Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

December 19, 2005


Host: Michael Grant

Cartoonists' Show


  • Tune in for HORIZONís annual Cartoonists' Show, an entertaining, outlandish look back at the year's top news events. Arizona Republic cartoonist Steve Benson and Brian Fairrington of the Tribune join Michael Grant to show their cartoons depicting the year's big news events.
Guests:
  • Steve Benson - of "The Arizona Republic"


View Transcript
Announcer:
Arizona's premier cartoonists spend hours sketching scalawags and scoundrels. Tonight a "Horizon" special as we take a look back at the year's news through two local editorial cartoonists. "The Arizona Republic" cartoonist Steve Benson will show us what he's drawn up, and "East Valley tribune's Brian Fairrington will show us his, coming up on "Horizon."

Michael Grant:
Good evening. Welcome to "Horizon." I'm Michael Grant. Tonight it is our annual look back at the year through the warped eyes of editorial cartoonists. With us tonight is Steve Benson of "The Arizona Republic," Brian Fairrington of the "East Valley Tribune." Steve, you're still drawing my ears way too big.

Steve Benson:
It's my warped eyes. If I had regular eyes, then your ears would be normal size.

Michael Grant:
Happy holidays, guys.

Brian Fairrington:
Thank you very much.

Michael Grant:
We haven't done this for, I guess, about a year.

Steve Benson:
It's been a here and -- since you don't keep track of ratings, let's do it again.

Michael Grant:
Ok. Before we get into the cartoons that we need to get into quickly, because you guys always give us way too much material, this was a year where basically you had war and some really horrific natural disasters. I mean, are those bad times to be a cartoonist?

Steve Benson:
Well, the worst natural disaster has been the continuing presidency of George Bush, but we thrive during these economic and natural disaster times. I mean, you know, unrest overseas, economic uncertainty at home, scandals in religion, hypocrisy and business, this is what a cartoonist sees, these are truly the best of times.

Michael Grant:
Brian, in contrast to politics and a variety of other things, I mean, you know, war and natural disasters and those kinds of things, I mean --

Brian Fairrington:
Yeah. There's always -- certainly there's the serious nature of the actual occurrence, the incident in the story, but there's always little sub stories of the issue, you know, very layered, and there's always, you know, with Katrina, so many other issues that follow that. And so, you know, it's a constant -- we're barraged with that kind of stuff. You know, there's nothing wrong with kicking people when they're down, you know, so --

Steve Benson:
Speaking of layers, who does your hair?

Brian Fairrington:
Thank you very much. Nice Cosby sweater from 1984, that you wore in 1984 I might add.

Michael Grant:
One of the other things that we noticed when we were putting this thing together, or unraveling it, as the case may be, not a real strong local year. Most of the stuff we'll be going through is national stuff.

Brian Fairrington:
We had a couple big local issues, but they also had a national as well. I mean, eminent domain, but because of the war, the ongoing war, major hurricanes and stuff. So certainly.

Michael Grant:
Now, 2006 obviously going to be a statewide election cycle.

Brian Fairrington:
Right.

Michael Grant:
I'm sure that's going to kick off a lot of local material.

Steve Benson:
A lot of good local material. Who's going to challenge the rock, Janet Napolitano? I mean, these potential opponents are wilting. All she has to do is stare them down, and they go "no mas." Nobody wants to take her on. At this point, for all intents and purposes, she's re-elected, unless some kind of scandal hits.

Brian Fairrington:
She's been playing it pretty moderately. I think she's doing that intentionally.

Steve Benson:
Yeah. She's been playing the border issues right down the middle of the border. So --

Michael Grant:
Well, all right. Let's plunge in. Speaking of the war, let's start with several on the war. Brian, your first one is --

Brian Fairrington:
Nothing goes for remembering the war dead than Christmas sale, everything on sale. This particular cartoon was just about that, remembering the true spirit of Christmas, what's important. It seems like Christmas is getting -- they're starting the sales earlier and earlier every year. It drives me nuts. My wife loves it, and all those inclined to shop.

Steve Benson:
Didn't you do a sale on flags to drape coffins with?

Brian Fairrington:
I think I did one last year, gift-wrapping.

Steve Benson:
Completely in poor taste.

Brian Fairrington:
Very poignant and hard-hitting.

Michael Grant:
As we go through these, let me know which ones in particular you got the most feedback on, email on, those kinds of things. Steve, yours obviously is on Cindy Sheehan.

