Well, Judy, I'm rereading Tolstoy for the third time. And…

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Mark Shields:

    No, I'm not.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Through it all, he's been with us, guiding us through an election like no other in our lifetimes.

  • Mark Shields:

    There is no more fundamental right than the right to vote, but the right to vote means nothing unless it's counted.

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