Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

December 23, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Political Cartoonists 2008

  |   Video
  • Join award-winning editorial cartoonists Steve Benson (The Arizona Republic) and Brian Fairrington (a nationally syndicated cartoonist from the East Valley) for a humorous and irreverent look back at the top stories of 2008.
Guests:
  • Steve Benson - Editorial cartoonist, Arizona Republic


View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Tonight the wonderful and often warped world of the political cartoonist. We take a look back at the top news of 2008 through the eyes and art of Steve Benson and Brian Farrington.

"Horizon" is made possible by contributions from members of 8. Thank you.

Ted Simons:
Hello. Welcome to this special edition of "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. An historic presidential election and a horrific economy provided more than enough material for political cartoonists in 2008. Here to share their work and their wise cracks is Steve Benson, editorial cartoonist for the Arizona Republic, and nationally syndicated east valley cartoonist Brian Fairrington. How you doing?

Steve Benson:
How can you be syndicated only in the east valley?

Steve Benson :
You're looking good. You look like one of those arrested wall street bankers.

Ted Simons:
Brian has checkmate on your sweater already.

Steve Benson:
You make fun of my sweater and I'll call you corky because of your hair.

Ted Simons:
Let's go with state news and big news as far as the governor is concerned.

Steve Benson:
She's left us, she's abandoned us for greener pastures. She's going back to washington d.c. don't leave us! Janet! The brewer crowd is ready to come in. Brewer's office actually called but they can only get out a grunt. Napolitano's office called. And asked for the original

Ted Simons:
Let's get to the national campaign and the primaries

Brian Fairrington:
Big year, lots of candidates, lots of fun all chasing the same thing. With romney and kucinich -- we all secretly wanted him to win.

Steve Benson:
Little pimple faced mayor of cleveland.

Brian Fairrington:
It is seemed like the election went on for about two years. The primary. Seemed like it went on forever. There was a lot to talk about.

Steve Benson:
But we weren't complaining. Lots of great material.

Steve Benson:
Of course no country for old men. That was a great movie starring john mccain and his lobbyists. I call him the great white dope, john mccain. The question was who had a better chance of becoming president, him or his vice presidential candidate.

Ted Simons:
Another candidate on the republican side, mike huckabee.

Brian Fairrington:
He kind of catered to -- not kind of he absolutely catered to the religious right. You can see where that got him. God apparently doesn't answer all prayers. He apparently doesn't answer his.

Steve Benson:
He answered ours. i like to call him mike hickabee.

Brian Fairrington:
He did get a fox gig out of it.

Steve Benson:
You wanna talk about right wing wackos sarah palin boasted she could field dress a moose what she did was field dress the elephant. She eviscerated rated that and the g.o.p. is recovering. I'm wondering if they will ever get back on their feet. She's talking about how after made a disaster of the election she's going to be the g.o.p.'s top candidate in 2012.

Ted Simons:
Is a good-looking person difficult to draw?

Steve Benson:
Well, you're such a stud muffin --

Ted Simons:
I'm asking if it's hard -- [speaking simultaneously]

Steve Benson:
Symmetry balances what defines beauty. If someone is balanced unlike this guy -- sanctuary! Sanctuary! She was hard to draw. She big eyes and she was pretty.

Brian Fairrington:
Look how well drawn i drew mitt. He's a good-looking guy. You draw him like clark kent, superman kind of personna. If he opened his shirt he wouldn't have an S on it

Steve Benson :
Clean, handsome, appealing to the wackos on the right. speaking of appealing to the wackos on the right, we have mr. prickly pear, mr. prickly cactus john mccain. I have had my experience with him. My gosh, he's radioactive. When he hugs you you come away glowing with some kind of cancerous disease.

Ted Simons:
Does this cartoon suggest he was someone conservatives should stay away from?

Steve Benson:
He was always edgy, prickly. He's always been that way. He won't even shake hands with colleagues on the senate floor he's had problems with. Can you imagine?

Brian Fairrington:
Grudge holder, that's for sure.

