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Opinion | Mark Shields and the Best of American Liberalism

I don’t know if it was midcentury liberalism or the midcentury record of the Boston Red Sox, but Mark instinctively identifies with the underdog. Every year he invites me to do an event with him with Catholic social workers. These are people who serve the poor and live among the poor. They have really inexpensive clothing and really radiant faces, and in their lives you see the embodiment of an entire moral system, Catholic social teaching, which has its service arm and, in Mark, its political and journalistic arm.

He comes from a generation that highly prized egalitarian manners: I’m no better than anyone else and nobody is better than me. Like Biden, condescension is foreign to his nature. As everybody at the “NewsHour” can attest, he treats everybody with equal kindness. He also comes from a generation in which military service was widespread, along with a sense of shared sacrifice.

I look at Mark’s constellation of values and worry that they are fading away. He doesn’t buy that decline narrative: “I’m more optimistic than I have been. We have to do a little better at celebrating our successes.”

When you work with somebody this long you remember little things — the way he pops chocolates into his mouth during late-night campaign coverage — and the big emotional moments, watching, on set, the first footage of bodies floating after Katrina.

One story sticks in my mind. In 2004, the Red Sox fell behind the Yankees three games to none in the American League Championship Series. The Sox miraculously won the next four games and took the series. Mark went to a bunch of those games, including the final one at Yankee Stadium.

After that game Mark lingered in his seat. Memories flooded over him as sweet tears flowed — a lifetime of games with his mother and father, this magnificent victory they never got to see, the century of heartbreaks now overcome. Mark and the other Sox fans just sat there, refusing to leave, absorbing this new victorious feeling, a hint of justice in the universe.

I like to think that was God’s way of saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

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