Opus 298 (August 31, 2012). Hoppin’ mad this time over the mendacious Republicons, we devote much of this posting to Politics As Usual, focusing mostly on some of the best editorial cartoons of the month and those that lambast the Grandstanding Obstructionist Pachyderm now that the GOP nominating convention in Tampa has worn us out. We also explain our error about Dirks: the legal machination he was involved in did not, as we erroneously supposed in Opus 297, establish cartoonists’ rights to their creations. That was accomplished by another legal machination, which we’ll also explain. And we advertise the forthcoming “Damn Cartoons” convention of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists in Washington, September 14-15. Here’s what’s here, in order, by department—:
Dirks Case Didn’t Set the Precedent
Another Yellow Kid (RCH Illo)
EDITOONERY: PART ONE
Some of the Best of the Last Month
THE FROTH ESTATE
Dereliction of Responsibility Akin to Treason
Soledad O’Brien, An Excellent Journalist
AAEC CONVENTION PLANS
Open to General Public
EDITOONERY: PART TWO
GOP Ugliness and the Nominating Convention
Execrable Racist Poster of Obama
ONWARD, THE SPREADING PUNDITRY
Romney Picks Ryan to Appeal to Tea Baggers
RCH Caricature of Ryan
Grandstanding Obstructionist Pachyderms on Compromise (and Lying)
HBO’s Newsroom Hero
Our Motto: It takes all kinds. Live and let live.
Wear glasses if you need ’em.
But it’s hard to live by this axiom in the Age of Tea Baggers,
so we’ve added another motto:.
Seven days without comics makes one weak.
(You can’t have too many mottos.)
And our customary reminder: don’t forget to activate the “Bathroom Button” by clicking on the “print friendly version” so you can print off a copy of just this installment for reading later, at your leisure while enthroned. Without further adieu, then, we begin with a mistake. Here at Rancid Raves, we always give corrections top billing, injecting them into the flowing scroll at the very beginning where they can hardly be overlooked; herewith—:
Snafus and Fubars Noted and Refabricated
SNAFU AND FUBAR are words that originated in the military milieux. Their spellings are determined by the words they actually stand for; thus, snafu means “Situation Normal, All Fucked Up,” and fubar means “Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition.” A “drastic fubar,” an expression to which the venerable Don Rosa introduced me a generation ago, is even more so and describes the situation that prompts this interruptus at the very beginning of our coming together this time.
Last time, Opus 297, I reverberated about my remarks at the Eisner Awards ceremony during the Sandy Eggo Comic-Con, ushering Rudolph Dirks into the Eisner Hall of Fame. On both occasions—the Eisner ceremony and Opus 297—I misspoke and perpetrated a legendary untruth. Herewith, I correct the error.
I said Dirks deserved to be in the Hall of Fame for three reasons. First, his Katzenjammer Kids is the longest running newspaper comic strip: it’ll be 115 years old next December. Second, Dirks established by law suit the legal right of a cartoonist to his creations, his characters. And third, the Katzies’ pranks (together with the Yellow Kid’s slumming) aroused parental concern about the possible impact of such juvenile vulgarities on children, prompting newspaper editors and cartoonists to remember that the comics were for the whole family, including children; and in keeping children in mind, they effectively established the erroneous notion that comics were for children—just children, not the whole family (as was the actual case—chiefly adults but incidentally children). As a culture, we’ve never quite recovered from this last development: newspaper comics are still being drawn for adult readership but vast quantities of personages believe they are for children.
But in the second of the reasons I offered for Dirks’ qualifications for the Hall of Fame, I wandered into a miasma of error that has been insidiously perpetrated for years—namely, that a legal case early in the history of the medium established a cartoonist’s right to his characters, whether he had copyrighted them or not. A newspaper may copyright the name of a comic strip (i.e., The Katzenjammer Kids) as well as specific published installments of that strip but not the appearance of the characters. A cartoonist, then, is free to draw other installments of a comic strip using the same characters that appeared in the published installments copyrighted by the newspaper. In effect, the cartoonist “owns” his characters—albeit not their names, if those names appeared in the copyrighted published strip (i.e., The Katzenjammer Kids).
This legal principal was, indeed, established early in the history of the medium, but it was not established in a case involving Dirks and his Katzies.
The lore of comics history—as differentiated from the actual history of comics—claims that the legal precedent establishing this right for cartoonists was set in a noisy case in which William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer duked it out over the rights to Richard Outcault’s Yellow Kid, which character both publishers were using simultaneously in their papers and, due to the popularity of the character, in a circulation war they were waging.
The same lore holds that this precedent was established in Dirks’ case, which Dirks brought when he attempted to draw the Katzies for a paper other than the one the characters originated in and was subsequently sued by the first paper—Hearst’s.
But neither of these cases established the “precedent” they are alleged to have established. First, logic alone should reveal the fallacy in the Dirks’ case claim: if the precedent had been established by the Yellow Kid case in the late 1890s, then it could not have been “re-established” (?) in the Dirks case of 1914. Clearly, a precedent is established only once, not, as claimed in comics lore, twice.
But we needn’t rely entirely on logic. In 1995, Mark D. Winchester conducted a long and arduous search of legal documents and reported the results in the May issue of Inks, a journal of “cartoon and comic art studies” published by Ohio State University Press. First, there had never been a law suit resolving a question of copyright ownership of the Yellow Kid. Never happened. Second, the Dirks case, which did happen, involved a contractual matter, not a copyright question.
But Winchester discovered the case that had established the precedent we’re contemplating. In this case, Outcault, who was drawing his famed Buster Brown comic strip at the time—not the Yellow Kid—sued another newspaper that was also publishing a Buster Brown comic strip. Outcault had left that paper, where he had originated Buster Brown, and had resumed doing his Buster Brown for a rival newspaper. When his previous newspaper continued publishing Buster Brown, drawn, now, by another cartoonist, Outcault sued to get it to stop. The paper countersued. Both cases were tried in 1906 in the same court by the same judge.
The result, Winchester reported, was that “the title (Buster Brown) and the individual published drawings were subject to copyright, but the characters in general (including elements of likeness, costume, and demeanor) were not tangible enough to merit copyright nor trademark. Outcault and [his new paper] were free to use the character of Buster Brown but not the name nor the title.”
Ironically, I was one of the editors of Inks when Winchester’s article was published. So I knew all this. But while I remembered on the occasion of the Eisners last July that there were mythological legal cases involving ownership of cartoon characters, I didn’t remember which of the three cases claiming the precedent was the actual case. I thought it was the Dirks case. Wrong. Alas, in the grip of my scholarly arrogance, I failed to verify my recollection. It was the Buster Brown case.
Because the 1906 Buster Brown case established the newspaper’s right to the name of the comic strip, when Dirks wanted to continue drawing his Katzies for a rival newspaper in 1914, he was obliged to call his creation something other than The Katzenjammer Kids. He retitled his rogue creation Hans and Fritz (after its junior delinquent stars) and plunged onward. It was later re-titled again, The Captain and the Kids, because, as I said in Opus 297, during World War I, all things Germanic—like the names of the Teutonic Terror Twins (which had been inspired initially by the German cartoonist Wilhelm Busch’s Max and Moritz) —were rigorously eschewed.