Steve Benson:
He won't kiss babies. He does have a rather edgy personality.

Brian Fairrington:
He got particularly ugly looking when after they went with -- went with him instead of romney. A lot of conservatives thought romney was better looking as far as the big picture. They wish he had chosen romney instead of palin, for example, which made him even uglier in their eyes.

Steve Benson:
He was deep in his own territory, a hail mary pass, palin was a disaster for him. But as the economy went south he said, don't worry, i'm not george bush.

Brian Fairrington:
McCain is great to draw. He's got this potato head. Unlike romney, he's a lot of fun to draw.

Steve Benson:
He was scary during the campaign. Trying to distance himself from eight years of disaster economic and foreign policy.

Ted Simons:
John McCain, George Bush, then we have the mccain mutiny.

Brian Fairrington:
Towards the end i don't know if it was his handlers or campaign managers, but he totally lost his way and lost support. Conservatives jumped ship.

Steve Benson:
But brian, corky, he never found his way. He didn't have his way to begin with. He was complaining about the descriptor used by the obama campaign which was spot on, erratic. He was erratic from the get-go. They did not have a consistent message.

Brian Fairrington:
You could see that in the last debates, particularly with joe the plumber. I think that ultimately backfired on him

Steve Benson:
We did have some good campaign ads. there was direction. That was negative politics. If there was any direction to this campaign we had that famous ad, who would you want answering the phone at 3:00 a.m. in the morning?

Ted Simons:
Just to make sure the democrats are skewered as well. Hillary was a big story and probably a nice target.

Brian Fairrington:
Both Clintons thought she was going to be crowned and it would be an easy walk-on, then up against obama they didn't count on that kind of force. Called him all kinds of things like an elitist even though her and bill made $100 million in eight years and obama has never made any more than $150,000 a year.

Steve Benson:
How many houses has he got? Seven or eight. He couldn't remember. He couldn't remember where they are.

Brian Fairrington:
Senior moment. Senior real estate moment.

Steve Benson:
Erratic senior moment. Finally they came together, hillary and barack, and make peace and move forward. They were using sound bites from the debates against one another during the primary, then they come together and all is forgiven.

Brian Fairrington:
Segue into a subtle cartoon here.

Ted Simons:
Did you get much reaction on this?

Brian Fairrington:
I got a little feedback for this.

Steve Benson:
Jeremiah wright wanted the original, right?

Brian Fairrington:
The Obama campaign experienced a hiccup in the road they thought would derail and ruin the campaign. He managed to overcome it no thanks in part to reverend wright who continued to go out despite obama's best efforts to cause hell on the road. He did. He kept going on and on. But Obama took the high road. Now he's taken the white house.

Steve Benson:
He took the White House, he took the high road. The american people were tired of the low road. This stuff with bill ayers, the terrorist, jeremiah wright, the government invented the aids virus to kill black people. People were looking for something above this constant negativity. The country is coming together over the white house dog.

Ted Simons:
This looks an awful lot like someone else's intellectual property.

Steve Benson:
Our apologies to charles schultz and ted simons -- i gave the original to jeannie schultz, the widow of charles schultz -- she had asked for two copies and they will provide copies to barack and michelle obama along with the cartoons.

Ted Simons:
Both these previous cartoons dealt with race, were you surprised race wasn't more of a factor in this campaign?

Steve Benson:
I thought at the beginning it was going to be the deciding factor and i was concerned it was going to tip in favor of the traditional -- [speaking simultaneously]

Brian Fairrington:
People were too focused on romney's religion to worry about. Obama's race, i think.

Steve Benson: what turned the table where race became irrelevant was the economy. That overwhelmed everything.

Brian Fairrington: mccain's gaffe that the economy is doing okay. That was the turning point.

Ted Simons: the foundations, the president saying that as well.

Ted Simons:
Back we go to the campaign mccain and sarah palin and the magic orb.

Brian Fairrington:
The media's love and everyone's love of obama. Obama mania.

