CSotD: Slags, gags and lags

I got a laugh out of this Ed Stein cartoon last night.

It’s from 1994.

I’d given up on contemporary cartoons for the moment, because the treatment of Biden/Reade went so far out of whack that it’s like when you shut down the washing machine because you can take a little banging, but now it’s threatening to skip across the floor and do permanent damage.

Some cartoonists are, genuinely, using Tara Reade’s accusations to attack Biden on behalf of Trump, which is their right, of course, though, as I said the other day, there is a difference between “spin” and “deliberate lies.”

And some cartoonists are just taking advantage of the allegations to make jokes while they wait for some more substantive political issue to emerge.

Others — and this accounts for my pausing things — are caught up in a time lag, demanding that Biden address the issue, except he did so yesterday morning with an interview and a more formal statement and suddenly their cartoons don’t work anymore.


I appreciate Clay Jones’ essay on the topic, Clay being one of the quickest on the draw and least likely to fall behind on these matters.

The notion that the media in general and Democrats in particular have failed to examine the charges is so completely wrong as to amount to a deliberate lie.

The latest piece is from David Axelrod on the vetting of Biden when he was proposed as Obama’s VP, but there have been many, many other articles specifically addressing the accusation and you can go back through my last several postings to find the links.

They will be denounced as lies by the pro-Trump crowd, as well as by those who hope Bernie Sanders suddenly inspires huge crowds to vote for him in the remaining primaries, which is like hoping for snow on your birthday when you were born in July.

Hey, it could happen. Not in this hemisphere, unless you live on a mountaintop, but it could happen.

Still, I can think of better bets to risk my money on.

So let’s let the honest cartoonists catch up with the news, and look back at how slags, gags and informational lags worked in the past.


There wasn’t much paranoia involved in feeling the 1968 Democratic nomination was in the bag, and before the Convention even began, Bill Mauldin had Daley’s plans figured out.


I remember, at the time, the confusion that Bobby’s assassination created, because his sudden rise and solid connections made him more than viable, while Gene McCarthy’s poll numbers only muddied the waters. Note that Mauldin cites them without declaring them insurmountable.

The McCarthy campaign — “The Children’s Crusade” — was seen as overly optimistic and unable to oppose the machine, which was why the demonstrations were planned.

Once Bobby appeared to be surging, there was talk of calling them off, but, as Abbie Hoffman put it, Sirhan Sirhan stepped up, and it was a whole new ball game.


While Mauldin insisted that Humphrey had spent four years forfeiting whatever credibility he had as an independent operator.

And here’s the critical point: These objections and quibbles were not based on whether Humphrey or McCarthy or anyone else stuttered or stole paper clips or pinched asses or kicked puppies.

They were based on potential policies, and the back-and-forth between the establishment and the young insurgents was over (A) being heard and (B) the future conduct of the war.


But as Herblock suggested and history confirmed, Humphrey — “The Happy Warrior” — ended up crushed between rightwing and leftwing hardliners and Nixon won, having sabotaged the peace talks, which we didn’t know, and promised a “secret plan” for peace with honor, which half the country apparently believed. (It never emerged.)

In case you wondered why those terrible, out-of-touch Boomers get frustrated when young folks seek purity and undermine candidates who are only “electable.”


Now let’s jump forward a generation, and this Jeff MacNelly cartoon is more gag than commentary, but it brings up a point about unelectable candidates, because before Whitewater emerged, Hillary Clinton was involved in a futures trading matter that suggested insider trading, setting her up to take a larger share of the blame for the alleged wheeler-dealer problems with Whitewater.

Which I note because, when she was nominated in 2016, she was dragging chains from a good long time before.


And, since I’d been covering real estate, including commercial real estate development, since the early 80s, I kept watching while cartoonists, including Pat Oliphant, enjoyed the graphic potential of “Whitewater” but nobody really explained what was wrong with the deal itself.

At least we know what Joe Biden is accused of, whether we believe it or not.

In this case, when the actual charges began to be described, those who understood commercial development shook our heads.

It was as if someone said a boxer should have been disqualified because he kept hitting his opponent. That’s how the game is played.

Nothing happened in Whitewater that didn’t happen in other commercial projects. Residential real estate has lots of rules; Commercial is a dog fight.


The comforting part being that even Oliphant, despite his penchant for the jugular, seems to have been a little puzzled over things.


Including Clinton’s ability to simply slip slide on down the road untouched.


At least until his enemies happened upon a young woman who couldn’t be dismissed as attention-seeking trailer-trash.


Trust me when I say it was a different time, and one we have, I hope, largely put behind us.

If they were both truthful, Paula was more of a victim and Monica more of a consenting adult, and Juanita just drifted anchorless, never quite catching the public imagination.

Image matters in these things. Sorry, Paula.

And, BTW, the press corps knew JFK cheated on his wife, but that was in a “don’t ask, don’t tell” era.

I guess you had to be there.

I only performed this song about twice before I listened to the lyrics and began to wonder why he’d die for her marriage and why she’d let him.

Maybe lovers were wired different back then.



7 thoughts on “CSotD: Slags, gags and lags

  1. I’d love to see some Watergate era Don Wright cartoons. Possibly as a means of comparing Trump and Nixon (of course the pandemic dominates on the subject of the former, but since he’s already giving Dr. Fauci the potential impeachment trial witness treatment, it may get topical again).

    Wright being one of my favorite editorial cartoonists, I’ve always loved his drawing style especially c. 1973-5. And I really miss having his newspaper from the time (Miami News) available from microfilm sources on Google News Archive. Filled in lots of the void in my collection (books, photocopies, and stuff I could print out from the internet, though not from the Archive) for a while.

  2. I still believe that if the 1968 campaign had lasted just one more week, the contemporary purists would have taken a deep breath and voted in Hubert Humphrey. Remember, Nixon’s share of the popular vote was only 1% greater than Humphrey’s.
    Yeah, I know, ol’ debbil Electoral College has to be factored in, but still….

  3. “I had been in the arms of my best friend’s wife”.

    So it is not just her marriage that is at stake, but his wish not to hurt his best friend, and his concern for his reputation in the face of the disloyalty that would be revealed.

    Though you have a point, that he is not only losing his life but taking on the reputation of a murderer.

  4. All the Mauldin cartoons are a real treat! After all that richness, I hardly expected so much Oliphaunt. It’s a good day for a reader.

  5. Mitch — The betrayal happened when he did it, not when he got caught. He’s a crappy friend whether or not the victim of his betrayal ever found out.

    And for what? A woman who would rather watch him die than face divorce and disgrace. If she were of any value, she’d have either rebuffed his advances or admitted their affair to save his life.

    Neither one of them is worth the cost of that rope.

  6. I wonder if there were any political cartoons about how Hillary wouldn’t talk to Bill for eight months, moved out of the WH… and the first time she even called him it was to yell at him to bomb Serbia.

  7. I’ll send you my rate card. For another 50% I’ll see if I can dig up some Vince Foster cartoons and one set in the basement of that pizzeria.

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