Cartoon Ethics: The Washington Post’s Stupid Elephant Trick

Trainwreck Cartoon

The above cartoon, by reliably liberal op-ed cartoonist Mike Luckovich, who draws cartoons for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was run in the Washington Post this Saturday. It immediately reminded me of why, in a previous post, I suggested that the simple-minded, factually misleading art of editorial cartoonists needed to be retired. I wrote:

“Cartoons, by their very nature, deal in caricature, exaggeration and extremes for metaphorical and humorous effect. The practical effect of this, however, is that the opinions expressed through cartoons are also “supported” in a manner that would be outrageous in a written opinion piece. I know: you can’t hold a cartoon to the same standard as an op-ed. Fine—then don’t put it on the editorial pages.”

This, if anything, was worse than the Tom Toles cartoon that provoked that commentary. This Democratic talking point—more like ducking point–got graphic representation the day following another wave of bad news about the dysfunctional Affordable Care Act and how thoroughly it has been botched by the Administration. Right before Christmas, the Post’s front page carried an infuriating story about how, after waiting two years before considering how to set up the Obamacare website, the Administration chose a company that even cursory due diligence would have revealed as untrustworthy and incompetent:

“Not considered in the 2011 selection process was the history of numerous executives at CGI Federal, who had come from another company that had mishandled at least 20 other government ­information technology projects more than a decade ago. But federal officials were not required to examine that long-term track record, which included a highly publicized failure to automate retirement benefits for millions of federal workers.”

Republicans caused that trainwreck? The same day the cartoon ran, this was in the news:

The Iowa Department of Human Services says problems with the federal healthcare website has led to a delay in processing policyholder information and is asking 16,000 Iowans to reapply for Obamacare using the state website or call center.”

And did Republicans force the President to lie repeatedly about how the law wouldn’t take away anyone’s current plan or doctor? Indeed, they warned that what happened would happen, and were attacked and ridiculed while the media bolstered the President’s disinformation campaign. That, as much as the website, has made the public perceive Obamacare as a trainwreck. The mean old GOP elephant is to blame for that? As I noted in the earlier post, an editorial cartoon shouldn’t be permitted to spread falsehood and misunderstanding, and a respectable newspaper shouldn’t actively engage in the blame-shifting and denial process, which is the full-time occupation of Affordable Care Act defenders these days.

Then I searched for the cartoon on line, to determine who drew it (his signature was illegible in the size published), and for the first time, was able to read the date. The cartoon was drawn on July 29, 2013! This was after the “trainwreck” label was being wielded by Republicans because Democratic Senator Max Baucus used that term to describe his—as it turned out, accurate—assessment of how the Administration’s public information campaign was going, not the law itself. Yes, the Republicans were working to impede the progress of the ACA then, because they were convinced the law would lead to disaster. Still, Luckovich’s cartoon, while partisan, was hardly unfair or misleading—in July.

Now, however, it assumed a different meaning. The date wasn’t noted by the Post: I thought it was a new cartoon, which means I thought Luckovich was engaging in MSMNC-style historical air-brushing. The cartoonist wasn’t, however.

Was the Post? Was it deliberately using Luckovich’s dated cartoon to bolster its desperate Obama-defending readership with the baseless accusation that the GOP was really behind the law’s current travails? Or was it just being careless, reckless, inattentive and unprofessional–you know, like most of the news media. most of the time?

I don’t know. I do know that the Post owes its readers and Luckovich an apology, the former for treating them like idiots, and the latter for making him look like one.


Sources: Opposing Views, Washington Post

19 thoughts on “Cartoon Ethics: The Washington Post’s Stupid Elephant Trick

  1. Jack, the narrative will always be that republicans derailed obamacare and that we didn’t try a government option hard enough. That is the narrative all statist regimes espouse: pick a group and blame them for the countries problems then propose the only solution is more government.

    This template is historically consistent and never works well for the selected group that is vilified and never works for the nation in the long run.

    • You’re sounding like blameblakeart. Nothing works every time, and this one won’t. The narrative is too thin, and the perps are too inept. The idiotic tactic of not firing the boobs so as to be able to point elsewhere has the fatal flaw of leaving future operations in the hands of proven boobs.

          • Jack, it’s no cataclysm. It’s no “yielding” on the part of AMS. It’s the recognition of a simple truth. Just watch the Democrats mop-up seats in the 2014 elections and win majorities in both the Senate and House.

                • Mid-year elections favor the party not in the White House even when the incumbent isn’t incompetent, disengaged, dishonest, watching his signature legislation prove its opponents prescient AND leading the nation to ruin on multiple fronts. Yes, I suppose the Tea Party could get together and run a bunch of Christine O’Donnells and other assorted embarrassments, but barring that, yes, I like the odds.

                  • Amusingly, the Tea Party had a better record in the last election than the establishment party…

                    And O’Donnell’s only failing was that Rove and his crew were actively working against her, even after the primary. A lot of the negative stuff that came out against her came from Rove opposition research files.

                  • But about the cartoon, at this point, who among the opposition to the train’s existence is going to be swayed by it? To borrow from 45th President Hillary, what difference at this point does it make? Surely you don’t think that mirage is going to win over millions of so-called undecideds, or cause millions of voters for Republicans to switch parties. The electorate, and elections, are under the Democrat Party’s complete control now. Democrats can’t lose; “PAC”-ed courts won’t let them. It’s gotten to where even the leading opponents of Democrats are no different from Democrats. We all see it coming: The money is going to run out for everyone except the holders of government power, i.e. Democrats, and their favorite re-election-for-life insurers. Guns will be banned, with bans enforced by Democrats with guns, even if they can do only 3 pullups.

    • That is the narrative all statist regimes espouse: pick a group and blame them for the countries problems then propose the only solution is more government.

      Is there any evidence?

      How was this practiced, in, say, Nazi Germany?

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