Below is the latest The Pain -- When Will It End?
Updated 7/07/04

Artist's Statement

There's been some chatter in the media about Bush possibly dumping Cheney from the Republican ticket, what with all the damaging controversies about those Haliburton documents and the energy commission and the fact that he looks exactly like Mr. Potter the evil banker in It's a Wonderful Life. This suggestion seems, to me at least, to be obviously preposterous: although, yes, a running mate who was not afflicted with a permanent lopsided sneer of patrician contempt might pull in a few desperately-needed extra votes, if they were to replace Cheney then who would run the freaking country? Who would listen to all those boring briefings and make actual decisions? If anyone's going to be replaced it'll be their superfluous spokesmodel, George W. Bush, who is himself becoming something of a political liability lately. Surely the Republicans can find someone reasonably presentable without any cross-burnings in his background to head the ticket instead. They might even find someone who doesn't make putting a simple declarative sentence together look like a tense fourteenth turn at Blockhead!.

On Friday, which is the day I habitually devote to frantically drawing my cartoon at the last minute, I had to flee my house, because for the fourth day in a row many burly men showed up to hammer defeaningly on my roof. I'm having my roof replaced, but since I live in an old A-frame cabin my entire house is basically a roof, so this requires quite a lot of work, and most of that work involves pounding. I was trying to draw my cartoon with someone hammering very hard on the other side of a thin wall about thirty inches from my face. So in the end I drew this entire cartoon in various public places in Havre de Grace, the town across the river from me. I drew Darth Vader and the two cloned Cheneys in a coffee shop full of babbling toddlers and women cooing over them; I drew "Slappy" Rebozo in the Chat 'n' Chew, a predominantly black bar where I watched a biopic about Martin Luther King, Jr. and had the superb pork bar-b-cue sandwich and a Mason jar of Bud draft and finally finished up in the Quiet Room of the Harford County public library, where I used the internet to look up the Grateful Dead dancing bears and also NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon's number and logo. (I don't know why I picked Jeff Gordon--I don't know anything about him, and in fact wasn't even 100% sure that he was a NASCAR driver. The name just popped into my head.) I came back here and scanned it in and Photoshopped it with the pounding still going on. One of the roofers asked to see what I'd been working on all day but I declined to show him. Maybe I wasn't giving him enough credit, but we cartoonists are cowardly people who much prefer not to be around when our audience is actually experiencing our work.

Speaking of which, internet readers may not know that my cartoon of two weeks ago, "Me, the Freeloading Negro" did not appear in the Baltimore City Paper; my editor felt he had squandered his capital of goodwill over the Ronald Reagan cartoon and could not afford to go to the wall over that one as well. This was fine with me. The Reagan cartoon was much more important to me. I always feel kind of nervous and weird doing a cartoon about race, no matter how right-minded I think it is. On the one hand I am fairly confident of my fundamentally decent instincts (I don't make jokes at the expense of people who are already marginalized or oppressed), and I do feel that if I'm not taking the risk of potentially offending people and embarassing myself then I'm not doing my job; but on the other hand I was well brought up and am fearful of offending people, especially black people, who seem like they have enough to worry about already. But it doesn't seem fair that I'm not allowed to be funny about just race because I'm a white guy. Thus "Slappy" Rebozo. A friend of mine who wishes not to be implicated by name and I came up with Slappy at a party a few weeks ago. We'd been talking about Richard Nixon's lone friend, businessman Bebe Rebozo, and decided that an official friend should be appointed for George W. Bush. Probably the notion of a minstrel-show caricature akin to Jack Benny's valet Rochester was my idea. I don't remember. We agreed we would never speak of Slappy Rebozo again, but I never said anything about drawing him. Like Donald Rumsfeld, I am willing to take full responsibility so long as there are no actual consequences whatsoever.

In other Vice-Presidential news, just today John Kerry announced he'd picked John Edwards for his running mate. This is an interesting development for me personally, since I look uncannily like John Edwards, from the swoopy hair down to the asymmetrical smile and mushy receding chin. During his surge in the primaries last winter at least one stranger a day approached me and asked me whether I knew I looked exactly like John Edwards. I even got a free beer out of it the day he delivered his concession speech. So possibly there'll be some money in doing lookalike appearances or being a body double for the Secret Service. The main thing I'm looking forward to, though, is the Vice-Presidential debate; not since Kennedy/Nixon '60 will we have seen so embarassing a contrast between charisma and its exact Platonic opposite.


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