Steve Benson:
Who of course lost her son Casey in Iraq and has been camping out in Crawford, Texas, for many weeks now. She's not currently doing it, but she's become kind of the cause celeb, the banner carrier, if you will, for the anti-war movement. Bush of course says, "well, I've already met with Cindy Sheehan, her and a group of other bereaved mothers who lost their children in Iraq." using that argument, you've already met with the troops. He obviously doesn't want to meet with Cindy Sheehan again because this brings up the continuing specter of --

Brian Fairrington:
The troops can't talk back. It's a good photo open. Cindy is going to give --

Steve Benson:
Have you ever seen Bush in a live press conference? He can't talk better. Cindy, she's the Achilles heel for this administration, the ugly reminder.

Michael Grant:
There's a lot of people who now think that the administration played that sequence in august very badly, and that really started the drop in the approval ratings.

Steve Benson:
Yes.

Michael Grant:
Because the 7x24's, on the cable network news, she was on around the clock.

Steve Benson:
He had a trifecta of bad events for the president. The war, the Katrina disaster, and then the C.I.A. leak probe.

Michael Grant:
John Murtha.

Steve Benson:
Of course the decorated and designated spokesperson against the war now calling for a timed and definite withdrawal within the next six months. He, of course, a combat veteran, Purple Heart winner, Korea and Vietnam. It's interesting that the republicans have called him a coward in so many words, sometimes directly, sometimes through implication. And yet what was Mr. Cheney's response to facing the draft a few years ago, in Vietnam? He took five college deferments and said, "I had other priorities." Mr. Bush, filling out his National Guard application, specifically said, "I don't want to go overseas." so, I mean, the real cowards are these chicken hawks in the G.O.P. who have never served in combat. Murtha is unassailable on this.

Michael Grant:
How much feedback to you get on that one?

Steve Benson:
Not a whole lot.

Michael Grant:
Really?

Steve Benson:
It's tough for the -- tough into supporters of Bush to question Mr. Murtha.

Michael Grant:
Brian, we got to mention here that actually you cartooned this one expressly for tonight's program.

Brian Fairrington:
Well, it's a good segue way cartoon, but certainly despite Katrina, the other major storm is the war. And, you know, people want to -- people want answers. I mean, both sides want answers as far as -- as far as when the war's going to end, when are we sending troops home, and the administration has failed to give anybody conclusive -- people are getting frustrated. That's reflective in bush's declining poll numbers. I think that's --

Steve Benson:
This is good, because, of course, we've got the elections in Iraq, you know, that are ongoing. There's nothing like a free and open election -- or an election in Iraq where they close the borders, impose a curfew, and shoot you if you're out wandering around. Nothing like democratic elections.

Michael Grant:
Well, your next cartoon's about F.E.M.A. and --

Brian Fairrington:
Yeah. They were a little late coming to the table and got criticized for that certainly in their disaster relief efforts, certainly. And with Michael Brown and everybody getting taken to task.

Steve Benson:
That was my time, Michael Brown.

Brian Fairrington:
Yeah, exactly. So it certainly demonstrated, are we really prepared for not only a natural disaster, but a major attack, are we really prepared for that? A lot of people think we're not.

Steve Benson:
Where were the terrorists during Katrina? I mean, that was an opportunity to knock us off our struts completely by being overwhelmed by Katrina.

Brian Fairrington:
They couldn't get there. There was too much wind.

Michael Grant:
I like your take here on hurricane Katrina.

Steve Benson:
Well, yeah, they went from hooters to looters.

Brian Fairrington:
Steve actually went to hooters to take --

Steve Benson:
It was called professional research.

Brian Fairrington:
Yes, yeah.

Steve Benson:
No, I didn't go to hooters, but you got the kind of decadent, swarmy, downtown, you know, wildlife of New Orleans, and then you combine it with the unfortunate looting, but, you know, if I was stuck in New Orleans and along with 25\% of the population of that town, didn't have a car, and couldn't get out, I'd probably end up looking for some free merchandise, too, just to support my family. I'm not advocating breaking the law, but these people were put in a very tight fix. Besides, it was great for a great and cute pun. That's all I can say, and I make no apologies.

Michael Grant:
Brian, what was really remarkable about this was that I don't know -- I mean, the size of the disaster was overwhelming, but there were reports that actually predicted that if you had a force five or force four hurricane hit New Orleans, here's exactly what's going to happen.

Steve Benson:
And they're rebuilding the levees at the level three of hurricane-force winds. Have we learned from this?

Brian Fairrington:
New Orleans will never be the same. Their primary focus on rebuilding is the downtown center and all the economic development, because it's a huge tourist -- they're talking about having, you know, the next super bowl in the next couple of years, and also the conventions, the democratic and republican conventions were tossed around as being, you know, to sort of revitalize the area. That's where they'll put all their efforts. All the outlying areas where people lived, that's taking a back seat.