But, you might think, we are now left with only two reasons for installing Dirks in the Hall of Fame, not three. Well, yes and no. Since the now notorious Eisner incident of last July, I’ve discovered another reason for Dirks’ being in the Hall of Fame. It was Dirks who first used ZZZZ to indicate sleeping. Or, more specifically, snoring. Now that’s a innovation worthy of Hall of Famery if anything is.
At straightdope.com on July 26, Ethan Reber asked why the letter Z is associated with sleeping, and the website proprietor, Cecil Adams, said that Z wasn’t indicative of sleeping so much as it is with snoring. “Z as shorthand for snoring is a relatively recent invention,” Adams continued. “It came into common use with the advent of comics.”
And he and his assistant, whose name is Fierra (possibly also Una), scoured the universe to find where Z first appeared to indicate snoring. The Oxford English Dictionary cited Z as snoring with a reference to a 1924 publication from the American Dialect Society, “implying it was in popular use some time before.”
Adams continues: “Searching for the letter Z in the world's databases turned up a considerable number of false positives, but by-and-by Una found an instance of Z = snoring in the humor section of the January 1919 Boy's Life, the Boy Scout magazine. Pushing on, she found the Krazy Kat comic strip of May 28, 1916, in which a sleeping bear emitting Z's is awakened when Ignatz the mouse playfully chucks a rock at its head. It soon became clear comics were the principal Z vector. In The Katzenjammer Kids strip of February 16, 1913, the sleeping Captain is generating b-z-z-z's and z-z-z's prior to having his rocking chair pulled over backwards by the disrespectful Kids opening the door.”
Ultimately, Adams goes on, “the ur-instance of Z, or at least the earliest that's come to light, was turned up by Sam Clemens of the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board. It was again from The Katzenjammer Kids, and again featured the snoring Captain, this time suspended in a hammock, unaware he's inventing an enduring comic strip trope. The unimpressed Kids trim his beard with a push mower, then end further Z-ifying by cutting the hammock's ropes. Date of these epochal events: August 2, 1903.
“Wanting to be certain there'd been no prior usage, and, more important, hoping to outdo Sam, Una spent several weekends searching through thousands of turn-of-the-century comics, many available only on microfilm of old newspapers. Immersing herself in far more 1890s pop ephemera than was probably safe, and getting briefly distracted by the implied lesbianism of the 1905 strip Lucy and Sophie Say Good Bye, she discovered other representations of snoring such as "ur-r-r-awk," musical notes, and stars. But she was obliged to conclude that Katzenjammer Kids creator Rudolph Dirks, who drew the comic, was the first to depict snoring with Z's.”
A worthy Hall of Fame claim, I’d say—and for Sam Clemens, too. (“Sam Clemens”? Mark Twain? He still around?) So we’re back to three reasons for inducting Dirks into the Hall of Fame.
Not content with having established the origin of Z = snoring, Una went on to list the ways other cultures represent snoring:
Germans use "chrrr," which, considering the typical German pronunciations of ch and r — i.e., you sound like you're getting ready to use the spittoon — is a lot closer to snoring than "zzz."
The French, who also favor a sonically rich r, use "rrroooo," "rrr," "roon," "ron," and so on.
The Spanish likewise use "rooooon."
The Japanese use characters that transliterate as "guu guu," while speakers of Mandarin Chinese use characters sounding like "hu lu."
Finns use "kroohpyyh," which, Adams adds, “I'm guessing gives a hint of what I sound like.”
ANOTHER YELLOW KID
In about 1985, Tom DeHaven published a novel, Funny Papers, about an 1890s New York newspaper cartoonist named George Reckage, who signs his work "Wreckage" ornamented with the cartoon dingbat of a tiny smoldering ruin of a city (the "wreckage," see?). In the book, Reckage starts out simply enough as a newspaper sketch artist who is sent out to draw pictures of news events; his pictures illustrate the reports of these events in the way that photographs would later. Reckage suddenly becomes famous after he draws a murder scene that includes an odd-looking bald-headed derby-wearing urchin in a nightshirt. The kid and his dog ("that used to talk") make a hit with newspaper readers, so Reckage does more drawings of them. Pretty soon the real child upon whom the drawings are based disappears into the cartoon kid; and the cartoon kid takes over Reckage's life—much as another, "real," cartoon kid, the Yellow Kid, took over the life of its creator, Richard F. Outcault, who first drew the Yellow Kid for the New York World in about 1895. The similarity is not coincidental: DeHaven's novel was inspired by the Yellow Kid. When I reviewed the novel for The Comics Journal, I produced the drawing you see nearby as an illustration for the review.The drawing depicts “DeHaven's Yellow Kid" as described in the novel—and his dog, which DeHaven's Kid hauled around in a wagon because (if I remember) the dog couldn't walk anymore. My first (and, to-date, only) attempt at illustrating prose fiction.
EDITOONERY: PART ONE
The Best of the Month
AMONG THE BEST EDITORIAL CARTOONS on the issues of the past few weeks are the four we’ve clustered together at the corner of your eye. At the upper left is one of the best editoons of all time—Pat Bagley’s perfect metaphor for how the Grandstanding Obstructionist Pachyderm is “helping” Baracko Bama create jobs. Kibitzing and carping. That’s all. None of Obama’s legislative proposals to create jobs have been passed by the Republicon controlled House of Representatives.
The GOP “talking point” (politicalese for “lie”) is that the Prez hasn’t created jobs; and that although the economy was awful when he took office, he’s made it worse. The talking points ignore actual facts: more jobs have been created—just not enough jobs to affect much the unemployed rate, which must reflect not only newly created jobs but a continual stream of layoffs as businesses struggle to adapt to an economy that is improving too slowly; but the economy is better now than it was in January 2009 when (to cite one example) the entire American automobile industry seemed about to tank.
And Bagley’s cartoon has nuances, invoking the GOP “do nothing” campaign to sabotage Obama’s Presidency. Bagley deftly illustrates the political strategy the Republicons adopted as soon as Obama was elected. As Mitch McConnell so memorably put it: “Our top political priority over the next few years is to deny the President a second term.” (Then, just as memorably, McConnell grinned like a cat with a belly-full of canary.) To implement the plan, Republicons in Congress have done everything they can do to prevent Obama and the Democrats from accomplishing anything. Then, to bring the plot to its fiendishly self-fulfilling conclusion, they loudly proclaim that Obama hasn’t done anything so the GOP should be returned to the White House. I don’t know that I’d want such two-faced charlatans running anything, let alone the U.S. government.
Next on the clock is Steve Breen’s dramatically revealing image of the Batman movie shooter, James Holmes. As investigation continues to reveal new facts in the case, Breen’s cartoon becomes more and more an accurate depiction of fact rather than just a metaphor for opinion. Holmes, it seems, had been seeing psychiatrists months before he snapped; and one of those psychiatrists had alerted a campus unit set up to deal with the potentially dangerous of deranged students. But because doctor-patient confidentiality prevented the psychiatrist from naming the time bomb, the unit did nothing—all of which demonstrates once again the fallacy of relying upon watchdog tactics to address a problem that is not likely to disappear ever but that can be minimized by reducing the fire power of the insane. Don’t sell them assault weapons.
