My Daily Work
A gallery of possible last minute costumes for an election year.
Listening to Limbaugh, Beck and their echoes in right-wing political circles, it's harder and harder to avoid the conclusion that there is a racial component to their apoplexy. Rush's paranoid tirade about Obama and the school bus beating is Exhibit A.
Attorney General Eric Holder's speech last week about America's racial divide was a disappointment. I think if you are going to label the country a "nation of cowards", you owe people something more than a collection of bromides. What, specifically, would he like Americans to talk about with their neighbors and co-workers? How has the election of the first black president changed that conversation? Furthermore, his notion that weekends in the US today don't look much different racially than the weekends of 50 years ago just doesn't ring true.
Just as a report from the Senate Armed Services Committee last week established that torture in Iraq and Guantanamo was not the work of rogue foot soldiers but the policy of Bush higher-ups, Cheney has declared his foreknowledge and support of these practices. Will the Obama administration have the determination to appoint a prosecutor who can determine whether criminal indictments against the veep, Rumsfeld, Gonzales and others are warranted? Good editorials on the subject today in the Globe and The New York Times.
The right's paranoia (or propaganda) and the left's projection are now colliding with the reality that Obama is a pretty mainstream pol. Surprises all around.
This morning’s cartoon -- about the machine-gun death of a boy at a gun expo -- sparked a lot of comment, some positive, more negative. “Tasteless,” “callous,” and “disgusting” were some of the words used to describe it. Some of the criticism comes from habitual Globe bashers or gun nuts beyond reason, but others raise honest questions about the role of cartoons, particularly in the wake of tragedy. I’m not in the habit of explaining cartoons, but I think this is an opportunity to talk about cartooning, what it is and is not.
Editorial cartoons are instant, distilled, graphic commentary on breaking news. Often they are funny, sometimes whimsical and occasionally grim. They cover some of the most difficult issues –- issues people feel uncomfortable discussing, like sex, religion, racism and the death of children. Inevitably, cartoons on sensitive subjects offend someone’s sensibilities. The question is whether the offending was gratuitous or not.
Today’s cartoon is not funny in a “Ha ha” way. It is an attempt to express my outrage that we, as a society, permit an 8-year old to fire an Uzi. In my opinion, and the opinion of many others, it’s crazy, nuts, insane. The drawing’s exaggeration is intended to convey that. It’s not a joke about a boy dying -- it’s a cry in cartoon form that we not let it happen again. That would mean challenging the gun lobby that has been so successful in intimidating politicians and blocking sensible limits on gun sales and use. (By the way, I am not an anti-gun zealot. I first took my son shooting when he was 10 – with a rifle that was appropriate to his age and strength.)
Then there is the question: should cartoonists comment on personal tragedy? It depends on the nature of the event and its wider implications. In this case, the tragedy is not just a private one. We all have some responsibility, as a society, for the recklessness behind Chris Bizilj’s death. It’s not the same as a swimming pool drowning or a bike accident. We let the NRA run amok with predictable consequences. That was the target of the cartoon, not the family. We can treat each gun death as just a tragic part of life, or we can look at our political decisions and see the consequences. Cartoons can be mirrors, and sometimes the reflection is not pretty.
UPDATE 10/30 Globe editorial on the same subject here.
Testifying before Congress, the oracle concedes that his prophecies require some minor revisions.
Whatever happened to Pat Nixon's respectable Republican cloth coat?
There's a whiff of panic in the air as McCain and Palin try desperately to pin the radical label on the relentlessly centrist Obama. It hardly seems to be igniting the voters as they contemplate their mortgages, retirement plans and heating bills.
Time to ask your banker for two forms of ID, a credit report and proof of collateral.
As their 401Ks shrink to 301Ks on their way to becoming 201Ks, Americans seem to be having second thoughts about putting their nice but novice neighbor next in line to the presidency. Sarah's surge may be ebbing.
The economic and political winds seem to be blowing against him, but McCain's not helping with his impulsive, lurching and often self-contradictory reactions to unfolding events. It's hardly reassuring.
The GOP leadership emerged from the attempt to pass a bailout bill blaming hurt feelings for their failure to mobilize the Republican membership behind the president. Apparently they perceived some partisan slight in remarks made by Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the runup to the vote. Who knew elephants were so thin-skinned? A quick websketch:
I suspect there was at least one close student of Friday night's presidential debate.
Congress and the administration have announced the outlines of a Wall St. bailout deal.
McCain's born-again populism seems a bit far-fetched given his decades worshipping the workings of the unfettered free market, not to mention his lavish lifestyle.
The superstitious fears of post-2000 Democrats that disaster is imminent may now exceed those of pre-2004 Red Sox fans.
Another stunning admission of defeat for the free market purists in the administration and a fitting wrap-up to the sub-prime presidency.
Hubris and unbridled greed get their reward. It would be very funny if they weren't taking the rest of us down with them.
Maybe the campaign should be discussing the bridge loan to nowhere.
