CSotD: I don’t know why they swallowed the fly

Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. — Matthew 23:24


This pair of tweets appeared together in my feed. Rob is a friend and a good guy and he’s right about the number, but he’s wrong about “great.”

There have already been several fly jokes, and I say “joke” because they are funny and they perform the necessary political cartooning function of, as the British say, “taking the piss out of” Mike Pence, a particularly uptight, self-righteous authority figure who could use a bit of deflating.

But Major Garrett seizes upon the far more important takeaway from last night’s debate, and, while I suppose it might have been more appropriate for me to lead with a woman commenting on the factor, I would point out that you don’t have to be a woman to notice what was happening.

Any more than you have to be a minority in order to notice racism, if you’re paying attention.

These are not just “their problems,” and, as long as we think of sexism or racism as “their problems,” our problems will persist.


Exactimundo. And the good news was that it did seem to reach a number of men.

Both men and women heard it, and, more to the point, they heard Harris’s calm, firm response, which may be why it couldn’t just pass by as the usual noise.

They heard it. And they all needed to hear it.

They amplified it.

They responded to it.

And if you’re about to say that women supported Harris because she’s a woman, let me ask you this: Then how come Hillary Clinton is not president?

If women support women and men support men, their 52% demographic advantage should guarantee that there be no men in elected office at all.

But that’s not how it works. Obviously. Quod est demonstrandum, per omnia saecula saeculorum.

Here’s something more:

I’ve been impressed and grateful over the past several months to see conservatives, many of whose opinions I had previously disdained, taking an active role, bringing to the resistance a talent for scrapping that often seems lacking on the liberal side of the aisle.

I have to remind myself how much I disliked Jennifer Rubin’s columns, back when she was praising and defending W, because she has brought her incisive style to the current fight to restore democracy, common sense and decency.

Here’s the rest of her commentary on last night’s debate. Yes, there’s a paywall, but you can catch most of what she had to say on her Twitter feed.


I first ran into David Frum in the days of Meech Lake, when he was seen — at least in Quebec — as his sainted mother’s ill-mannered son.

One of us — possibly both of us — has grown since, and, while his full article may turn up behind a paywall at the Atlantic, it’s early enough in the month that you’ll likely not have yet used up your freebies there.

This is worth expending one of them.

We saw a vice president who had internalized the Trump White House’s culture of disrespect, and especially disrespect to women. He talked over Kamala Harris and the moderator, Susan Page; he ignored the rules of the debate to which he agreed. At the core of the Trump political project is the reassertion of dominance over the historically dominated by the historically dominant. 

Frum did have a bit of fun with the fly, but only as a symbol of Pence’s ignoring the obvious. He made it a punchline, not a focal point.

Ditto with another conservative who has found his voice in the anti-Trump movement:


To which I would add that using the fly not as the point of a cartoon but as a prop in order to make a greater point is perfectly acceptable. David Rowe (Financial Review) does just that, and he not only shows the burden of defending Donald Trump’s record and policies, but the imbalance between confident calmness and unanchored incapacity.

If you think the fly is the point, you’ve missed the point.


Signe Wilkinson (AMS) saw it in mid-debate.

Liza Donnelly provided a second, confirming commentary.


And Kevin Necessary (AMS) pointed out that it’s “our problem,” not “their problem” by making it the center of his cartoon on the topic, while appropriately keeping the quote in the mouth of a woman.

In any case, as Ezra Klein notes, we’ve seen more capable men confronted by flies. (sound on)


 Elsewhere in the News



As someone who will be working the polls November 3, I don’t appreciate Dear Leader sending his thugs around to intimidate voters and poll workers.

Again, as always, I can’t tell whether he does this sort of thing as part of a monstrous, cunning plan or simply because he’s too stupid and arrogant to know how these things work, but Clay Jones (Ind) accompanies his cartoon with an essay in which he points out that “poll watchers” are regulated, certified personnel and that random hostile idiots can’t just wander into polling places and start bullying people.

(Which, BTW, is a good time to remind you not to show up in shirts or hats that favor a candidate or political position. It would be a shame to stand in a very long line only to find yourself turned back for electioneering within the proscribed distance.)


Bill Bramhall (NYDN) makes a joke about Trump’s poll watchers, but it’s only a joke: Trump’s white supremacist posse don’t do arithmetic, nor do they look at anything that might put a question mark on Dear Leader’s manly prowess.


Though Darrin Bell — or his Candorville (AMS) doppleganger, Lemont — does note the ability of would-be intellectuals to justify Trump’s blundering policy statements.



And now for something completely different

A behind-the-scenes tour of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, with guest commentary from Gene Luen Yang, Laura Park, Art Spiegelman, Garry Trudeau, Mo Willems, Raina Telgemeier, Barbara Brandon-Croft, Hilary Price and Bill Watterson.

13 thoughts on “CSotD: I don’t know why they swallowed the fly

  1. Clay, I seem to remember ANTIFA doing that very thing in one(?) of the recent past elections: showing up at polling places with firearms and intimidating voters.

  2. The fly wasn’t substantive or important, and will be forgotten in a week, but it sure was fun! That’s the value of the fly: laughter. Bullies and authoritarians can’t stand being mocked, and I think that’s why the fly resonated in a way it wouldn’t have if it’d landed on someone else. It was a snowball that knocked off the stuffy parson’s top hat. And the jokes wrote themselves!

    I think the fly did its country a great service.

    Rowe did a terrific job capturing both their facial expressions, especially Harris’s “look,” which I saw many people discussing afterward. A lot of people recognize that look. I think it worked for her.

    I need to get to the Billy Ireland someday.

    Marv, I believe you remember incorrectly. I just spent some time searching for such an event online and came up empty. Perhaps you are remembering a time when my grandfather, who was Antifa in 1944 when he went to fight Hitler, sat at the polling place at the high school gym to check in voters. But he never brought his firearm, which he didn’t see any reason to use after 1945.

  3. “And if you’re about to say that women supported Harris because she’s a woman, let me ask you this: Then how come Hillary Clinton is not president?”

    Electoral College.

    She got three million more votes and still lost.

  4. It’s good that men notice Pence’s interruption and applaud Harris’s standing up for herself.
    Women are much more likely to also note Harris’s stiff smile as she does so. Women know we still have to be “pleasant” while claiming any rightful space, and not seem “shrill” or “a harridan.”

  5. Mike – I understand completely what you mean about Jennifer Rubin and you. I wasn’t familiar with her but when George Will and I began to agree on things, I knew it was more than climate change.

  6. Mike Peterson, I may have been remembering a 2008 incident in which two New Black Panther party members were arrested and eventually charged for alleged voter intimidation in Philadelphia. However, in 2012 the Obama administration dropped that case.

  7. So, Marv, do you remember which president encouraged them to do that? Because that was the point, after all.

  8. I’m not going to lie, having a “Mary” and a “Marv” in this comment section tripped me up more than it should have.

  9. I didn’t know about the intimidation charge against members of the New Black Panthers, so I looked it up. The charge against them of intimidation was brought In 2009 under the Obama administration. It was later dropped. Here’s what the Republican vice-chairwoman of the Commission had to say about it, according to Wikipedia: “The incident involved only two Panthers at a single majority-black precinct in Philadelphia. So far—after months of hearings, testimony and investigation no one has produced actual evidence that any voters were too scared to cast their ballots.”

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