Still going clockwise, we come to Signe Wilkinson’s bitter depiction of how the presidential candidates propose to solve the gun violence problem. Grimly telling images. The silent “gestures” say more, and more loudly, than any number of words.
By the way, as I predicted in Opus 297, a certain quantity of Concerned Citizens emerged to blame the violence in movies for causing violence in real life—the Sikh killings, the Empire State Building shooting (in which, The New Yorker’s Lizzie Widdicombe notes, the wounding of the nine bystanders was probably the result of police crossfire; so how do we feel now about arming the entire civilian population as a way of combating mayhem-bent gun-toters?).
I don’t think reel violence creates real violence, but violence in movies fosters a cultural attitude that enables violence in real life. Movies glamorize violence, making violence seem an attractive and viable option to people who are otherwise deranged. Normal personalities are doubtless not affected, but persons suffering a certain array of mental disorientations are.
As Edward Wasserman said in the Miami Herald: “Hollywood has drifted in recent years toward sanctifying firearms as the most powerful means of self-validation in action films, the go-to remedy fo most wrongs, real and imagined, the universal vehicle of catharsis, cleansing, rectification.” Thus, he concludes, “Hollywood didn’t cause the Aurora slaughter [in the Batman movie], but it’s impossible to imagine Aurora without Hollywood.”
Wasserman is attacking movies as insidious advertisements for guns. When, he asks, did you last see anywhere else ads selling Glock or Ruger or Smith & Wesson? Never. The gun industry doesn’t need to advertise because Hollywood’s product placement does the job. But what I’ve just quoted from Wasserman’s article seems apt for my argument, too; so I’ve tweaked him in.
Lastly, at the lower left, David Fitzsimmons comments on the state of college sports as revealed in the infamous Penn State case. Cash Cow = Golden Calf. A perfect indictment of college sports programs that eventually grow more important than the institutions they infect.
Next, on down the scroll to Part Two, where we’ll try to lacerate the GOP into oblivion. Ooops—I mean, we’ll ponder the politics of the GOP as its nominating convention comes to a close.
THE FROTH ESTATE
The Alleged News Institution
THE PRESIDENTIAL “RACE” is being regularly polled, every week, by some body or another. In some polls, Barack O’Bama is ahead; in others, Mitt the Ken-doll Kandidate is ahead. On August 8, it was breathlessly announced all over the national news media that the standings in Colorado (my state, in case you’d forgotten) were 45/50 %, Obama/Romney. In Virginia, though, it was 49/45%, Obama/Romney; in Wisconsin, 51/45%, Obama/Romney.
The so-called “news” media persist in “reporting” the presidential contest as if it were a horse race. Who’s ahead in the polls (which change every week)? Who’s raised the most money? In the last analysis, we’re told, the deciding factor in the 2012 Election will be a half-dozen “swing states,” of which my state, Colorado, is one. Computer analysis of voter records and demographics and surveys has become so scientific, so precise, that on the local tv “news” hereabouts on August 8, a wholly straight-faced reporter allowed as how, in Colorado, the decision may rest in 6-7 “swing counties.” Who they vote for will determine the outcome of the election in this state and, perforce, in the nation.
The sciences of analysis being in a constant state of refinement, I look forward to the day when pollsters have determined that the final out come of a national election will be determined not by “swing states” or “swing counties,” but “swing neighborhoods.” Then “swing blocks” in those neighborhoods. Then a single “swing block.”
Finally—the ultimate in pollsterism—we will know which “swing households” will determine the Election.
This is the kind of journalism to which we’ve descended. By the time you read this, the polls will have been conducted again, once or, perhaps, twice, and the results in Colorado, Virginia, and Wisconsin will, doubtless, have shifted again. It will go on like this for the next two-and-a-half months, wearing us all to a bare nubbin of tedium. Obama will go up and down, up and down; the Plastic Plutocrat will go up and down, up and down. Who to believe?
Answer: None of the above.
In the August 1 issue of the newsletter Washington Spectator, editor Lou Dubose, a serious journalist not affiliated with any of the national commercial enterprises, reported about the horse race as follows: “In midsummer, the presidential race hovers somewhere between a slight advantage for President Obama and a dead heat. ... Nate Silver, the onetime baseball statistician whose poll analysis in the last presidential election was so good that the New York Times hired him and acquired his blog, has been sitting on a 66 point Obama advantage for months. Intrade, an online ‘prediction market’ site on which investors trade potential outcomes, has Obama at 55.5 and Romney at 41.4.”
In other words, not a dead heat at all. So why all the fuss and feathers about the swing state standings of the two candidates?
Consider the source.
Most of the polls being reported on in the national “news” media are run by news media—CBS News, NBC, Washington Post, New York Times, etc. Because all such media are desperately grasping for readers and viewers—readers and viewers who can be seduced into reading or viewing if the contest seems suspenseful, the outcome unpredictable—it is in the best interests of these “news” media to report on surveys and polls that create the impression that the presidential election is a genuine horse race, the outcome of which we cannot possibly know. And so none of the “news” media report on Nate Silver’s prediction or Intrade’s because neither will create the necessary fervor of suspense that will entice readers and viewers to attend to the “news” media.
In the hot swivet to drum up readership and viewership, none of the “news” media report on anything except aspects of the horse race. And abortion scandals and vast ignorances about the functions of the female body. Nowhere do we find any discussion or analysis of the impending Fiscal Cliff we’ll be falling off of if Congress does nothing about $8 million in tax hikes and spending cuts that will take effect on January 1, 2013: Bush tax cuts expire, ditto tax breaks granted in the 2009 stimulus package and the “patches” to the Alternative Minimum Tax (intended to keep upper-middle-income taxpayers from paying a tax aimed at higher-income taxpayers) and several other popular tax breaks (including individual tax deduction for state and local sales taxes); it’s also the end of payroll tax holiday extended earlier this year (payroll taxes will revert to 6.2 percent from the current 4.2 percent) and of unemployment benefits—plus the beginning of the nefarious “sequester,” an automatic cut of $1.2 billion in spending over two years, split evenly between defense and domestic programs (triggered by the failure last year of Congress’s “super committee” to reach a deficit-reduction deal).
Congress seems content to wait until after the Election to attend to these crucial matters. That’ll give a lame-duck Congress less than 60 days to resolve the Taxmageddon we’ll soon face. What are the chances of that bunch doing anything about any of that, at all?
Judging from past performance over the last three-and-a-half years, not very good.
But the “news” media ignore the most significant news of the season—the likelihood that the U.S. will hit a brick financial wall at the end of the year.
Not only is this a monstrous dereliction of journalistic duty, it verges on treason. Instead of attending to responsibilities of a free press that our constitution guarantees, the “news” media prefer to twaddle on about polls and standings in the horse race and female bodies.
