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CSotD: Hearing Test

Ann Telnaes shows off her caricature chops with a portfolio of views from the hearings, and, while not overtly analyzing the proceedings, manages to both capture the moment and slip the knife between the ribs here and there.

The hearings brought me back to Watergate days, because while there were a few times you were glued to the set then — like during John Dean’s testimony — there were far more where you had the hearings on while you puttered around doing laundry and dishes and whatever, keeping an ear on the mood, tuning in and out, more monitoring things than actively watching.

You got a sense of each witness and she captures much of that.

Bill Bramhall also captures a bit of the mood, and the mood cannot have been bright for any Republicans who came to the hearings prepared to hear.

The two witnesses laid out groundwork that suggests a calm, deliberate approach to building a case, and, while it’s not surprising that GOP viewers might find it distressing, it’s more interesting to see the level to which “journalism” has turned into “infotainment” since Nixon’s days.

Reuters White House Correspondent, and former president of the White House Concubines Association, Jeff Mason got a massive slap-down on Twitter from more serious journalists for his contention that it was dull, but at least he conceded it was consequential.

And NBC’s newsfeed conceded the same, and got much the same response:  Those 8,500 comments are mostly from people telling them to quit looking for entertainment and pay more attention to that “substance.”

You might think — and you might be right — that these stars of journalism did not have to put in their time in the trenches, where they might be assigned to the dreary work of watching an investigation unfold day by day.

You might also get the same feeling from their desire for spectacular testimony on the first day of hearings that you get when you are stuck behind someone at a football game who keeps screaming for Hail Mary passes into the end zone on every play.

Well, at least these guys won’t spill beer down your back.

 

Meanwhile, RJ Matson suggests that at least one viewer found the whole thing immensely entertaining.

I’m not sure about this, and I’d love to be a Russian-speaking, mind-reading fly on Putin’s wall as all this is going down, because there really isn’t that much pow/blam conflict, at least yet. If Matson is using the special effects as a metaphor for the disruption of our government, of course, he’s absolutely right.

On the other hand, Putin could be watching Trump unravel and thinking that, while it was easy to suck him into a useful role, the same lack of discretion which made him so vulnerable may be bringing the game to a premature end.

 

Which, as Jack Ohman says, leaves the elephant whistling past the graveyard, trying desperately to stave off a feeling of impending doom.

And the “whistleblower” label also serves as a reference to the astonishingly foolish “defense” — a favorite not only of GOP committee members but also of several Trump-favoring cartoonists — that, unless the anonymous informant is unmasked and forced to testify, none of the accusations can possibly stick, regardless of how many other people provide proof of those same charges.

 

Jim Jordan’s complaint provoked a rare moment of laughter, but his delivery of such an inviting straight line is part of the odd fact that he was part of the GOP team.

 

Perhaps he was chosen by the Republicans for his noted ability to not see what he does not want to see, and Chris Britt illustrates the selective perception of a man who has so well ignored and brushed off reports of sexual predation in his own college wresting program that his name is scornfully spelled “Gym Jordan” by his detractors.

 

He is joined as a defender by Devin Nunes, whose experience in examining Hillary Clinton’s activities resulted not simply in her absolution but in a mountain of memes mocking his fruitless efforts and, recently, reminding subpoena-rejecting Republicans that innocent people don’t mind appearing before Congressional committees.

It will be interesting, as the hearings go on, to see which editorial cartoonists post timely responses to the actual events as they unfold, which sit back and post non-specific, generic commentary on the topic and which suddenly find more compelling material in saggy jeans, Popeye chicken sandwiches and fall snowstorms.

 

But noted conservative Lisa Benson likely goes against what she wishes were the case and, instead, depicts what she sees.

It’s a reminder to everyone in the business that political cartooning is a form of journalism and that artistic talent is only one measure of the quality of your work.

 

A Death in the Family

DD Degg has done a nice roundup of commentary and coverage of the sudden death of Tom Spurgeon, but I can’t let the moment pass without a few notes of my own.

As has been noted elsewhere, Tom had a pretty close brush with death a few years ago, and he wrote a fairly extensive set of thoughts on the experience.

I’d encourage you to read the whole thing, but this part struck me, since I had my own pas de deux with cancer a few years ago.

The lesson this summer offered me was granted in the two hours in the ambulance on my way to surgery, when I was forced to look at my life as a potential whole unit, as something with a beginning and a middle and an end. It may have been denial, it may have been an emotional shutdown, but I had surprisingly few regrets, far fewer than used to come to me on an average sleepless night when I was totally healthy and completely terrified. 

Similarly, when I was told I had stage four cancer, I was not nearly as afraid as I might have expected to be. I told my grandkids that I wanted to see them all graduate, but, then again, I wanted to see their grandchildren all graduate, too, and that certainly wasn’t gonna happen, so we’d have to take what we got.

And that I could get through all the treatment, beat cancer and walk out of the hospital into the path of a bus. Death doesn’t always make appointments.

Tom also wrote

My hope is that by publishing it some of you will start getting check-ups again if, like me, you’d stopped. … I hope you embrace the inevitable fragilities of getting older with good humor and perspective and forgiveness.

I agree. I saw my doctor regularly (Thanks to the ACA) and we had a good relationship such that I could bring up those “Oh, by the way …” observations, one of which led to the discovery of my cancer, which would have been out of control very soon thereafter.

Get insurance. See your doctor regularly.

And keep your karma cool. You never know when you might need it.

Community Comments

#1 Paul Berge
November/14/2019
@ 8:27 am

The Watergate committees did not require the testimony of the guy who found the tape on the door.

#2 Lester
November/14/2019
@ 9:50 am

CORRECTION: noted liberal Ann Telnaes, noted liberal Bill Bramhall, noted liberal Jack Ohman, noted liberal R J Matson, noted liberal Chris Britt seem to have been omitted just before you identified noted conservative Lisa Benson. Probably just an honest mistake…

#3 Kip Williams
November/14/2019
@ 10:09 am

My respect for Benson went up a notch, at least. Something similar happens whenever I see a RW shill open their eyes and acknowledge reality for a day. I don’t enjoy the sensation of surprise that it gives me, but at least it doesn’t happen often.

#4 Mike Peterson
November/14/2019
@ 1:31 pm

Not a mistake, Mike. There’s no need to point out that progressive cartoonists are generally supportive of the process and not particularly supportive of the President. Most people know this.

It is, however, worth pointing out that Benson is not necessarily someone you would expect to be supportive of the hearings, and I felt that not only was her cartoon worth including on its own merits, but that she is generally critical of Democrats and progressives. A bit of “man bites dog” and all that Journalism 101 stuff.

I felt it was also a chance to emphasize that political cartooning — whether right or left — is supposed to be journalism, honestly commenting on the world with reasoned, well-researched observations, and not simply a childish game of hurling personal insults.

#5 Lester
November/14/2019
@ 4:23 pm

I stand corrected. Because usually right Lisa leaned left the distinction was warranted in this case. In just about every other nobody labels a cartoonist liberal. But the reverse is almost always done.

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