Steve Benson:
The positive side of this is people who don't come back, perhaps nature will reclaim some of the swampy, spongy land and become a natural buffer against the type of hurricane disasters that we've seen, which are exacerbated by humankind messing with the reefs and the bays and the protection provided by the natural area.

Michael Grant:
You rapped on that point.

Steve Benson:
Yeah, baby. [laughter]

Brian Fairrington:
There's only a 30-minute show, by the way.

Michael Grant:
All right. Let's shift to immigration. I understand you lost money on this cartoon.

Brian Fairrington:
I'd done this cartoon, went out through my syndicate, and another company called me after this, seen this published someplace, and they said -- sent me an email, and said, "we can't work with you. We saw your cartoon about the minutemen, we support them, and can't work with you any longer."

Michael Grant:
This is the kind of cartoon that I would think would get you a lot of voicemails and emails.

Brian Fairrington:
Yeah, I got a lot of email, you know, from a lot of people that support the minute men. I do in the overall concept that we need to do something with illegal immigration and all that, but I think randomly going out, you know, the retired people, you know, grabbing guns and going down there, they're untrained, things like that, it's dangerous. And you get a lot of the --

Steve Benson:
That's what young people do when --

Brian Fairrington:
At Christmas time, the posse. That's a little dangerous. You know, it begged to be satirized certainly.

Michael Grant:
Taking a shot at County Attorney Andrew Thomas.

Steve Benson:
Whatever his name is, he of course is the wannabe terminator who claimed to have had a military career in Iraq, which proved not to be true, and was deemed to be mentally unstable by the -- by the sheriff who arrested him initially for having unlawfully displayed and used a weapon in an assault-like way. He's now sued Sheriff Joe for having an evil mind and an evil eye, or something. I mean, this guy's just -- he's completely bizarre, whacked out. He was out at a rest stop letting his dog relieve itself, and said that he was attacked by these illegal aliens who would have really done a number on him had they not seen his black dog and mistook him for a border patrol agent. Do-do-do-do. This guy's completely whacked out, and he's become the poster boy of your little, you know, patriotic minutemen crowd.

Brian Fairrington:
That's a good poster boy to have, right?

Steve Benson:
And his initial didn't square later with his explanations as to why he pulled a gun. For once, I support Joe Arpaio. Pains me to say that.

Michael Grant:
Gas prices, one of the year's other big stories.

Brian Fairrington:
All felt pain at the pump this year, that's for sure.

Michael Grant:
Yeah. The record profits obviously given a lot of attention.

Brian Fairrington:
You know, percentage-wise they're in line with the rest of the corporations. Percentage-wise they were less than 10\% on the record profits. But it's still the amount. I mean, it was -- it was just a quarter of a profit, and it was in the billions. And, you know, it also goes hand in hand with -- also this year, we passed bankruptcy reform, two separate things, but go to corporate agreed as far as -- you know, credit cards also had record profits this year, and yet they passed bankruptcy reform. I'm pro business, and tend to lean that way, but it was a bad P.R. move at the very least. It made them look bad.

Michael Grant:
The other thing that irritates you is that they're very, very good at anticipating very, very quickly that the price is going to go up.

Brian Fairrington:
Uh-huh.

Michael Grant:
But a little slower on the backside.

Steve Benson:
Exactly.

Brian Fairrington:
Coming here, it's not quite lower than $2 a gallon yet.

Steve Benson:
This old line, we still have refineries down. Hello, how long are your refineries down? Your refineries are always conveniently down when the prices are up.

Brian Fairrington:
And Katrina allowed them to ride that wave, no pun intended.

Steve Benson:
Congress is looking at price fixing which will go nowhere in the Halliburton White House.

Michael Grant:
This is the connection with Alaskan oil --

Steve Benson:
Arctic wildlife national reserve. This portion of the energy bill was stripped out. Look, this is just a panacea, a quick fix. We ought to preserve that -- that jewel we have up there. At best, it's going to provide us, what, a few months worth of oil. Take us 10 years to get to it. And a footprint left by the oil companies starts to ooze after a while and get bigger and bigger. But kill it and drill it and fill it.

Brian Fairrington:
Right.

Michael Grant:
You've spent a lot of time up there, Steve?

Steve Benson:
I've been to Alaska.

Brian Fairrington:
He shot a moose that was in his house.

Steve Benson:
In fact, I'm feeling the cold freeze of your stare right now, but I can handle it.

Michael Grant:
Now, your tact is let's return to nuclear power.