Think what might transpire of the “news” media instead started interviewing candidates for Congress about what they think should be done about the impending Taxmageddon. Suddenly, candidates would realize that if they can’t give good answers to such questions, they begin to look like irresponsible fools—not the sort of politician that voters are likely to return to high office. In fear for their political livelihoods, they might actually attempt to do something. And they might even succeed.
That’s one of the reasons we have a free press—to keep the feet of politicians to the fire. But our current “news” media seem to have forgotten that in their panicky pursuit of readers and viewers.
Sad, isn’t it?
BUT IT MAY BE ON THE CUSP of changing. Here’s an August 15 report from HuffingtonPost by Andy Ostroy:
Bravo! [Ostroy begins] CNN's Soledad O'Brien did something which is extremely rare in television news these days: she actually did her job. And it was the best example of truly awesome journalism I've seen since Katie Couric so deftly gave Sarah Palin the opportunity in 2008 to destroy herself. Perhaps, given the unprecedented polarization and partisan vitriol in politics today, coupled with the right-wing's propaganda campaign of lies and distortion, we just might see a return of the mainstream media as a potent force in this heated election.
The action took place Tuesday afternoon, as O'Brien was interviewing former New Hampshire governor and George W. Bush Chief of Staff John Sununu. With the actual documents in hand, O'Brien pointed out the striking similarities between the Medicare plans of Mitt Romney and his controversial vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan, who seeks to change the government guaranteed health care program into a voucher system.
"But it's very different," Sununu insisted. "For example, when Obama gutted Medicare by taking $717 billion out of it, the Romney plan does not do that. The Ryan plan mimicked part of the Obama package there, the Romney plan does not. That's a big difference."
O'Brien essentially accused him of lying: "I understand that this is a Republican talking point because I've heard it repeated over and over again. These numbers have been debunked, as you know, by the Congressional Budget Office. ... I can tell you what it says. It (Obama's Medicare plan) cuts a reduction in the expected rate of growth, which you know, not cutting budgets to the elderly. Benefits will be improved."
At this point Sununu, clearly agitated, became nasty and indignant, angered by O'Brien's insistence on fact over fiction:
"Soledad, stop this!" Sununu replied, raising his voice. "All you're doing is mimicking the stuff that comes out of the White House and gets repeated on the Democratic blog boards out there."
O'Brien continued reading from the Romney and Obama plans verbatim, and cited Factcheck.org, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office and CNN's own independent analysis in refuting Sununu's deceptive rhetoric.
"Put an Obama bumper sticker on your forehead when you do this!" Sununu barked.
And here's where O'Brien, following a heated exchange where she demanded "Let me finish...let me finish!," demonstrated that she has more balls than anyone in television news right now:
"You know, let me tell you something. There is independent analysis that details what this is about. ... And name calling to me and somehow acting as if by you repeating a number of $717 billion, that you can make that stick with that figure as being 'stolen' from Medicare, that's not true. You can't just repeat it and make it true, sir."
In punctuating this incredible interview, O'Brien closed by reminding Sununu of how Romney has called Ryan's plan "brilliant."
Imagine an America where the political discourse is not shaped solely by lying, duplicitous surrogates like Sununu but by honorable journalists who serve as a beacon of truth in holding politicians to a higher standard.
You can see the tape of the CNN interview at the HuffPost site.
“Most Opinionated Gathering in History”
COUNTRY’S LEADING EDITORIAL CARTOONISTS
GATHER IN NATION’S CAPITOL
Press Release from AAEC
WASHINGTON, D.C. August 20, 2012—The cartoonists are coming! “#!&% CARTOONS!! A Festival Celebrating the Political Cartoon,” hosted by the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists to celebrate this enduring craft, will go off September 14-15 at the George Washington University at the Jack Morton Auditorium, in partnership with GW’s School of Media and Public Affairs.
Cartoonists of every political stripe and bent, including “new breed” online satirists, traditional lampoonists from the nation’s largest newspapers and magazines, Pulitzer Prize-winners, and aspiring cartoonists will celebrate the art of the political cartoon in a unique two-day confabulation.
The events of Friday and Saturday are open to the public at large; preregistration is required ($10 for each of three events); for details, visit damncartoons.org. For the complete convention schedule, visit editorialcartoonists.org and click on the AAEC Convention block at the upper left.
Friday’s events include a glimpse of editoon history in “The Great American Political Cartoon: When Cartoonists Ruled the Day,” plus presentations by Steve Brodner and New Yorker art editor Francoise Mouly as well as the world’s first “Cartoon Death Match.” Described as “a wild must-see cartoon smackdown, complete with top-secret celebrity judges, in which cartoonists Mike Peters, Jen Sorensen, Keith Knight, and Mark Fiore match wits and pens, facing certain metaphorical death, slashing crosshatches and knock-out punchlines, this contest is scheduled for Friday evening, 6:30-8:30 p.m., but the bar opens at 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, starting at 10 a.m. and again at 1:30 p.m. (and continuing all afternoon until 5 p.m.), cartoonists will do 15-minute chalk talks on an array of topics: How Cartoons Counter Delusions, Misperceptions and Big Fat Fibs with David Horsey; A Brief History of Mormons in Cartoons with the Salt Lake Tribune’s Pat Bagley (who bills himself as a Mormon Emeritus); The Future of Freelance Brought to You by RomneyCare with Brian McFadden; The Magic of Ridicule with John Cole; Cartoonists, The Original Meme Machines with Matt Wuerker, program chair for the Festival; Show Me Your Cartoon Papers with Lalo Alcaraz; The Five Secrets of Cartooning with the Washington Post’s Tom Toles. And more.
“We have a love-hate relationship with the right, the left, and probably every elected official and politician in every state in the union, “ said AAEC President John Cole. “However one thing they all agree on is that nothing proves that free speech is alive and well more than the political cartoon.”
During the weekend, the Cartoonist Rights Network International that defends free speech rights around the world will present the 2012 Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award to Syria’s Ali Ferzat and to Aseem Trivedi of India. Ferzat was recognized as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world for his refusal to stop drawing cartoons even after the Syrian regime broke both his hands in an attempt to silence him.
From the beginning of U.S. history through the present, cartoons have played an important role in U.S. political life. Paul Revere and Ben Franklin created a stir with cartoons leading a revolution. Today, politically charged cartoons dot the new digital landscape—needling, infuriating, engaging and entertaining people on the web, in e-mails, on smart phones and tablets.
This year’s Pulitzer Prize winner, Matt Wuerker says, “From traditional newsprint to the blogosphere, Facebook and the Twitterverse, there’s a lot of great and innovative cartooning going on. Political cartoons have never had a bigger audience.”
If you’re in Washington on the dates in question, I hope to see you at the Festival.
GOSSIP & GARRULITIES
Name-Dropping & Tale-Bearing
According to a CNN transcript of the occasion in Poland during the Ken-doll Kandidate’s visit there (cited by Joe Conason), American reporters, frustrated because the Plastic Plutocrat was systematically ignoring the press, were shouting out questions as Romney calmly walked away from them in a public plaza near Poland’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Romney’s press secretary Rick Gorka was finally fed up.
“Show some respect,” he said.
To which a New York Times reporter said: “We haven’t had another chance to ask a question ....”
