February 24, 2009 1:14 PM
Editorial cartoonist Ed Stein
Mark_Wolf(Q) Your cartoon this morning about Colorado getting short-shrifted on the stimulus money featured your caricature of President Barack Obama. Can you talk about the process that has gone into how you shaped your image of Barack Obama?
Ed_Stein(A) I'm still working on it. Caricatures evolve over time, as every new president establishes a certain image and reveals a certain personality. My Reagan Clinton aqnd Bush caricatures changed dramatically over their presidencies, and this one will, too. Right now I'm just trying to get a comic likeness that works for me.
Mark_Wolf(Q) Do you think cartoonists in general are being cautious about the way they portray President Obama?
Ed_Stein(A) I don't really think so. I think we're all going through the same process of sorting it out. Because he's the first president of color, there's an added issue of how to depict him without indulging in an ethnic stereotype, but I don't think that's going to be much of an issue in the long run.
Mark_Wolf(Q) How have the responses you get to your cartoons changed since Obama became president?
Ed_Stein(A) Alas, they haven't. I always get more extreme reactions posted on my blog and in letters to the editor than the general public probably feels about the work. The extreme right-wingers will never grant that any Democrat can ever do anything right, and the ones who only listen to Limbaugh and Hannity and Fox have a fixed world view--that Obama and the Democrats are evil and want to destroy the world, and those are the ones I hear from most. It's amusing that they express such shock when I draw something critical of Obama, because they can't understand that even though I'm much farther left than they are, that I try to bring a critical eye to the issues; they just assume that I'll be their polar opposites on all things. It's dispiriting, because I rarely get a rational argument--just a repetiition of todays' Republican talking points.
Mark_Wolf(Q) Tell the truth now. Don't you miss George W. Bush just a little - in the same way that Drew Litton misses Mike Shanahan?
Ed_Stein(A) Not really. There's so much going on right now that I'm just trying to stay even with the breaking news. Every new administration provides plenty of fodder, so Bush is already ancient history.
Mark_Wolf(Q) At the moment, your motif for Obama seems to exaggerate his oval face and prominent ears.
Ed_Stein(A) Actually, a very long face and protruding ears. The eyebrows are interesting, too, and very expressive, as is the mouth. I haven't quite put it all together yet, but I'll get there.
Mark_Wolf(Q) Scott Santis of the Birmingham News told Associated Press that cartoons are "supposed to be offensive and provocative. We're entering new waters here. What can you use or not use."
Ed_Stein(A) I agree with Scott generally. I don't mind offending readers, so long as I'm not offending them gratuitously. I want them to be offended because they disagree with my opinion, not because I've drawn a deliberately outrageous cartoon. Racial, sexist or religious taunts are unacceptable. That's especially true with a Black president and multi-racial cabinet.
Arn(Q) How many iterations do your cartoons go through before they're published? Do you lock in on a topic/image early in the day?
Ed_Stein(A) It varies day to day. Some days I absolutely know what I'm going to draw about. Tonight is the State of the Union address, so I'll draw about that for tomorrow's paper. Other days, I look at as many as a dozen different topics before I decide. I'll often come up with four or five different approaches to the topic before I settle on exactly what I'm going to draw.
Mark_Wolf(Q) Let's get to the New York Post's cartoon last week that played off the killing of a pet chimpanzee that had attacked and nearly killed a woman. The chimp was portrayed dead in the streets with the caption, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill." The Post issued an apology to anyone who was offended. This morning, Post publisher Rubert Murdoch issued another apology. Your thoughts about the controversy?
Ed_Stein(A) It was a stupid cartoon. First of all, it was an incdredible reach to use the dead chimp as a metaphor for anything. It had nothing whatever to do with the stimulus package, and there was absolutely no resonance between the two events. Sometimes we cartoonists combine unrelated stories, but this was so far out of the ballpark it made no sense. Second, if Sean Delonas didn't know that therer's a long and ugly racist history of comparing Blacks to monkeys in this country, he shouldn't have the job he has. Even if he didn't intend that people read the cartgoon as racist, he should have known that readers could take it that way, and it's bizarre that no editor stepped in and saved him from himself. The half-hearted apology to anyone who was offended makes me think the Post was actually up to its old trick of deliberately stirring up controversy and then backing off when it got the reaction it wanted.
Mark_Wolf(Q) Via the Web from Sasquatch: How about a cartoon on this? WSJ: Bernanke said the recession should end this year and 2010 "will be a year of recovery," if government actions lead to some market stabilization. And we just approved a $1 trillion "stimulus" pork and spending bill that spends us out of the 1929 great Depression and Tobbaco Road all the way out into 2019! That's 10 years beyond the recovery--TEN! My sides are bursting...this could be a real funny cartoon!
Ed_Stein(A) Well, you should draw it, then.
Mark_Wolf(Q) One of your recent cartoons that provoked a lot of votes and comments on your blog (http://blogs.rockymountainnews.com/stein/) dealt with the supposed impact of gay marriage on straight marriage. How did that image come about and will we ever get past this issue?
Ed_Stein(A) I've always been mystified by the argument that gay marriage will destroy the"sanctity of marriage," whatever that is in a nation that has a 50% deviorce rate, a high rate of extramarital sex, and where porn sites are the leading internet money makers. How, exactly, does the couple (gay or straight) three blocks away getting hitched (or divorced) impact my marriage? What WOULD impact it is if my wife or I indulged in marriage-destroying behavior ourselves, which is how I got to that particular cartoon. My guess is that, in time, we will legalize gay marriage, (after long and ugly fights) and once it happens and the world doesn't end as a result, , we'll just go on to other wedge issues to divide us.
Arn(Q) The New York Post cartoon seemed to give all the people who hate the Post - Rev. Al Sharpton comes quickest to mind - the opportunity to flay the paper. Do you think some people/groups overreacted to it?
Ed_Stein(A) I do. It was a bad cartoon, executed badly. Groups with specific interests, left and right, will always use things like this to push their causes. Outrage sells, even if it's manufactured.
Arn(Q) How much of a honeymoon do you think Obama will get from his supporters on the left, some of whom think he should close Guantanamo immediately and not commit as many forces to Afghanistan?
Ed_Stein(A) He'll get a long one. There will be those on the far left who will be angry, and those on the less far left who will not be happy, but just as Republicans who disliked Bush's policies found out, they have no where else to go.