Matt Davies was, for a second time, awarded the Herblock Prize, and much as I dislike awards in general, I like this one for two reasons: One is that it’s kind of an inside job that consistently honors people who live up to Herblock’s traditions and standards.
I mean, they don’t require Nobel laureates to be able to make dynamite, do they? So an award that honors makers of metaphorical dynamite is better.
Also, it’s not just Lucite but $15,000, which is the kind of award that we can all appreciate.
I would also note that both the winner, Matt Davies …
… and the runner-up, Clay Jones, appear here with regularity, further cementing the validity of the Foundation’s judgement.
The photo above was snatched from Michael Cavna’s coverage of the award and that’s all I’ll steal from him, but you can click and read for yourself.
Instead, I went back to the master’s work, and found some pieces he had done in July, 1973, when we had just learned that the White House tapes existed, but the President was declining to cooperate with the Senate Watergate Committee.
Note that Watergate was only one of the problems Nixon had to deal with, including his personal finances, which may be why every president since has released his tax forms.
Or nearly all.
Nixon didn’t spin for himself, you may recall. And John Mitchell went from being Attorney General to being head of the Committee to Re-Elect the President, which made his role a bit more out front than we’re currently used to.
In fact, Nixon steered clear of all that troublesome stuff, or tried to.
It was clear that there was plenty of evidence. It wasn’t clear how much of it would ever be pulled out of that tangle for examination, but the Ervin Committee was determined.
And there was no shortage of spin doctors in the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue being, in those days, a solidly two-way street when it came to loyalty …
… or had been, up to a point, and, though this July cartoon depicts how the coverup had happened, by then Haldeman and Ehrlichman had resigned and were now functioning as scapegoats, along with John Dean, who had been fired.
It was everyone’s fault but the Chief’s, who, golly gee, had no idea what sorts of tawdry things had been happening behind his back.
That was July, and the bickering went back and forth until October, when the Saturday Night Massacre brought things to a boil. Herblock may have been more prophetic than others in this commentary, but the fury over the firings, and the heroic resignations of those who would not carry them out, sparked a more general resistance than we’d seen before.
As this cartoon that same week in October suggests, Judge Sirica had emerged as one of the heroes of Keeping Things Honest, but for those hoping for a quick ending to the tale, it should be noted that the new prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, did not get a subpoena for the tapes until April, and it was July before the Supreme Court unanimously backed up the demand.
Whereupon the House, which had been holding impeachment hearings since May, ’74, passed its resolutions at the end of July and prepared for a vote of the full House, which Nixon avoided by resigning August 8, 1974.
So fourteen months passed from the start of the Senate hearings to the date of the resignation, and the existence of the tapes was central to the outcome.
How long it would have taken, or if it would have happened at all, without such astonishing evidence would be an interesting debate.
Meanwhile, it was good that Herblock helped maintain focus, and it’s good that he squirreled away his money and was able to fund a foundation to keep this type of work alive through these hard times for political cartooning.
But I won’t pontificate on that, because Matt covered it well in his speech, which is both insightful and funny.
You can see more at the Herblock Foundation site, including the portfolio of his work that was considered for the prize.
And I’m sure you’ll see both Matt and Clay on this page in the future.