2D Critics: Three Political Cartoons

This cartoon is interesting for its sense of almost tangible dismay.  A gloomy Barack Obama sits astride a large letter ‘O’ while the horizontal part of the letter ‘H’ clunks to the ground behind him.  What once read “HOPE” now reads “NOPE.” Obama’s chin rests crestfallen upon one hand.  His other hand clutches a newspaper with the headline, “Obama Agenda Divides Nation.”  Ominous storm clouds hover above an apocalyptic landscape, signifying a sense of approaching chaos.

The summary caption says, “The Obama Presidency: Year One.”

Any American who hasn’t spent the past few years holed up in a candlelit cabin in the mountains writing manifestoes should have an opinion here… and should get the joke.  The humor’s hardly subtle.  Obama’s first year (now nearing the end of his second!) was noticeably lackluster.  Certainly Obama’s 2008 campaign rhetoric, with all of its unflinching optimism and talk of sweeping changes, has helped intensify the public’s disappointment with his difficulties in office.

* * * * *

Next, this cartoon responds to recent reports by genealogists (who may have too much time on their hands) that President B. Hussein Obama, right-wing agitator Sarah Palin, and angry, conservative spin-doctor Rush Limbaugh are, in fact, family.  Whether 10th cousins matter to anyone that doesn’t work for Ancestry.com is another topic.

While it’s funny enough that this mundane trivia is presented as any sort of news, this cartoon adds to the silliness by perching the opposing political celebrities on separate branches of a literal family tree.  All three, armed with woodsaws, furiously saw at their opponents’ branch, seeking to cut the others down.  Palin and Limbaugh huddle together, arms hooked for leverage as Obama toils a branch above.

Obviously the tree is symbolic, but it’s an image that grabs attention.  The political commentary exists in the action taken— the saws represent public relations tools that Limbaugh, Palin and Obama use to rid themselves of ties to each other.

* * * * *

Glenn Beck’s questionable decision to hold his Rally To Restore America in the steps of the Lincoln Memorial has been the subject (or setting) of many political cartoons since that day.

This cartoon by Mike Luckovich depicts a red-eyed, bedraggled-looking Beck speaking beside the famous statue of Lincoln.  Beck holds a permanent marker up in the air as if gesturing with it.  It seems cartoon-Glenn has been using the marker to deface Lincoln, using the monument as an impromptu chalkboard, which he uses frequently on his “political” show on Fox.  The theories proposed by Beck are often absurd or simply coincidental, as this cartoon satirizes.

The ‘connections’ Glenn Beck has scrawled across Lincoln’s reclining figure include, “ACORN=NUTS=INSANE,” and “MOSQUE+COW=MOSCOW.”  The first reference is to the left-wing advocacy group A.C.O.R.N. that has become a target for countless conservative talk show hosts and Republican political strategists.  In the second example, cartoon-Glenn Beck has absurdly connected the word “mosque,” meaning a Muslim place of worship, with the word “Moscow,” the capital of Russia.  The adjacent sickle-and-hammer completes the idea: allowing a mosque to be built in New York is tantamount to inviting Cold War-style Communism into America today.

Michelle Obama is also linked to Lucifer, the Lord of Hell, and President Obama is, of course, linked to Hitler, the fuhrer of the Third Reich. Above it all, President Lincoln appears irritated and thinks to himself, “Somebody get Glenn Beck a blackboard.”

Beck’s apparent unawareness that vandalizing the Lincoln Monument is improper or offensive reflects the pundit’s approach to history and politics: reality may be distorted by those who shout the loudest.

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