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Editor's Note: PBS NewsHour's longtime friend and colleague Mark Shields has died at the age of 85. We aired this segment to honor his decades of contributions in December 2020.
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 email@example.com.
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.
Finally tonight, some Friday night conversation and analysis with and from Gergen and Shields.
Shields and Gigot.
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.
The attitude in the country remains that Bill Clinton lied. They don't want him to leave.
War should not be the first resort. It has to be the last resort.
White House firsts.
This is a person of enormous talent.
And the current president.
Donald Trump is criminally uncurious.
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."
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.
As seen by the Gergen/Shields 1988 Politics Observation Team.
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.
It's the absolute authenticity of the guy.
To our co-founder, Robin MacNeil, Mark embodied the goal of the program.
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.
David is wrong in this instance. And it's the first time tonight.
He's challenged his conservative counterparts on the issues.
My favorite moments in television have been Friday nights with Mark Shields.
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?
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.
There have been heated moments.
Mark and I went at it last week because we passionately disagree.
Our current pair, Mark and David Brooks, were at odds on the war in Iraq.
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?
There's about 12 questions there, David. I'd say they're all irrelevant.
Still, he's always kept it fun. Mark, they spent three hours talking. So what do we assume has taken place here?
Well, we assume, first of all, Judy, that this week will be a yawn. The past Democratic…
So we can all go home then?
Well, I mean…
That's right. They're looking for airplane tickets this afternoon.
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.
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.
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?
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.
That love of sports even inspired a Shields and Brooks spinoff.
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.
That's typical of you. You like everything except America. I like American sports. Basketball.
He's become family to our newsroom.
What was it like to work with Mark Shields? It must be heaven, is usually the comment that I got. And it was heaven.
I'm not sure, in the past 30 years, that I have met a more gracious, kind person to work with.
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.
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.
He's beloved by his current and former producers, even for his strict preshow routine.
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.
You have to have the blue paper. You have to have the highlighters in various colors.
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."
And also for his one-liners.
And he caved like a $2 suitcase.
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.
A lot has changed in the last year, as Shields and Brooks, and the world, have gone virtual.
Mark, how is it going?
Well, Judy, I'm rereading Tolstoy for the third time. And…
No, I'm not.
Through it all, he's been with us, guiding us through an election like no other in our lifetimes.
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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