“Kiss my ass,” said Gorka. “This is a holy site for the Polish people. Show some respect.”
Right. “Show some respect.” Don’t sully the holiness with crude expressions.
EDITOONERY: PART TWO
Commemorating Pachyderm Antics at the Edge of Isaac
HEREWITH, WE CELEBRATE not so much what happened in Tampa as what the GOP stands for. Today, Thursday, August 30, it’s nearly impossible to say from the evidence of the still frothing Republicon Convention what the Grandstanding Obstructionist Pachyderm stands for. Ostensibly, it’s the official Platform adopted by the Convention. But the Ken-doll Kandidate isn’t obliged to endorse any of the Platform’s planks, so what does the GOP stand for? Luckily for us, we can determine that by parsing the actions of various of its official personages—and by looking at what editorial cartooners say about them; f’instance—:
Bill Day has created the perfect image for the GOP’s Right Wing Nuts. He’s deployed this image before on occasion, but this time, as we see at the upper left of our first exhibit, the Wingnut stands alone, devoid of all meaning except that of his very own self. Which, now that I ponder it, seems a perfect metaphor for the Republicon Party. (I’ve been emphasizing the “con” in Republicon lately because I hope it suggests that the GOP is trying to con us into putting the Ken-doll Kandidate into the White House. Thus, the GOP campaign is a con, not an argument for a governing philosophy.) Next in clockwise rotation is David Fitzsimmons’ image of FoxNews. Fitz has used this gaseous metaphor previously (as has Pat Bagley) but I enjoy it every time.
Next on the clock is Joe Heller’s telling portrait of the GOP tendency toward self-deluding hypocrisy and rampant misrepresentation. And it goes on and on. Last night at the GOP Convention, New Jersey governor Chris Christie, extolling the rugged image of Americans pulling themselves up—single-handedly, no help needed—by the bootstraps (a not very subtle attack on Obama’s contention that much accomplishment is not individual but communal), mentioned how his father was able to join the Middle Class by going to college when he returned from serving in World War II. His father, Christie carelessly noted, went to college on the GI Bill, a government program that paid for his education. Bootstraps indeed.
Finally, John Darkow at the lower left deploys the comic strip format to accurately depict what the GOP would do to “replace” Obamacare. The format permits contrasting two images, and Darkow does it here with eloquent visual vehemence.
Our next visual aid begins with Tom Tomorrow (aka Dan Perkins) whose comic strip takes a simple proposition (that corporations are people and therefore corporate money is political speech) and, through successive stages, drives it to ridiculously laughable extremes. Replacing elections with Ebay auctions. Stunning idea. Then, for the sake of creating confusion on every hand—in counterclockwise order—we move below This Modern World to Tony Auth’s depiction of the auction that Tom Tomorrow envisions. “Articulate” means “loaded with money”—an obvious extension of the idea that money equals speech.
Next, Signe Wilkinson’s back again, this time, contrasting corporate political donations with the voter ID scam. The irony is sharp-edged and bitter. Big money can be donated to politicians anonymously; but voters need a photo ID so we know who they are. A telling pairing of concepts that reveals their joint hypocrisy. The sack over the super PAC head is a beautifully comedic touch, just right.
Finally, at the upper right, Keith Knight’s (th)ink panel, his overtly political feature, continues to uncover the contradictory attitudes the Right Wingnuts seem to entertain about voting and guns.
And then we have a few more thoughts about the Plutocrat Politician’s choice of running mate. Clay Bennett’s painter commits a Freudian slip—a gaffe, so to speak, that mistakenly reveals the truth. Part of the reason Paul Ryan may ruin Romney’s chances of election is that Ryan has a discernible personality whereas Romney does not, as Taylor Jones’ pair of caricatures reveals at the upper right. Giving Romney no face at all is a cunning way of depicting his colorlessness, his lack of personality appeal.
Next on our round is Nick Anderson’s powerful image describing the Ryan Plan, which hopes to reduce the deficit by reducing Medicare. In effect, Medicare money is transferred to paying off the debt. Hence, the elderly, all in need of walkers, must pull the weight of the deficit reduction plan. A persuasive image.
Finally, a comment from Tom Toles on Romney’s visit to Israel, where he raved about the country’s health care system, not knowing, apparently, that it is a government-run single-payer system, which Romney is ostensibly against, the evidence of Romneycare to the contrary notwithstanding.
And this is a guy we want in the White House? I hope not.
In our next exhibit, we continue examining the Republicon postures and imposters. Left to right across the top, we see a couple of David Fitzsimmons gems. In the first, the RomneyRyan campaign bus represents the GOP attitude toward the Middle Class and seniors, splashing them with dirty water and calling it “trickle down” benefits. I like the dog in the cage atop the vehicle. And in the next Fitztoon, he’s deployed an image left over from the Olympics, that of the remarkable runner whose legs were prosthetic. Fitz shapes the artificial limbs as dollar signs, at which collecting thereof the Plutocrat Politician has proven more adept than the incumbent. Unexpressed is at least one question: could the Ken-doll Kandidate run at all without his billions of prosthetics? Fitz’s caption writes the last word: Prosthetics In the Race—as if there is no actual person in the rase. Just billions—er, prosthetics.
Next down the page is Steve Sack’s sly take on the GOP handlers attempting to give Romney a personality. More kittens indeed.
Turns out, they didn’t need to worry. The Ken-doll Kandidate gave a good speech. All loyal Republicons feared he’d blow it. But he didn’t. He was both hard-hitting and charming—even winsome-looking as he tilted his head a little to one side, smiling ever so slightly, as he repeatedly waited for the applause to die down. He successfully portrayed himself as a genuine human being, criticized Obama a little, and sketched out his plans for America should he become Prez. But he continued to be vague rather than specific. He has a plan to create 12 million jobs, he said. But he didn’t tell us how. And if he knows how—and if he’s the patriot he claims to be—why not tell Obama so the country’s economy can start improving?
That’s asking a bit much, I realize. But it doesn’t matter: 12 million new jobs over the four years Romney predicted is about the number of jobs that would be produced in that time without a Romney plan. Besides, there are 23 million unemployed so 12 million jobs goes only halfway to fixing the problem.
But Romney impressed me as a good and decent man, a loving, caring person. I’d even vote for him if it weren’t for the company he keeps. Karl Rove, Dick Armey, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Sanctorum, Dick Cheney, GeeDubya, Newt Gingrich and others of this ilk. (The nauseous-sounding word ilk was invented expressly to describe guys like these—the power-mad, the sanctimonious, the pontificating pooh-bah, the mindless zealot, and the eye-rolling crazy, not necessarily in that order.) If Romney made it to the White House, this gang would swiftly move in on him, urging him to do their bidding. And Romney, nice guy that he so obviously (now) is, would do as they asked. They’re all about power and its exercise for their own benefit and that of their cohorts. I’m more in favor of pragmatists in government, those whose chief motive is to “make it work.”
