As this interminable horror show of an election drags on (only 71 days to go!), journalists are under fire from Donald Trump and his supporters.
“In the tank for the Clintons” is a common phrase used to describe the reporting and commentary about this sewer of a campaign.
As I read yet another of the thousands of news stories about Secretary Hillary Clinton’s emails, the Clinton Foundation, Benghazi and the endless reporting of Trump’s ranting slurs, I am hard-pressed to find anything other than piranhas in the national reporting tank.
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In my case, I get lots of emails accusing me of bias toward Trump. I usually respond by pointing out that A) I am an opinion journalist and B) the writers themselves are inherently biased.
However, while I am happy to cite my columns and cartoons on the subject showing lack of tank presence, it forced me to go back to my cartoons drawn for The Oregonian, when Bill Clinton was president, and later for The Bee.
And these cartoons were not in the tank the Clintons might prefer I was swimming in.
I chose 1998, the peak moment of Monica, the blue dress, impeachment. I was genuinely intellectually curious about how I had handled President Clinton and the first lady.
Oh, here’s one: Bill sitting at a desk, a disheveled woman walking away, dazed, as Bill grins. An aide observes, “Er … let’s go over again what ‘executive privilege’ means, sir.”
Here’s another: Panel one: Clinton wagging his finger saying, “I didn’t have sex with that woman.” Panel two: “I didn’t have sex with that woman very often.”
And another: Panel one: A female aide says to Clinton, “Mr. President, the latest polls show you at 78%, an all-time high … you’re up sixteen points since the Lewinsky charges.” Panel two: Clinton stares at her. Panel three: Bill says, “…Come here often?”
There were about 50 or so cartoons. In 2007 and 2008, during then-Sen. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, I did dozens of cartoons criticizing her. In fact, when I asked a local Oregon ally of hers to let me into a televised town hall, the aide replied, “Why should I break my pick for you?” I got in anyway.
During my time at The Bee, I’ve done quite a number of cartoons about Clinton’s server, her emails, the Clinton Foundation and other subjects to which Clinton and her husband might raise an objection.
Having said this, do I have bias? Sure. Everyone does. Do I have to be ecumenical in my treatment of two presidential candidates, one of whom is flawed, and the other is flatly incompetent and does not possess the mental or emotional stability to lead the United States?
I’ll explain my approach. I hold candidates and elected officials (I’ll omit institutions for clarity) to two standards: The first is their ideology, and the second is their character.
As I look back on, say, the 2012 candidacy of GOP nominee Mitt Romney, one thing I can say confidently is that he was eminently qualified to be president in temperament and character. Did I agree with him? Not on most things. But did he scare me? No. Was he ready to be president? Absolutely. Same with every GOP nominee I’ve drawn about since 1978.
The tank I admit to being in is trying to expose hypocrisy, be it California Democrats or Republicans, developers or lobbyists, college presidents or sheriffs. You name it. With the Clintons, it’s a tank I don’t believe I’ve willingly sat in too often. Sometimes she’s right, sometimes she’s wrong.
In the case of Trump, I won’t sit in a septic tank.