Let’s Hear It For Editorial Cartoonists!

I am always astounded by the reaction from some readers to editorial cartoons that are placed in the daily newspapers. The fact that those drawings create a reaction proves the power and potency of their creative force.

From the start of our history, such opinion drawings in publications have helped to further a needed dialogue on the topics of the day.  Phil Hands, is the editorial cartoonist for the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, Wisconsin and doubtless many of you have seen his work. The cartoon below is one I had to go back and search for as a response to those who question why editorial cartoons are so pointed in regards to Trump.


Readers to my little place here on the internet highway know I very much enjoy a pithy and well-drawn political cartoon–of the type which arrive each morning on the Op-Ed pages of many papers around the nation.   The role of these forms of information and emotional prodding is something Americans have relied on to help frame the issues of the day.

What disturbs me about the blowback, at times, against editorial cartoonists is the timid newspaper owners and publishers caving to the worst instincts from readers.   I was dismayed when the international edition of The New York Times fell in line with the domestic edition and eliminated all such editorial cartoons.

If someone is offended by a political cartoon it seems time to yank the work of that cartoonist.  Conservative and Trump-supporting newspapers have dropped cartoonists because there was a sharp edge created about the current occupant of the White House. When fragile-minded readers contact newspapers we know what follows.  Corporate bean-counters sweat and whimper and soon the cartoonist is dropped because it is argued, editorial cartoons aren’t seen as bringing in income.  (Having a penchant for reading local newspapers as I travel about, it is a concern of mine that  many small papers do not even have an editorial page.)

The reason these cartoons matter is that they are vital to our culture as they stir the national conversation about topics and personalities that are at times gritty and hard to stomach.  Visual metaphors are important as they often convey a truth that can not be easily summed up in an analysis news article or even a long editorial.

I grew up with Herblock (Herbert Block) as he made Richard Nixon look criminal and Ronald Reagan look out of touch with day-to-day governing.  In each case, news stories underscored such editorial cartoons were correct.  Cartoonists, in another fashion, just had their own way of presenting the news.

Some will look at political cartoons and see nothing but another layer of tension being added to the issues of the day.  The other way to respond is to note such cartoons allow for difficult issues to be more easily discussed.  I am sure, for some readers, cartoons lure them into reading more to further refine their knowledge about the news stories of the day.

There is nothing wrong with editorial cartoons courting controversy.  That is a very real role for newspapers to participate in and plays hand-in-hand with what democracy should look and feel like when opening a newspaper.

Editorial cartoons are an important part of journalism. We must not let editorial cartoons disappear!  Our democracy counts on it.


(WSJ) Phil Hands And George Washington

Tonight I was reading about one of my favorite periods of American history, and one of the leading characters who framed the nation on strong ideals and foundations.  George Washington.  The book is The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington by Brad Meltzer (who has earned my praise on this blog in earlier posts) and Josh Mensch.

I am always mindful of the desire of our Founding Fathers to have people with virtue to lead the nation in the highest offices of the land.  Washington had a personal driving ambition to be a man of honor.  Not coming from a family of wealth or nobility he knew that character mattered and personal integrity would never let a person down.

When the Second Continental Congress was to make a selection for the commander of the newly formed Continental Army, Washington will slip from the room so as not to look as if he is seeking the position or to gain it due to vanity or arrogance.  Over the decades of reading history, this same series of facts about Washington emerges in books from all manner of historians.

The code of conduct by which Washington lived his life does not mean he did not have dreams or ambitions or felt able to do a job.  But he always placed his calm, reasoned, and measured character in front of him leaving boastful and unbecoming moments to others in a room.

After reading well into the night I came downstairs to shut off the computer.  But before doing so I checked to see what was making news on Twitter.  That is when I saw the latest from Phil Hands. the editorial cartoonist and letters editor for the Wisconsin State Journal.  It was stunning to look at his creation after reading about the exact opposite character of Washington.

A few years ago I traveled to Mount Vernon, and to say I was moved to my central core would not be too strong a summation.  It is a place I long to see again, and sit and stay awhile just thinking as I feel the warm humid air and gaze off over the Potomac.  It was there I learned that in a schoolbook Washington had copied, as a teenager, a list of “101 Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation.”  Many were mundane and trite.  But the first one was not, and it made an impression. Thinking about the tone of our current president, the Hand’s drawing, and the book about Washington the exact words need to be posted here again at this late hour.

“Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.”

Some might view that line as old-fashioned when considering ways to behave.  But given where we are in the nation might it be possible that a line from history can be used as a way for our going forward?





GOP Has Lost All Credibility

Phil Hands, the editorialist for the Wisconsin State Journal, has nailed the national condition of the Republican Party with his latest drawing.

There is no moral center, no regard for the nation, no higher calling for their party than mere partisanship.  The GOP sold their last shred of decency and self-respect to Donald Trump who has proven he will sink to any level, and commit any action to further his personal enrichment and ego-stroking.

The GOP can no longer prattle on about Ronald Reagan, family values, strong national defense, or tight fiscal strategies.  They can no longer speak from any elevated position about any topic.

They have kneeled and bowed to Donald Trump.   They have chosen their master.   And in so doing they have demonstrated bootlicking is almost an art form.    As Aunt Lindsey proved on Face The Nation this morning.


One Cartoon Says It All About Trump

I am always glad to see what Phil Hands, the political cartoonist for the Wisconsin State Journal, has created to better define the news of the day.  This weekend his offering was brilliant, because it is so true.

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Phil Hands Nails It Over Wisconsin Republicans Messed Up Priorities

Several weeks ago I attended an event in downtown Madison where Wisconsin State Journal political cartoonist Phil Hands talked about how he goes about thinking of his topics and putting them into a cartoon for the paper.  As a lover of witty and biting political cartoons the evening was most enjoyable.  As I looked at the newspaper today I could see his eyes and face and knew how he felt when he started to create this piece of perfection.