The other highlight of Thursday evening at the Convention was Clint Eastwood, who described himself not as a movie star or an actor but as a “movie tradesman.” He took the podium and asked questions of an empty chair upon which we were to imagine Obama sitting. (Andy Borowitz reports that in a new poll just released, Romney is trailing behind the chair.) Eastwood was funny and pointed. And unscripted, for which the Romney campaign was faulted the next day. I thought it was great. Nice relief from sanctimonious seriousness.
The best speech of the Convention was undoubtedly Condoleeza Rice’s: it was the only speech with intellectual content, fodder for the mind rather than noises from the mouth.
Back to some other cartoons, the ones that take talent and perception to produce, not just microphones. Continuing to parse the visual aid posted above with one of Clay Bennett’s emblematic cartoons: the GOP party platform they’re so busily building is one that attempts to keep minorities and the elderly (at least) well out of sight. Almost behind bars.
Then we come to a couple comic strip cartoonists who can’t keep political commentary out of their strips (and a good thing, too). In his La Cucaracha, Lalo Alcaraz takes a poke at Chick-Fil-A, which is being boycotted by gay rights groups: if Jesus wouldn’t eat there, presumably Jesus supports the idea of gay marriage, which Chick-Fil-A’s owners oppose. I don’t know what to make of the falafel reference. Until the 1970s, saith Wikipedia, falafel was not much in evidence in this country—found mostly just in Middle Eastern and/or Jewish neighborhoods. Well, Jesus is Jewish. I guessed that Alcaraz was merely playing with funny sounding words—Chick-Fil-A, falafel. But, no: he told me that he simply imagined that a guy from the Middle East would eat falafel. The poke at anti-gay zealots retains its potency regardless.
Keith Knight is much less ambiguous in his Knight Life where he takes a shot at the voter suppression scam masquerading as an anti-fraud campaign. In Doonesbury, Garry Trudeau goes after this insidious scheme to deprive citizens of the most fundamental of democratic rights by introducing a new character, Jimmy Crow, which effectively calls the stratagem what it is—a return to the racism of the Jim Crow laws of yore.
NAACP supplies the map I’ve posted here to accompany Trudeau’s indictment of the fraudulent anti-fraud plot. So far, 15 states either require or “request” a photo ID of voters; all of those states have Republicon governors. Of the 29 states with GOP governors, 7 more are considering legislation requiring photo ID, but 7 others have no photo ID requirement or proposed legislation. (Surprisingly, Jan Brewer’s Arizona is among the latter.) If all the proposed laws are enacted, 36 states will require or request of citizens a photo ID before they are allowed to register to vote.
When I first started seeing stories about the photo ID drive, I thought it largely a distraction, but as I began reading more and more about it, it seems more and more likely that it is an attempt to revive the poll tax of racist yesteryear.
It has been widely reported that the push for photo ID as a means of combating fraud at the polls proposes a remedy for which there is no problem. The ACLU reports that while documented instances of voter fraud are almost nonexistent, nationally such records as exist reveal just 26 cases over a three-year period. The alleged problem is so minuscule as to be virtually nil. The photo ID scheme is pretty clearly an attempt, initiated mostly (if not entirely) by the GOP, to deprive certain citizens of their right to vote. Guess which citizens are being targeted.
Saith ACLU: “Approximately1 in 10 Americans do not have a photo ID. The numbers are even higher among minority voters—1 in 4 African American voters and 1 in 6 Latino voters are without such ID. ... Most of these [photo ID laws] make it complicated and expensive to get an ID, essentially instituting a modern-day poll tax.”
In the August 23 issue of The New Republic, Timothy Noah describes the dimensions of the dilemma: “The nine states with the strictest photo ID requirements are mostly rural, which means the government offices where such ID can be obtained a likelier to be far away and keep irregular hours. [And if you need a photo ID, you probably don’t have a driver’s license because you don’t drive; so how do you get to those distant government offices?] The Woodville, Mississippi office is open only on the second Thursday of every month. Wisconsin’s Sauk City office is open only on the fifth Wednesday of ever month, and since eight months in 2012 don’t even have a fifth Wednesday, the office will open its doors only four days this year.” And only one of those Wednesdays falls between now and November 6.
The photo ID requirement is only one of the GOP’s shameful schemes to suppress votes that would likely go to Barack Obama. Registration restrictions, reduction of early voting, and closing the polls early all help reduce the potential minority vote. ACLU estimates that “up to 5 million potential voters will be kept from the ballot box by new laws.”
It’s possible that very few of those citizens in rural areas in states with photo ID laws would show up to vote on Election Day. But even if they don’t—or wouldn’t—enacting laws that make voting difficult smells bad; it is distinctly undemocratic. Maybe that’s why the scheme is so Republicon.
THE EXECRABLE POSTER
A Political Cartoon That Ain’t Funny, McGee
I know I’m just a trifle naive. Maybe more than a trifle. I wanted to believe that the election of Barack Obama meant that this nation had at last, to a remarkable degree, put its fundamental racism behind it. We’d grown up a bit. We were on the brink of becoming the tolerant people our founding documents envisioned. And then I saw the poster we’ve inserted just about here.
I realize that the poster is intended to be funny. It portrays what is supposed to be a loser begging for “one more chance” with his favorite girl, the obligatory bouquet in hand. The analogy to Obama’s bid for re-election is the putative cause for laughter. But the image has about it too much of the familiar stench of racism.
It gives us another version of the “angry black man” fantasy so feared by too many white Americans. “Obama’s” lips are twisted into the suggestion of a snarl. His body language is coiled belligerence. His costume is that of a street tough, a gangbanger. The picture is of a resentful and therefore dangerous man—the “angry black man” poised to break out into violent action. Embodying these racist fears, the image undoubtedly appeals to a white racist America I thought we’d seen the last of.
And, sadly, it therefore also reveals that the fundamental rejection of Obama all along has been essentially racist. The rejection is not a rejection of his policies or political attitudes: it’s a rejection of the idea that anyone of his race could be in the “White” House. Many of those who say they dislike Obama’s politics do so because they dislike African Americans. Particularly “uppity” African Americans, of which Obama as President is the supreme example..
It is, by now—shamefully—an old American song. All this time, I thought we were growing out of that. And now, here it is, back again, as virulent as ever. “Back again”? I guess it never went away. I thought it had, but I was laboring under a massive self-delusion.
I don’t mean to sound superior about this. Unhappily, our history as a nation and a people has made racists of us all, me as well as thee, kimo sabe. But I thought we’d come as a society to realize that racism is an abomination, and so we masked our shame by keeping our racism out of sight. We didn’t make racist remarks in public. We made them in private, among friends and the like-minded. But not in public.
Alas, this poster brings it all out in public again.
And so the Day of the Poster is a sad day for me. And, alas, for America and all it ostensibly represents, too.
Mots & Quotes
A COWBOY TOMBSTONE
Here are the Five Rules for Men to Follow for a Happy Life that Russell J. Larsen had inscribed on his headstone in Logan, Utah. He died not knowing that he would win the "Coolest Headstone" contest.
