One of the news stories getting attention from cartoonists this week has been the race for the Democratic nomination for president, and I’m giving Jeff Stahler honors not only for pointing out the actual stakes but for, I think, reflecting the opinion of thoughtful voters.
It’s easy, even for relatively progressive cartoonists, to slip into Will Rogers mode and mock the size of the field, either doling out cheap shots at each candidate or simply playing “They All Do It.”
It takes awhile to draw all those caricatures, but you could set yourself up down at Fanueil Hall or on the midway at the county fair and make a nice pocketful of change by drawing 20 caricatures.
Political cartooning demands more.
Planting the notion that the Democrats have assembled a group of lightweights and nitwits doesn’t count as “analysis” if you don’t back it up with something above the level of a Jay Leno monologue.
Obviously, it’s a good strategy for conservative cartoonists who are looking to re-elect the President, but it’s strictly partisan.
And let’s consider the stakes: On the anniversary of the murder of five journalists at the Capital Gazette, as commemorated by Michael Cavna, our President joked with Vladimir Putin about how nice it is that Russia doesn’t have a problem with “fake news” and a disloyal press.
Indeed they don’t, as this picture of empty chairs and murdered reporters tells us.
There is a growing list of “fake news” reporters that Putin no longer has to worry about, though he has the advantage of being able to assign his dirty work to specific people.
Trump can only inspire his base and hope someone picks up on the hint.
It’s not fair to suggest that Trump is actually hoping that journalists will be murdered, but we should still be frightened that he jokes about it, because it’s evidence of a lack of good judgement and responsibility.
It was once said that “politics ends at the water.” It was a matter of patriotism, of common sense, of common decency.
Ed Hall notes that not only does Trump joke about murder with a man who murders, but he jokes about disrupting our elections with a man who disrupted our election.
Well, Putin said that liberalism is obsolete, and perhaps Trump is evidence of the fact that racism, exclusion and oligarchy is in the driver’s seat.
But it’s nothing to joke about.
Woodrow Wilson praised “Birth of a Nation” as a tool for teaching history, and Franklin Pierce was apparently kind of a jerk, but I can’t imagine any American president failing to stand up for our nation, or, at least, I couldn’t until now.
And, as Pat Bagley points out, it’s not just that he kowtows to Putin. He also used his trip to Osaka to buddy up to another murderer, this time one who blatantly, brutally murdered an American journalist.
“You have done a spectacular job,” Trump told the powerful crown prince on Saturday, calling him “a friend of mine”.
It’s no secret that Trump favors tyrants and despots, and not only favors them but then insults leaders of more forward-thinking nations.
However, an event like the G-20 can bring his ignorant, disloyal opinions into focus, and it’s not flattering to the United States.
The whole world is watching, after all.
Here’s the thing: I don’t believe Trump sits down and plans all these outrages.
Here’s the other thing: I don’t believe it matters whether he does nor not.
Nick Anderson takes advantage of the casual way Trump dismisses charges of sexual assault and rape to highlight his overall lack of empathy and self-awareness.
He genuinely doesn’t get it, and not in a way that leaves open a channel for teaching him.
Ebenezer Scrooge was a tragic figure, a once sensitive little boy whose disappointments had turned him bitter, such that the visit from the spirits could reawaken the decency and generosity at his core.
I see no such child within Trump, but, rather, someone whose lack of empathy and inability to function in society as a child led his parents to ship him off to a military boarding school while his two siblings stayed at home.
Harsh discipline, marching and daily inspections does not appear to have instilled empathy in the boy. Perhaps it taught him that rank has its privileges, a dangerous notion when not combined with emotional generosity.
And so, as RJ Matson depicts it, here we are.
To bring the conversation full circle, let me point out that this is a funny cartoon, but what makes it funny is gallows humor on a topic that is not at all funny.
The president really does appear to be hijacking our national holiday for the purpose of self-promotion, and if it were the first such odd event, it might not be worth lampooning, but it is only the latest in a chain of narcissistic farces.
Throwing cream pies indiscriminately simply isn’t the same thing.
Al Gore never claimed to have invented the Internet, and jokes on the topic were never funny. And Bob Dole was older than the average candidate, but jokes about his age rather than his ideas were not funny, either.
Here’s a story that I’ve probably told before, because it’s one of my favorites:
Bob Hope was stopped at a traffic light on Rodeo Drive when he glanced over at a pizzeria and saw Lucy tossing pizza dough in the window. He parked and went in and she swore him to secrecy because she had a pizza-dough bit coming up in her show and was determined to learn how to do it right so that she could do it wrong in a way that was genuinely funny.
It’s not funny unless you first get it right before adding the joke.
The point being that, if you think editorial cartoons have impact, it puts you under an obligation to get it right.
And if you think they don’t have impact, it puts you under an obligation to go back to Fanueil Hall.