Steve Benson:
You didn't complain about reagan mania, the mccain mania when the media loved him in 2000. Right wing maniacs --

Brian Fairrington:
Speaking of Obama mania --

Steve Benson:
Rock Obama baby. People say, you've drawn him too big.

Brian Fairrington:
Steve used to say his prayers 20 years ago before he went to bed. Now he prays to this cartoon.

Ted Simons:
Not all that subtle on mount rushmore.

Steve Benson:
His victory wasn't all that subtle.

Brian Fairrington:
Bigger than Lincoln? You kidding?

Steve Benson:
This is a black guy just won a national election in a predominantly white country which has a history of discrimination against blacks. I'm going to cut him a break. Cut him a big, wide profile on mount rushmore, buddy.

Brian Fairrington:
This is steve's video camera at his house. Media's love of Obama. 24 hours of Obama news.

Steve Benson:
If the media is so all powerful how come you couldn't swing the election for mccain?

Brian Fairrington:
It was weighted heavily towards obama.

Ted Simons:
On we go to the transition.

Steve Benson:
The transition. People are so tired of eight years of the midget. They are just glad to get rid of him.

Brian Fairrington:
Liberal and conservative alike.

Ted Simons:
Cartoonists, you're going to miss drawing that fella, you gotta admit.

Brian Fairrington :
I got Obama for eight years. I'm happy.

Steve Benson:
I'll miss Bush who had like one carpet piece for an eyebrow and gremlin ears and no brain. Doing this.

Ted Simons:
Brian, you're going after the media again. Surprise.

Brian Fairrington:
Pre-recorded decision. They went on vacation while the election happened. They had it decided a long time ago.

Steve Benson:
Whine, whine, whine. The media, the media, the media. Let's not focus on the media. You're missing -- you don't have a pocket any more. It's the dow to the owl. You talk about what's changed reality. We're socializing the banks under bush and obama.

Brian Fairrington:
You've expanded government tremendously.

Steve Benson:
Thanks to Republican egregious greed.

Brian Fairrington:
The main story, the first half of the year, was the election and primaries, then of course the last half has been the economy. It's just bailouts. Every week we have a new story. Today they talked about lowering interest rates to an all time record low.

Steve Benson:
Kind of where your cartoons have sunk.

Brian Fairrington:
Yes.

Steve Benson:
With Joe the Plumber, of course, he became the quintessential symbol of railing against the socialists and liberals and blah blah blah. McCain tried to make him into some kind of poster boy for his campaign.

Brian Fairrington:
Kind of a misstep with Joe the Plumber. Like steve's cartoons.

Ted Simons:
A lot of people found fault with the media for going after joe the plumber when he was exalted by the mccain campaign. He was kind of ersatz plumber, wasn't he?

Steve Benson:
He doesn't own a plumbing company he's a thousand dollars in debt, he's related to charlie keating. Other than that he represents america.

Ted Simons:
We're not going to attack the media too hard on that particular crusade.

Ted Simons:
Batman. Oh, don't say it.

Brian Fairrington:
Bruce Wayne as well out of a job. The record unemployment numbers, it's getting scary out there. Steve and i are going to have to find real jobs pretty soon.

Steve Benson:
Batman lost his car and we're going to lose our vehicle over the side of the cliff. Barack -- we're talking about a $600 billion bailout. I have to admit, how are you going to give the middle class a tax cut at the same time ?--

Brian Fairrington:
He has a big agenda. Champagne agenda with a beer wallet when it comes to the reality.

Steve Benson:
Thank you, sean haniity.

Ted Simons:
Now to gas prices, which came and went.

Brian Fairrington: I will prophesize gas will be back again.

Steve Benson:
They may come back.

Steve Benson:
We always hit on big oil companies, the collusion in the middle east, but guess what! Oil supplies and prices, you know, determine, you know, our reality. It's not as conspiratorial as we might think.

Ted Simons:
Didn't go after speculation, just supply and demand, fat cats, that sort of thing. speculative, buying futures, that's really complicated stuff. [speaking simultaneously]

Brian Fairrington:
He got a degree from byu, that's over his head.

