AMEND CORNER: Responding to dumb cartoons

Posted 5/17/11

So, I passed the complaint up the chain, and discovered that others had received negative comments about the cartoon as well, and, in fact some of my colleagues had found the cartoon somewhat distasteful as well.

Well, I have to admit, I had sort …

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AMEND CORNER: Responding to dumb cartoons


I received a call last week complaining about a political cartoon we published recently.

Well, I’m not the guy that decides what cartoon goes on the opinion page. In fact, I’m not even the guy that decides whether this column goes on the opinion page. I just write it and leave that decision to somebody else.

So, I passed the complaint up the chain, and discovered that others had received negative comments about the cartoon as well, and, in fact some of my colleagues had found the cartoon somewhat distasteful as well.

Well, I have to admit, I had sort of forgotten the cartoon, so I looked it up to refresh my memory. The gist of the cartoon, for those of you who already used that issue for packing a box or some other undignified form of disposal — shame on you if you didn’t recycle — was something about President Obama finding something in the health care bill that allowed him to declare himself king so he would get an invitation to the recently over-publicized royal wedding in England.

Well, the caller thought it was in bad taste. I did, too, but that could describe about a third of the political cartoons I’ve ever looked at, and some of those I laughed at, even if I disagreed, because they were clever.

My assessment of this particular cartoon would be along somewhat less flattering lines. I thought it was dumb, or, to use a bit stronger term, asinine.

Unfortunately, this cartoon illustrates just what is wrong with our political debate today, which often tends to operate at about the same level as the arguments I remember on the sixth-grade playground. In this case, it builds on a non-existent snub and a whole lot of nonsensical reasons for it, ranging from a supposed insult of Queen Elizabeth by Michelle Obama to the Queen’s anger at the gift of an iPod by the Obamas when they visited England.

This all started with one or more of those big mouths on radio (no need to name them, we all know who they are) and picked up by those people who like to forward junk to all their friends through email. Like the old kid’s game of gossip, as the story went around the email circles, it was embellished with all sorts of reasons, all of them manufactured, some out of whole cloth and others by exaggerating or distorting insignificant incidents.

Well, the truth, according to Prince Charles, who, as the father of the groom, no doubt had some inside knowledge about the guest list, is that no heads of state were invited except royalty, which would certainly not include an American president, who is forbidden by the Constitution from being given a royal title. There were a couple of exceptions, apparently, notably the President of France, but he’s only a train ride from London, which qualifies him as a next-door neighbor as well as a head of state, which might account for the exception.

Anyway, this omission has numerous precedents going back at least to Harry Truman, who skipped Prince William’s grandma’s wedding before she became queen, and Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan and Clinton have all skipped royal weddings as well, although Nancy Reagan did attend a couple of them. Eisenhower, in fact, had to be convinced that he should send a gift, since he wasn’t invited. Carter, Ford and both Bushes were lucky enough not to have royal weddings to deal with.

Still, the lunatic fringe (Theodore Roosevelt’s term for radicals like this) made a big deal out of this “snub,” and there’s a great deal of hypocrisy inherent in their doing so. Had the Obamas been invited and actually attended the wedding, for example, these same bozos would have complained that the president was wasting tax-payer money and kowtowing to the British.

The irony is that this whole cartoon was actually an indirect shot at the health care reform initiated by the Obama administration. That subject deserves serious debate, but such debate is sidetracked by focusing on this sort of nonsense. Unfortunately, both sides are guilty of advancing similar red herrings in lieu of actually presenting rational arguments.

But back to the readers who complained.

Not surprisingly, as a newspaper guy — my nickname among many of Powell’s elementary school kids — I’m a big believer in freedom of expression, and I actually like political cartoons, even the ones that push the edge, so I’m not one to say this particular cartoon shouldn’t have been published. Personally, I think we should publish them, because the best way to deal with dumb ideas like this is to bring them out in the open, so reasonable people can see how dumb they really are and point out that dumbness to others.

And that’s exactly why I wrote this column today, to use my right of free expression to explain why the thought behind this cartoon is asinine.

I recommend that others who objected to it do the same.