How President Trumpet is related to rabbits and penguins.
The Trumpet is, you’d think, a celestial gift to editorial cartoonists. As Clown-in-Chief, his every antic utterance is outrageous fodder for another editoon. His hair-do alone is inspiration for a small lifetime of cartooning ridicule. But we also have his colossal ignorance, which, by itself, should keep editoonists at their drawingboards for several decades to come.
(Just a while ago, Trump said, while discussing safety on the New Mexico border, “we’re building a wall on the border of New Mexico and we’re building a wall in Colorado”—the state where I live. And then—it was either he or a perceptive editoonist, hard to say which master of hilarity is responsible—he said New Mexico would pay for it. Evidently he’s confused about geography out West: Colorado does not border Mexico—although it does border New Mexico. The government is putting up fencing near the Colorado River, which may have confused the Trumpet. Who can say? Confusion reigns regardless. Fantasy and reality change places rapidly, wholly unprovoked, in Trump’s so-called mind.)
But the Trumpet is not so much a gift as he is a turd in the punchbowl for editoonists. He’s a guest who won’t go away no matter how rudely you treat him. You can draw only so many cartoons that poke fun at his soaring albeit tender ego before you’ve exhausted the visual metaphors that make the cartoons work. And then you’re stuck for what to draw next.
And you must draw something.
Trump is always present. Twitterpated daily, he contrives, one way or another, to be on the front page of the newspaper every day.
So you draw something, anything—ego, idiocy, hair. Something.
I write about editorial cartooning and cartoons in a regular department of my online monthly magazine, Rants & Raves, at RCHarvey.com. What with all R&R’s emphasis on cartooning history and lore as well as comics news and reviews, it doesn’t afford me much opportunity to do any cartooning of my own. Not that I’m an editorial cartoonist. I’m not. Quite. That is, I don’t do editoons for a living. Or even regularly. A Real Editoonist produces a funny and/or insightful cartoon about the day’s events every day. As a practicing dilettante, I only do one every now and then. Whenever some absurdity nudges me over the edge.
And the Trumpet has nudged me more than any other Prez.
One of my earliest Trumpet-inspired efforts appears a few paragraphs ago. In a subsequent re-issue of the cartoon, I have the Rabbit saying “Nix on the hands”—a terrible pun intended to increase the likelihood that viewers/readers will get the connection between the Trumpet and Richard Nixon, who, while being investigated for some impeachable offense, assumed a posture like that of the cartooned Trumpet here, but Nixon shouted “I am not a crook.”
About Rabbits and Penguins
Like the great Pat Oliphant and a few other editoonists, I started signing my cartoons with a symbol rather than a signature. I picked a Rabbit when I was in college in the fifties. I was relying upon a then-popular Jimmy Stewart movie, “Harvey,” about a genial dipsomaniac, Elwood P. Dowd, and his “invisible” drinking buddy, a six-foot rabbit (a “pooka”—in Irish folklore, a fairy spirit in animal form ), to suggest that the Rabbit in my cartoons was “Harvey,” who was me. I’m only five-foot-eleven, but I have aspirations.
The play upon which the Stewart movie was based was written by Mary Chase, a Denver newspaper journalist, whose guide for Dowd’s erratic personality was a fellow staffer named Lee Casey, whose picture appears in our visual aid.
As for my reputed reliance upon Oliphant for inspiration, he didn’t arrive on these shores with his signature penguin (named Punk) until 1965, ten years after I introduced my Rabbit, you can tell I wasn’t imitating him.
Instead, I was imitating Fred O. Seibel, who drew for the Richmond Times-Dispatch from 1926 until the mid-1960s. Seibel signed his editoons with a crow. Sibel named his feathered signature Jimmy Crow, but, later, with the emergence of greater sensitivity about racial matters, he changed the crow’s name to Moses.
One time, I deployed him, rabbit to rabbit, when, around the time founder Hugh Hefner died, Playboy stopped publishing cartoons. Cartoons have since returned to Playboy, but these allegedly “modern” “with it” specimens are scrawls on a men’s room wall compared to the artistry of yore that made Hefner’s magazine the greatest outlet for single-panel cartoons in the country. Full-page color cartoons. Perhaps the greatest in the world.
I met Oliphant a few years ago, and asked him to have his Punk join my Cahoots on a page in my notebook. He kindly obliged.
Trump’s mouth was the first thing that seemed begging for caricature. His hair was a given, but it took no particular discernment to plop a waffle-sized hairball atop his head. His mouth is a close second to his coiffure as a candidate for caricatural ridicule so my first attempts at the Trumpet focused more on the mouth.
After a few more attempts, I managed to get both a good mouth and good hair—and I also started on Hillary Clinton, his opponent in the 2016 Election, who wasn’t in the news quite as much as the Trumpet. But, as you may remember, she was still an official candidate. I scanned all my Hillary explorations, so you can watch how she slowly developed.