Brian Fairrington:
Everyone's screaming we've got to stop the dependency on foreign oil and other forms, find another alternative.

Steve Benson:
Looks like your hair.

Brian Fairrington:
Yeah, thank you very much. And so this is an alternative. Nuclear power is not what it was, the way they manage nuclear fire plants, not what it was back in the day of China syndrome, those things. It's much safer.

Steve Benson:
Three Mile Island.

Brian Fairrington:
Well, they did the movie with Jane Fonda, your buddy.

Steve Benson:
Ok.

Michael Grant:
All right. Well, I'm told we're about nine cartoons behind.

Brian Fairrington:
Oh, ok.

Michael Grant:
Terri Schiavo.

Brian Fairrington:
Yes. Her brain was half the normal size, was blind, had no cognitive recovery, a member of the far right obviously. Bush gets up in his pink bunny slippers and signs this emergency legislation. This was a complete disaster for the far right and blew up in their faces.

Michael Grant:
You agree?

Brian Fairrington:
Well, you know, I don't agree that we should keep somebody alive, you know, that's a vegetable unless you like broccoli, I guess.

Steve Benson:
Look at Mike Brant.

Brian Fairrington:
Yeah, exactly. But I sided with the parents here as being a new parent, you know, how would I feel if I had a son-in-law or daughter-in-law that was wanting to pull the plug on my kid. I think I would react the way they did. Right or wrong, I think I would. That's how I felt off that.

Michael Grant:
The new shift to creationism -- oh, intelligent design.

Steve Benson:
Intelligent design.

Michael Grant:
That's the new term.

Steve Benson:
Which is a pseudonym, a cover, a reworking of the language to push the same old pseudoscientific creationism into the public schools. Now you've got the Dover, Pennsylvania, case, where the school board has been voted out because they wanted to teach, you know, upside down salad bowls to which the stars are pinned in science class, or intelligent design. That goes in your religion class. Keep that in Sunday school and keep the science labs in the high school doing the businesses of hard science.

Michael Grant:
And Brian, your shot at George Bush.

Brian Fairrington:
I'm a conservative, voted republican since I've been old enough to vote, and I think the Bush administration and white wing, he's played to what they want to hear, and it damaged the Republican Party and conservatives, and I take objection to that.

Steve Benson:
You're a conservative?

Brian Fairrington:
I try.

Michael Grant:
That's a logical segue way into the Supreme Court. The religious right, Brian takes center stage here.

Brian Fairrington:
Well, you know, this is a cartoon that I sort of poked fun at the far left when they went after Robert's on his stand on abortion. And, you know, it's sort of a fun little -- you know little poke. I got a few emails over this one, you know.

Steve Benson:
My question is -- what's down on abortion? This is settled law. He wouldn't give his opinion on it.

Brian Fairrington:
It was speculation on what he would do.

Steve Benson:
Speculation, so fill in the blanks. I mean, this is -- anyway, you had, of course, Harriet Mires, who, you know, apparently gave secret vows and assurances that she would work to overturn Roe and all this kind of thing. And of course the administration was pushing the line that she ought to be confirmed because she's an evangelical Christian. I mean, when does now religion become the standard by which we judge the qualifications of our Supreme Court nominees?

Michael Grant:
Of course, the theory that Roe was distracted and wasn't running that operation very closely.

Steve Benson:
Yeah, absolutely.

Michael Grant:
Brian, we've got another nominee for the United States support.

Brian Fairrington:
That's right. Seems the only one they would have gotten passed was one with a tried and true record, and that was Barbara Bush. Alito still has to be grilled, so we're waiting for that.

Steve Benson:
You're conservative, and can't Alito's name?

Brian Fairrington:
I have a lot to remember.

Michael Grant:
Tell you what; Barbara Bush is loved by a lot of people.

Brian Fairrington:
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. That's why if he had nominated her, she'd be on the Supreme Court, pearls and all.

Michael Grant:
That's right. And here's your Harriet Miers cartoon, Steve.

Steve Benson:
Take back America. That's just the conservatives, all upset, thought that she didn't have judicial credentials and Bush was wimping out when he could have nominated a tough guy. He went with Roberts. Now he's going with Alito, basically begging for a job in a Reagan era memo saying, "I will do anything you want, I will execute anybody, and I hate pro-life -- I mean pro-choice."

Michael Grant:
Speaking of the Supreme Court, we were talking before we went on the air, their eminent domain decision --

Brian Fairrington:
Scared the blank out of a lot of people.

Michael Grant:
Yeah. Really touched a lot of people.