Steve Benson:
Byu, breed 'em young university.

Ted Simons:
Now to the airplane.

Steve Benson:
If you've been on the airlines, even southwest is having a hard time. For $15 you can activate your oxygen mask. They are charging you for everything. Squeezing it. They're charging you to tell you they're going to charge you

Brian Fairrington:
Extra fee for bad sweaters.

Steve Benson:
If you would pull yours up over your face -- [laughter]

Ted Simons:
Brian, you're next. [speaking simultaneously]

Ted Simons:
Hanging in there?

Brian Fairrington:
I'm here. This is how you feel. They have all these crazy fees, these regulations. You have to put everything in a plastic bag. They took my expensive men's cologne and i'm going to sue. Brut is expensive!

Ted Simons:
Bar soap in the shower.

Steve Benson:
For our reputation, for our international persona. We have george bush, who has gotten a fond farewell from that iraqi journalist. I thought that would be a good metaphor. George bush, big ears. People said he was a loafer. Now I have him wearing loafers.

Brian Fairrington:
The american press probably wanted to do that. They probably would have been fired. Terrible media would have probably bought them another pair of shoes.

Ted Simons:
It didn't bother you as an American that someone threw his florsheims at the president of the united states

Steve Benson:
I think throwing the shoes of the president of the united states is a wonderful -- [speaking simultaneously] it's a wonderful book end to pulling down saddam's statue during the war. Just a wonderful metaphorical statement on where we started and where we ended up.

Brian Fairrington:
Going back to that, though, you saw how fast bush moved. He moved quite quickly.

Steve Benson:
Letterman had a great line I haven't seen him dodge that quickly since he avoided the vietnam war.

Ted Simons:
Lots of division regarding what was proposition here -- notoriety was really in california but we dealt with it here in arizona a support of traditional marriage.

Brian Fairrington:
It's backfiring for the supporters big time. It's a terrible personally a terrible p.r. move for them.

Steve Benson:
How many straight couples sit there in bed, well, you know, they legalized civil rights for homosexuals. Our marriage is over.

Brian Fairrington:
Or the record, groups like the mormons are being blamed incorrectly for prop 8, because how many mormons make up --

Steve Benson:
How much money did the mormon church dump into the campaign? $22 million.

Brian Fairrington:
How many voters in california are LDS.? [speaking simultaneously]

Ted Simons:
Regardless of whether it's the mormon church, the LDS. church, the catholic church, if you donate to a campaign you're basically holding up a sign saying this is what i'm for and aren't you becoming a target for those against?

Steve Benson:
Legitimately so. You're not paying attention, buddy. Civil rights regardless of color or sexual orientation, that's something in our constitutional blood.

Brian Fairrington:
For me i think it's more big government. Government should stay out of the business of legislating morality.

Steve Benson:
Government should stay out of the business of protecting civil rights.

Ted Simons:
Let's move on to some folks that we lost here. Tim Russert story was a shocker.

Brian Fairrington:
Shocking, sad. He was a staple of american media, especially at election time with his famous board he always used to keep. But it happens. He has a good legacy to live up to. I like watching tim russert. It was a great institution, meet the press. I don't particularly like david gregory, but oh, well.

Ted Simons:
When you do these things does it pop to you immediately how to do these things? Some of the best editorial cartoons are when people pass.

Brian Fairrington:
Anything but the pearly gates. It's a tired metaphor. [laughter] [speaking simultaneously]

Steve Benson:
Thanks for the springboard.

Brian Fairrington:
I try to come up with something different. Hey, look there!

Steve Benson:
Your cartoon, you've got a flat screen tv with all kinds of snow.

Brian Fairrington:
Very meticulous.

Steve Benson:
Was this the obit on tony snow?

Brian Fairrington:
Yes.

Steve Benson:
I actually enjoy doing obit cartoons. When charles schultz died i did mount rushmore with snoopy characters on it. I get a letter from a woman in sun city, what a touching tribute, but this will not detract from your obnoxious personality and reputation. When george carlin died, there we had the pearly gates. We can't quote anything he says.

