Wednesday, December 23, 2015


In response to right-wing outrage, The Washington Post has taken down a cartoon by Ann Telnaes that depicted Ted Cruz as an organ grinder and Cruz's daughters as dancing monkeys.

Before it came down, Telnaes explained the cartoon this way:
There is an unspoken rule in editorial cartooning that a politician's children are off-limits. People don't get to choose their family members so obviously it's unfair to ridicule kids for their parent's behavior while in office or on the campaign trail -- besides, they're children. There are plenty of adults in the political world who act childish, so there is no need for an editorial cartoonist to target actual children.

I've kept to that rule, except when the children are adults themselves or choose to indulge in grown-up activities (as the Bush twins did during the George W Bush presidency). But when a politician uses his children as political props, as Ted Cruz recently did in his Christmas parody video in which his eldest daughter read (with her father's dramatic flourish) a passage of an edited Christmas classic, then I figure they are fair game.
On balance, I agree with the decision to take the cartoon down. Yes, Cruz is using his daughters as props (in more than one video release), but I can't remember a time when politicians didn't trot out their kids to win votes. Hillary Clinton is making a great show of being a grandmother right now, but Telnaes didn't single out Clinton or her granddaughter. Clinton's granddaughter is a baby, but Cruz's kids aren't much older. They're doing what their parents want them to do.

The monkey imagery also bothers me. I'm Italian-American -- my people are the ones who used to be mocked with organ-grinder-and-monkey imagery. Cruz's daughters may look more like their blond American mother, but Cruz is Hispanic. When you depict a darker-skinned person's child as a monkey, you're in racist territory.


But now that I've said that, I'll add this: Cruz and his fellow conservatives love to rail against "political correctness," regularly treating that phrase as a free pass that allows them to offend anyone and propose anything, but I guess something is sacred to Cruz and his ideological allies. It would be nice if this moment led them to recognize that other people can be legitimately outraged. It's more likely, though, that they'll continue to insist on their own right to umbrage, while treating everyone else's grievances as illegitimate.

Oh, and this, posted by a conservative blogger shortly before Telnaes removed the cartoon from Twitter, is not accurate:

No, a right-winger would not be fired by now. Recall 2009, when the New York Post published this cartoon by Sean Delonas:

At first glance, the main editorial cartoon in today's New York Post seemed like just another lurid reference to the story that the tabloid had been covering with breathless abandon for two days running - the shooting by Connecticut police on Monday of a pet chimpanzee that viciously attacked his owner's friend.

But the caption cast the cartoon in a more sinister light. "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill," it read, prompting accusations that the Post was peddling a longstanding racist slur by portraying president Barack Obama, who signed the bill into law yesterday, as an ape.
The Post did ultimately issue an apology, after first defending the cartoon. But was Delonas fired? No -- he continued to work for the Post for four more years, until he took a buyout in 2013. So, sorry, you don't get fired if you're conservative and you do something like this -- at least not if Rupert Murdoch signs your paychecks.


Victor said...

Yes, kids should be off limits.
Even when the politicians use their kids as props. Hell, everyone wants to show how great and loving a parent they are.

I wish our right-wingers and their cartoonists had left Amy Carter and Chelsea Clinton off limits.
But they didn't, now did they?
I will say though, that the bulk of their main stream cartoonists have left the Obama daughters pretty much alone - but I'm getting old, and may have forgotten.

But now, when it's one of theirs, as usual, they scream bloody murder!

Having said the above, I'm glad that for this and the last two election cycles, no one depicted Santorum's terminally ill daughter in a political cartoon - even though he used her by bringing her on stage, or telling stories about her and her deceased older brother in almost every campaign stop.

Leave the kids alone, unless they're over 18, and activity involved.
Or do something criminal.

Ten Bears said...

I don't like seeing my grand-daughter's face plastered across every checkout in town as a part of a charity food drive. Nobody asked my permission, nobody asked my daughter. Nobody asked my granddaughter. The iceback, I am sure, did ask his giggling daughters - 'would you like to make a commercial for daddy's campaign? You can read an edited version of the Xmas classic!'

I'm going clip that and post it at my place. Sure, I don't get millions of hits like you do, but it needs to be seen. Freedom, First Amendment, all that.

Mostly though, because I don't a shit anymore.

Unknown said...

Everyone says 'Leave out the children', but almost all pols bring their kids in, as part of biography. It's only when someone strays into what seems tone-deaf that pols' proxies and surrogates express outrage.

Which current preznit contenders with at-all realistic hopes resist this? They all act like pythons that just ate hippos. Sanders seems most to escape it, but even his (second) wife is on the campaign trail with him & gets regular mentions by him.

WaPo has 2 Pulitzer-worthy pol cartoonists. Toles' 'toon of Dec 9 has Trump painting over Lady Liberty with Hitler's face; most of Toles' Trumps have him as doughy snout-mouthed pig in a wig. Toles is U.S.-born-&-raised; he understands what can be got away with. Telnaes was born & raised in Sweden & has a Scandi appreciation of our political syntax. That can be good! - many of her animations set images more lasting than top Toles.

This was not wrongly aimed, just too light on national political syntax to be properly conceived. Cruz IS attempting to recast himself as Teddy dad. But right there, Telnaes had all she needed: a Music Man surrounding himself with an array of 76 teddybear drones. Same messsage, but no direct hit on the innocents ... just like our armed forces' drone attacks.

Chai T. Ch'uan said...

Oh dear! A cartoon has given brave anti-PC Ted the vapors! I agree in principle with your analysis, but today's crowd of Tea Partiers signalling the ref for a yellow flag over this is hilarious.
It's like the old saw about the kid who killed his father asking the court for succor as an orphan, only with the kid having made a career out of burning down orphanages and railing against the value of court-ordered child support.