It will be fascinating to see how effective McCain/Palin will be in campaigning against the media and claiming to be the victims of overzealous and/or biased reporters. So far, they've had some success using Palin's family and requests for privacy as a shield against more substantive questions about her right-wing political views and alleged abuse of power while governor.
The deregulated chickens come home to roost... in all our pocketbooks.
Unwilling to wear the millstone of Bush around their necks, McCain and co. have decided to reincarnate themselves as maverick, reformist outsiders. It's probably their only hope, given W's unpopularity, but it's also a huge stretch, especially since McCain has all but abandoned the positions on taxes, torture and immigration that really set him apart from the right-wingers in the GOP. Even moose-skinning Sarah may not be enough to sell this rebranding campaign.
A well-crafted speech, full of Nixonian sneering and paranoia. Masterfully delivered. McCain has a new, energizing weapon.
Nobody can argue with McCain's decision to scale back the GOP convention or fault him for turning his fundraising apparatus toward helping the victims of hurricane Gustav. But McCain is also performing something of a rescue mission on himself. During the campaign, he has been critical of the Bush handling of Katrina, although not at a time when his criticism might have spurred the administration to action. Check out the White House photo of McCain and Bush on the day Katrina struck New Orleans.
This time around, McCain is working overtime to separate himself politically and physically from Bush, distancing himself from one of the most searing catastrophes of Bush's eight years. He's checking the weather closely:
News like McCain's pick of Sarah Palin is almost always fun. It demands a quick reaction, unencumbered by the study of policy positions and candidate white papers, unlike, say, cartooning global trade. In the case of a relatively unknown political figure, it also requires a rapid caricature solution. Below are a few sketches from my notebook, including three cartoon ideas I discarded, followed by the finished drawing I finally decided to draw for the editorial page.
A quick sketch of the pro-drilling guv:
The imagined reaction of the ever-accommodating Mitt:
A campaign in need of some vitality:
A fairy tale setup begging to be tried:
And finally, the winner:
Politics aside for the moment, Obama's acceptance tonight of the nomination of a major American political party is a breathtaking milestone in the country's history.
It will be a loss to the nation's satirists when the Clintons take their long-running personal and political psychodrama off the road and recede, at least in the short term, to the confines of Chappaqua. (Rumors that large sums of cartoonist money were secretly funneled to Hillary's campaign in late May remain unsubstantiated.)
Circumstances being what they are, we have to enjoy them for the fleeting hours they still command the stage.
In the good old days, political parties used to observe a few days of relative silence when the opposition was having its convention. No longer. As part of the inexorable decline in public and political civility, partisan operatives must operate around the clock. Details in this New York Times story.
The McCain camp has its people in Denver seeking to distract the Dems and get some free media. They are running ads capitalizing on the Hillary holdouts, and McCain himself is widely visible, dropping in on Jay Leno last night.
McCain is to working hard to recover from his housing howler, when he needed staff research to detail his domiciles. As he did earlier when challenged on aspects of his health plan and even his taste in music, he reached for the POW shield, hoping mention of his Vietnam sacrifices would put an end to tough questions. It was reminiscent of the Carnac act performed by Leno's Tonight Show predecessor, Johnny Carson. The Great Carnac would divine the answer before a question was asked. In McCain's case, the answer is always, "POW".
The cartoon take:
I've just returned from a one-week vacation to find It's time to put away the reference photos of John Edwards and dust off the old pix of Joe Biden. I played with several ideas about the yakster from Delaware. Here's one I liked ok but ultimately rejected:
I preferred this cartoon which will be on tomorrow's editorial page:
It may be that Biden will help Obama, but I'm skeptical. He's always struck me as even more self-centered and self-aggrandizing than your average Washington pol. I've only met him once - back in 1987 when he visited the Globe in advance of the Robert Bork Supreme Court hearings. He gabbed on and on while mesmerizing his audience with the whitest teeth known to man -- they looked like they were illuminated from within.
Substantively, he carries some heavy baggage for a would-be populist. He was a consistent supporter of the dreadful bankruptcy bill passed in 2005 and signed by Bush. Here's a good piece by Jackson Williams at Huffington Post on the Senator from Mastercard.
Welcome to Out of Line -- a loosely structured, free-flowing forum on political cartooning and political art. The constant of the blog will be the cartoons I draw for the Globe editorial page and comments the cartoons provoke from readers. But I'm also looking forward to discussions about other editorial cartoons and the art forms they bump up against, from New Yorker covers and graphic novels to street art and drawing shows at New England museums.
Editorial cartooning is something of an endangered species, perhaps even more so than the traditional print media that support it. The number of editorial cartoonist positions is shrinking rapidly, and on-line outlets are not yet capable of filling the gap. I think political cartoons serve a special role in holding power accountable. They have a directness and immediacy that can unwind spin and talk back to talking points. The more that cartoons are read and discussed, the healthier it will be for the craft and for public discourse.
I envision a blog that tilts to things New England, but that's not restrictive. The blogroll on the right is a beginning list of links I look at. Suggestions for expansion are welcome and encouraged.