Caricaturing women is generally not a rewarding enterprise. For a Red Cross drive years ago, I drew promotional caricatures of the committee members, several of whom were women. None of them liked their caricatures even though, as caricatures, they were pretty successful. Then, decades later, I talked with a woman caricaturist and she told me how to successfully caricature women.
“Give them long necks,” she said, “and big eyes. The rest of the caricature can look exactly like them—ugly or plain or beautiful or not—but they’ll love the picture because of the neck and the eyes.”
Hillary was hard to do, though. Still, even if my pictures of her never appeared in print anywhere, I wanted to get her right. (I’m not sure I have, but I’ve worn out my interest in the subject. And she’s no longer in the public eye, so we both get a rest.)
Nancy Pelosi has taken Hillary’s place in the political pictorial pantheon. And she’s tough to do. Seems to me that her most distinctive feature is her mouth—the way she clenches her teeth. As you can see near here, I’ve tried variations on that theme. But without notable success, alas. I’ll keep trying.
The first Tump cartoon I did is next in this parade. He was still running for Prez; hadn’t made it yet Then when he won, I modified the same drawing. It worked okay, but I should have re-done the motion lines (or “uphites” as they are sometimes termed in the lexicon of comicana) so they would be perfectly parallel.
I continued fooling around with Trump. Whenever he committed some greater outrage than his daily tweets, I’d be provoked to draw him. I marveled that he continued to take himself so seriously when virtually every editoonist was mocking him. I even sketched the phenomenon.
I’ve thought since the beginning of the Trumpet era that the best explanation of his behavior and attitudes can be found in a saloon during Happy Hour. He’s the fat guy at the end of the bar, pontificating upon every subject at hand—confident that he’s right and everyone else is wrong or seriously misguided. So I sketched him just like that.
In everything he has done, the Trumpet assures us that whatever it is, it’s the greatest ever. The deal he alleges that he’s achieved with China “is, by far, the greatest and biggest deal ever made in the history of our country.” He says.
And then when the Trumpet gave the State of the Union speech, claiming to have invented Western Civilization, I couldn’t resist: I drew him again.
Another TrumpToon I did was about his mysterious conversations with Vlad Putin. What did the two of them discuss in their several long but unrecorded conversations? No one knows. Did Trump give away the country in exchange for a Trump Tower in Moscow? No one knows.
With the attendant editoon, I’ve offered a suggestion about the topics of their secret conversations.
The “extreme narcissism,” “detachment from reality,” and penchant for “gaslighting” that prompted Trump to use a Sharpie to doctor that weather map (a crime, incidentally, punishable by 90 days in jail) have been on display every day of his presidency, said Peter Wehner at TheAtlantic.com, —and in fact throughout his life. Under the pressures of the presidency, his “disordered mind” is getting worse. For all its pathos, the Sharpie incident is an urgent reminder that Donald Trump “isn’t well.”
The Sharpie affair might not be such a big deal, said Michael Cohen in the Boston Globe. But this bizarre episode comes from the same deep flaw that led Trump to insist that millions of illegal immigrants voted in the 2016 election, that north Korea’s tyrant Kim Jong Un is willing to denuclearize, that Russian election interference was a hoax, and that China is paying the tariffs his trade war has imposed on Americans. Trump’s “frightening inability to accept and acknowledge reality” is a “recipe for disaster.”
And he’s our Prez, occupying the most powerful position in the world. In that position, he has alienated our European allies, brought us to the brink of war with Iran, and unsettled world economies—all to gratify his ego and shore up his insecurities.
And then comes the Ukrainian episode wherein the Trumpet deploys foreign policy to help his re-election campaign by discrediting Joe Biden. And, finally—for now—he withdraws American troops from northern Syria in order to permit Turkey to invade and drive out the Kurds. (Turkey sees this bunch of Kurdish warriors as terrorists who will aid and abet the Kurds living in a corner of Turkey in creating some sort of revolution in the country.)
The autocratic President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, relying no doubt upon Trump’s proven subservience to dictators, snookered Trump into playing his game with him to create a “buffer” zone between Syria and Turkey—which resulted in our abandoning the Kurdish allies we’d fought with to defeat ISIS. And now, with the Kurds in retreat from the northern border, the ISIS warriors who had been imprisoned with Kurd guards are escaping to regroup somewhere in the hills.
Trump, alarmed at the way things are turning out, begged Erdogan for a cease fire, and when the Turk agreed, Trump hailed the lull in hostilities as a boon for civilization, engineered, of course, by the Trumpet.
As the U.S. seemingly backs down in Syria, Russia comes in, becoming the player in the region that the U.S. was once.
All of which tried my patience and prompted me to resort to cartooning again, briefly, long enough to sketch the accompanying effort, a version of the Trumpet in full Presidential Pout. Yes, his hands are too big again, but only because he needs them big in order to drag the knuckles across the ground as he walks.
And that’s enough for the nonce. I’ll probably do more TrumpeToons. He’s certainly not going to go away without a fuss, and the fuss is certain to provide more fodder for satirical poking. But I can’t leave the topic this time without a poke at one of the Trumpet’s longest-lasting campaign promises about getting Mexico to pay for the Wall.
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