FIVE RULES FOR MEN TO FOLLOW FOR A HAPPY LIFE:
1. It's important to have a woman who helps at home, cooks from time to time, cleans up, and has a job.
2. It's important to have a woman who can make you laugh.
3. It's important to have a woman who you can trust, and doesn't lie to you.
4. It's important to have a woman who is good in bed, and likes to be with you.
5. It's very, very important that these four women do not know each other or you could end up dead like me.
ONWARD, THE SPREADING PUNDITRY
The Thing of It Is ...
NOW (ON AUGUST 11) MITT THE KEN-DOLL KANDIDATE has signed his own political death warrant. As his running mate, he’s named Paul Ryan, the guy who wants to return to 1812 and fight that war all over again in order to make sure the U.S. is completely isolated from all outside influences likely to be inflicted by 21st century (i.e., modern) life. So it’s back to sod houses and one-family farms and killing game for the dinner table with AK-47s.
Seriously—who’s gonna vote for the Plastic Plutocrat with Ryan as a VEEP? Tea baggers. And only tea baggers. Romney clearly picked Ryan in order to shore up his support amongst the tea baggers. But Ryan’s hopes for the U.S. are so radical that his presence on the ticket will turn off all moderates and independents. Romney has already alienated African Americans and Hispanics and the entire opposing gender. So who’s left to vote for him? Tea baggers. And I doubt, despite their vociferous volume, that there are enough of them to get Romney to the White House.
Once again, it appears that the GOP establishment has decided it can’t win, so it’s going to let the nomination go to Romney in the expectation that he’ll lose and then get out of the Grandstanding Obstructionist Pachyderm’s hair. They did it with Bob Dole. They did it with John McCain. The strategy is: reward the faithful albeit noisy guy; give him what he wants; he’s sure to fail, and then we’ll have our party back and we can do what we want in 2016.
ONE STARRY-EYED conservative pundit murmured in an ecstasy of approval, “Romney, Ryan—almost like Ronald Reagan.”
HERE (IN THE ADJOINING ETHER) is my first stab at caricaturing Paul Ryan. Or, as I think of him—sad beagle-eyed Ryan. Great nose. Over at The New Yorker site, Andy Borowitz reported that "an exhaustive manhunt that took months and spanned the country came to a dramatic end today as a less interesting person than Mitt Romney turned up in Wisconsin." And, naturally, Romney, who held the title of "the least interesting person in America since 1947," wants Ryan on the ticket with him, making a brace of wholly uninteresting persons. Borowitz continued:
"The man of the hour used his brief remarks to lay out his vision of America, saying that billions of dollars could be saved by eliminating food, clothing, and shelter."
Or, as I myself have said, Ryan is not the fiscal genius everyone supposes: it's easy to reduce the deficit and trim billions from the budget if you stop all government services. Presto—no expenses! The best part of that idea is eliminating Congress.
The worst speech at the GOP Convention was Paul Ryan’s. It was well-delivered (although whenever he closes his mouth with a grin, he looks, unfortunately, smug and self-satisfied). But it was a bad speech because for a man with his reputation for smarts and integrity, it was laced with falsehood and gross misrepresentations. He came off as a rank charlatan.
Perhaps the most obnoxious distortion that Ryan committed was his blaming Obama for the collapse of the bipartisan debt commission chaired by Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson. When they came back with “an urgent report,” Ryan said, “Obama thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.” Ryan neglected to mention that, as chairman of the House Budget Committee, he was on the bipartisan panel and was one of the seven members who voted against the final recommendation. That was enough to kill it.
There were 18 people on the commission, and 14 of them had to vote to approve the final report before it could be sent on to Congress. Four of the “no” votes were Democrats; three were Republicans, including Ways and Means chairman Dave Camp and Ryan.
At Politifact.com, Stan Collender, a former Democratic staff member of the House and Senate Budget Committees, said that the "primary reason" the plan didn’t advance was that Ryan and Camp "indicated that they were against it. If they had supported it, or at least allowed it to move forward, there is a very good likelihood that the plan would have been approved and that a deficit reduction deal would have been reached." To Collender, Ryan’s blaming Obama for the commission’s failure is "disingenuous, misleading and the worst form of hypocritical politics. It’s the political equivalent of killing your parents and then begging the court for mercy because you’re an orphan."
And that seems to be the GOP campaign strategy—claiming to be the orphan after doing its best to kill off Obama..
Moreover, it’s not true, as John Boehner told the world, that Obama did “exactly nothing” with the Bowles-Simpson report. Politifact lists two of the commission’s recommendations that were included in the President’s budget proposal, six more were included with slight modifications, and the White House "framework" on deficit reduction refers very generally to seven of the commission’s recommendations.
There are lots of the report’s recommendations that Obama didn’t use; but he didn’t, as suggested, ignore it altogether.
To return to Ryan, Politifact quotes Roy T. Meyers, a budget expert who teaches political science at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, who said of Ryan’s speech that it “can be judged using Orwellian standards. It's beyond hypocritical. It's repeatedly and cynically dishonest." Norm Ornstein, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, agreed: "I found it utterly hypocritical, and it was at a minimum disingenuous not to mention his membership on the commission."
Syndicated columnist Eugene Robinson agreed: “He lied and dissembled so shamelessly that I thought I detected a whiff of desperation in the air. Or maybe it was just ambition.” Raw ambition unencumbered by any scruple about facts or truth. Or basic honesty.
In another spasm of his speech, Ryan extolled his life, living in the small town he grew up in, his relatives on both sides of the street in his block. In that town is a closed GM plant. Ryan strenuously implied Obama was responsible for the shut-down that cost the town and its vicinity 5,000 jobs. In February 2008, Obama visited the plant in Janesville on a campaign stop, saying: “I believe that if our government is there to support you ... this plant will be here for another hundred years.”
Said Ryan: “Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day.” He stared out at the GOP multitudes, his sad eyes proclaiming his grief-stricken sainthood.
What he didn’t mention is that GM shut the plant in July 2008, five months before Obama was elected and seven months before he took office. Said Robinson: “Ryan should be blaming George W. Bush, not Barack Obama.”
But that is not the end of Ryan’s sniveling duplicity. In an article in The New Yorker (August 6), three weeks before the GOP Convention, Ryan Lizza examined Ryan’s career. (Right after college, he went into politics, working internships for a couple senators, and he worked in the family construction business for a few months as a “marketing consultant”; it was his only private-sector employment after high school.)
Until 2008, Lizza says, Ryan regularly got earmark federal funds for projects back home—a water treatment plant, technical college where GM workers could be retrained, revitalized bus system, highway projects. But in 2008 Ryan got religion and “vowed not to request earmarks anymore; he later helped push through an outright ban.”
Lizza asked John Beckord, an erstwhile Ryan supporter and head of a pro-business economic development group in Janesville, how Ryan’s new libertarian loyalty went down with his neighbors. Beckord said he wished Ryan had done “a full-court press” to get as much money as possible “on our behalf to make it irresistible for GM to keep this plant open.”
So not only is Obama not responsible for the closing of the plant, but Ryan is the culprit whose ideology may have kept the place closed.
What a stinker.