Brian Fairrington:
From a local perspective, you know, this cartoon was done in response to that. They got this issue going on in Tempe with the Tempe marketplace.

Michael Grant:
Right.

Brian Fairrington:
Which just recently got -- got taken back in the other direction, and they're going to allow those people to stay. And Tempe's supposed to appeal it. The problem, the way the law's been used, the problem with it is eminent domain is supposed to be claimed so they can use the property and real estate for public good, not for shopping malls.

Steve Benson:
That's for the public good. Redevelopment is for public good, so we have to steal it from private owners and use it under the umbrella of the public good.

Michael Grant:
And your point is --

Brian Fairrington:
The Tempe case might be go up to the Supreme Court.

Steve Benson:
So here I am a liberal squish agreeing with you on this. There are property rights enshrined and protected in the constitution. When did Sandra Day O'Connor say about this? Caused a little dustup. No kidding. It fundamentally attacks the right of private property.

Michael Grant:
All right. Moving to the C.I.A. leak fiasco. Steve?

Steve Benson:
Well, this is a chance to take a little dig at, you know, bob would ward, who up until this point, his reputation was stellar and intact. Now we find out for two years he wasn't telling his editor that he had been having chats with sources in the administration. Why? "Because I was working on a book and didn't want to be subpoenaed." "Well, thank you for your commitment to due process, Mr. Woodward." now been --

Michael Grant:
And Brian?

Brian Fairrington:
No one should name their children scooter. You know, you've got the problem of leaking severely. And it will one of the Achilles heel in combination with --

Steve Benson:
Scooter leaking severely?

Brian Fairrington:
That sounds bad. Get a mechanic for that.

Michael Grant:
Oil change. Housing prices. Now, did you guys collaborate on this?

Steve Benson:
I would like to file an official protest --

Brian Fairrington:
I would like to publicly admit right now that I'm totally guilty of using the same mediocre idea of Steve Benson on this issue.

Steve Benson:
He has to rely on me. I did this cartoon first. I live in Gilbert. Housing prices in one year have gone up like 30\%.

Brian Fairrington:
In my cartoon, I have better property values.

Steve Benson:
That's true.

Brian Fairrington:
Go with my cartoon.

Steve Benson:
With mine, come back down to reality. This extravagant expectation era is over.

Michael Grant:
I won't even get into about who's the better artist, because that discussion will go nowhere.

Brian Fairrington:
Thank you very much.

Michael Grant:
Steve, the Donald Trump thing, they're referring this to a vote.

Steve Benson:
Yeah. And apparently it's been approved and it will be on the ballot. They've got the requisite signatures. The people against this development at 24th and Camelback, they asked for copies of this cartoon to use at the city hearing, to no avail. The city council voted for the building, just because they didn't like the cartoon. It was a slap in the face.

Michael Grant:
Let's pick up a Michael Jackson cartoon here, Steve.

Steve Benson:
During the trial he was constantly being admitted to the hospital. It was bizarre, showing up for court dressed in his suit top and pajama bottoms, like Bush signing the Schiavo legislation, but then here's this guy that's got this funky, weird relationship with these kids, and of course he'd naturally feel at home among them in the pediatric ward.

Michael Grant:
Let's skip one and go to the commercialization of Christmas, Brian.

Brian Fairrington:
You know, a vast majority of the country is -- believe in baby Jesus, and, you know, it seems -- it's political correctness gone awry. It's one day out of the year. Everybody else has their respective holidays. They're trying to, you know, sugarcoat this, and say, you know, all these other things, except Christmas. It's Christmas. Let's say merry Christmas. There's nothing wrong with that. And the efforts to do otherwise are bizarre. And here's the comment. What would Jesus do?

Steve Benson:
What would Jesus say? Sorry honey, sorry honey.

Michael Grant:
This is interesting, because we've been trying for years to get commercialism out of Christmas.

Steve Benson:
The far right says if you don't put Christ back into your banners, we're not going to do commerce with you. This is the same wacky crowd that wanted commerce out of Christmas, you can't have it both ways, but that's typical of conservatism in America these days, an amoeba that has no definition. I hope by this time next time we will have right our ship of state.

Michael Grant:
On that positive and I think upbeat note, gentlemen, we're out of time. Steve Benson, thank you very much for joining us.

Steve Benson:
You've got great big ears.

Michael Grant:
Happy holidays.

Brian Fairrington:
Better to hear your rhetoric with, I guess, huh?

Michael Grant:
Brian Fairrington, thank you very much. And our thanks to you as well. Thanks for joining us on this special edition of "Horizon." I'm Michael Grant. Have a great one. Good night.

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