Brian Fairrington:
I like george carlin. He's funny.

Ted Simons:
What I liked about Carlin he pushed the envelope. He was a standard bearer for us to follow.

Ted Simons:
And that is our edition for this year. Obviously, next year a whole lot of obama. How do you draw him? What do you do with the ears? Did you find one thing --

Brian Fairrington:
He has perfectly round ears.

Steve Benson:
He complained to Maureen Dowd, a commentary she made about his ears, he didn't like that. But he's going to have to learn to live with the hard knocks that come from our crayolas. We're going to have a great time dripping all over him.

Ted Simons:
Are you going to try to show him both in good and bad light?

Steve Benson:
The way things -- the way things are unfolding with the chicago governor's embroglio, it's not going to be hard to show him in a good and bad light. Black and white working together.

Brian Fairrington:
The media loves him now but that shall pass.

Ted Simons:
Another editorial cartoon, something that even those of us in the business look for when a character becomes increasingly small in the cartoon. Does obama start relatively normal size or bigger?

Brian Fairrington:
He's got that lincoln lankiness, which is cool to draw.

Steve Benson:
He's tall. today he was standing next to his nominee for the secretary of ed, a former basketball player himself. He used to play a little pickup basketball. Hard to shrink this guy. He looks like the jolly green giant.

Brian Fairrington:
Clinton, his nose got more bulbous. As Bush's reputation diminished, his ears got more pointed.

Steve Benson:
It will be interesting. He's our first african-american president. Unfortunately in this country we have a history of caricaturing people of color. Cartoons should be sensitive to inappropriate stereotypes. How we draw him --

Brian Fairrington:
Enough distinctive features you can bypass the traditional anything that would be considered racist.

Ted Simons:
Remember the new yorker cover, the controversy there. Will some folks see something every time they see a caricature of the president?

Brian Fairrington:
I have been called on the carpet for characaturing an african-american person. I said, that's what they look like. Are you supposed to make them not look if they have fat cheeks or --

Steve Benson:
Funny hair --

Brian Fairrington:
Like me, thank you very much. Waiting for that.

Steve Benson:
I put Barack Obama in the place of martin luther king. Remember when he stood on the steps of the lincoln memorial and gave that wonderful, rousing i have a dream speech. A young person said, that's racial. I said, it's not racial, that's a tribute to obama. Because it was said in a context where you had other african-americans there and muslim, black muslims, they saw it as something --

Brian Fairrington:
Satire by its very nature, if you're on the receiving end of it, it stings. Saturday night live last weekend got in trouble for the governor.

Steve Benson:
Don Wright a former colleague at the palm beach post said editorial cartoons are a welcome relief from the overblown elitist poopery we find on the editorial pages.

Ted Simons:
What would you rather have, a cartoon that makes me the reader laugh out loud or makes me the reader look at it about 14 different times and think about it?

Steve Benson:
I'm looking for an instant reaction. I don't care what the reader thinks in terms of their opinion but i want them to get it as quickly as they can. Art you can cut a million different ways.
Nonetheless you want something that will stick with them. That's where the power of art comes in.

Ted Simons:
Quick reaction or something that makes people think about it more than once?

Brian Fairrington:
It's nice to have both of those if you can. It's very rare you can crank one of those out.

Ted Simons: When you start a cartoon which direction do you go in first?

Brian Fairrington: The idea unless you're going after a particular point that's burning you up, ideas, you have deadlines and they come and sometimes they are poignant, sometimes funny. You try to --

Steve Benson:
He just desperately go with whatever works.
you illustrate the idea. It's like the plate delivers the food.

Ted Simons:
We'll stop it there. Lots of nice food delivered on this program by you two gentlemen. Thank you for joining us, and thank you for joining us on "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons.

if you have comments about "Horizon," please contact us at the addresses listed on your screen. Your name and comments may be used on a future edition of "Horizon." Horizon made possible by contributions from the friends of 8, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

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