According to Lizza, quoting Barry Jackson, Boehner’s chief of staff, Ryan is one of two Republicans chiefly responsible for the failure last summer of negotiations with Obama on deficit reduction. Which brings us to another of Ryan’s egregious falsifications of fact: in his speech, he blamed Obama for the U.S. losing its triple-A credit rating.
The next day on the CBS Evening News, Scott Pelley confronted Ryan on the matter, quoting from the Standard & Poor’s report that blamed the Republican-controlled Congress for conducting government in such a manner as to render the U.S. fiscally unreliable.
“Not true,” said Ryan. But it’s in the report, Pelley said. “But it’s not true,” Ryan persisted; “I talked to them.”
At this point, Pelley gave up: you can’t argue with someone who won’t agree to the facts.
Nor can you have a productive discussion, as Robinson observed: “I believe it’s not possible for the nation to set a course without a vigorous, honest debate—and I know there can be no contest of ideas without agreement on factual truth.”
Not that it matters to the Pachyderm. According to Robinson, Romney’s pollster, Neil Newhouse, “boasted this week that ‘we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.’ I’ll say.”
HERE WE ARE, ON MONDAY, AUGUST 27, OPENING DAY of the Republicon Convention in Tampa, and I just watched FoxNews’ Megyn Kelly interviewing two talking heads about Prez Obama’s interview this weekend with Associated Press in which he said he’s willing, if re-elected, to compromise on a whole range of issues to get the country going again. (Okay, I admit it: the best part of this adventure is watching Megyn Kelly, who, by the way, may be conservative but she’s no Right Wingnut. She’s a lawyer and bright and not inclined to put up with too much conservative nonsense. Some but not too much. She stopped one of her interviewees by saying, “We don’t want to hear just talking points.”)
The Grandstanding Obstructionist Pachyderm talking head immediately noted that Obama, despite promising compromise when last he ran for the job, never compromised. Instead, he went with ideology. The other talking head, ostensibly a Democrat representative, claimed that Obama reached out to his opposition when he first took office but then “pulled back”; no more compromise for the rest of his term.
What gross over-simplifications. And both talking heads (and Kelly) forget that the possibility for compromise was foreclosed the day after the Election when Mitch McConnell gave the GOP its marching orders: “Our main objective now,” he said (or words to this effect), “is to deny Barack Obama a second term.”
Which the GOP has been attempting to do by preventing enactment of every legislative initiative Obama and the Dems propose.
Where’s the compromise in that? Who is refusing to compromise?
You see what’s going on: the GOP talking heads are making the absence of compromise in today’s government the fault of the Prez even though (as I’ve said earlier) he had to confront a Republicon-controlled Congress bent on frustrating his every initiative—even attempts at compromise. (“Republicon-controlled”? —Yes. Works like this: discounting the last two years of Republicon majority in the House of Representatives—obviously GOP controlled—the Dem-controlled Senate is rendered wholly inoperative by the GOP minority party which threatens to filibuster any and every Democrat legislative proposal. So even the minority party “controls” the Senate. In this case, the GOP controls by road block. Just by threatening to filibuster. Not even actually filibustering.
(I say: let ’em filibuster; let ’em do their worst. And televise the filibuster. That’ll show ’em at their worst. Then try running for re-election.)
The uncompromising Congressional Republicons are controlled by a pledge the majority of them signed never to raise taxes. That destroys any possibility for a reasonable way out of our financial crisis. Spending cuts are needed, yes; but so is more revenue. No sensible person denies this.
The pledge, by the way (although not at all incidentally), is the brain child of an unelected functionary named Grover Norquist, who heads up an organization against taxes called Americans for Tax Reform, which is funded by anonymous donations from big bucks people. Norquist’s pledge is a variation on the old gangland protectionist racket: if you dare to vote for increasing any tax whatsoever, Norquist will alert your constituents and potential opponents in the next election and urge your defeat. If that’s not protectionism, I dunno what is. (I’ve concluded months ago that all members of Congress are crooks; and Norquist convinces me that all political operatives are, too. No news there.)
Norquist was interviewed on “60 Minutes” last night, and among the things he said was that the No Tax Pledge was something he thought of when he was twelve years old.
So what we have is a government behaving like a twelve-year-old boy.
WELL, I’M GLAD to have that out of my system. Maybe henceforth I can resort again to comics and cartooning arts, like always. (Mebbe not: we have two months more of outrageous mendacity to go. Sigh.)
JUST TO FINISH ON A COMBATIVE NOTE, here’s what I gleaned the other night from the HBO show, “Newsroom”; aired August 16
The title of this installment is “Greater Fool” (to be explained later).
The anchor newsman is Will McAvoy, enacted by a stalwart Jeff Daniels, who plays it pretty straight, and emphatic. Despite proclaiming himself a Republican, on the air one night, he said:
“The Tea Party believes in loving America but hating Americans. The Tea Party believes in loving America but hating its government.”
McAvoy then quotes a Tea Party congressman, Allan West of Florida: “I must confess when I see anyone with an Obama bumper sticker, I recognize them as a threat to the gene pool.”
McAvoy goes on with his litany of Tea Party beliefs:
“They believe anyone who disagrees with the Tea Party has sinister anti-American motives. ... Most of all,” McAvoy continues, “[if we are Tea Party members] we must never under any circumstances seek to reach a compromise with an opponent or do any of what genuine Democrats and Republicans call ‘government.’”
He runs a clip of Mitch McConnell, saying: “Our top political priority over the next two years is to deny the President a second term.” Then McConnell grinned like a cat with a belly-full of canary.
Another thing Tea Partiers believe: “If you are poor, it means you are either too lazy or too stupid to be wealthy.”
Moving on to the religious fundamentalism that infects the Republican Party, McAvoy quotes the various documents that assert that the U.S. is not a Christian nation. The Tripoli treaty. The First Amendment. Then he says:
“The very men and women who should be standing up to radical fundamentalism are so frightened of losing elections to religious zealots that they throw in the towel on sanity, and so we get this (and he shows a clip of John McCain saying, ‘The Constitution establishes that we are a Christian nation’).” McAvoy continues:
“The biggest enemy of the phoney Republican isn’t Nancy Pelosi or Barack Obama or Harry Reid or Hillary Clinton—it’s this man (and the camera pans to a portrait of Jesus), who said: Heal the sick, feed the hungry, care for the weakest among us—and always pray in private.”
In a later broadcast, McAvoy lists things the Tea Party believes in:
Compromise as weakness
A fundamental belief in scriptural literalism
Unmoved by facts
Undeterred by new information
A hostile fear of progress
A demonization of education
A move to control women’s bodies
Intolerance of dissent
And a pathological hatred of the U.S. government
“They can call themselves the Tea Party,” McAvoy goes on. “They can call themselves conservatives. They can even call themselves Republicans, though real Republicans shouldn’t. But we should call them what they are—the American Taliban.”
Another character explains the episode’s title, “Greater Fool.” It comes out of economics: a greater fool is a patsy, the one who believes whatever he’s told. “For the rest of us to profit, we need a greater fool—the perfect blend of self-delusion and ego, to think he can succeed where others have failed.” Long pause. “This whole country was made by greater fools.”
Aaron Sorkin created the series and does a lot of the writing. Brave guy.
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