December 6, 2016

Boss Tweed Versus Boss Tweet: A Nasty Cartoon about the Trump Cabinet Picks

"I don’t care a straw for you newspaper articles, my constituents don’t know how to read, but they can’t help seeing them damned pictures."

-Boss Tweed

"Just tried watching Saturday Night Live - unwatchable! Totally biased, not funny and the Baldwin impersonation just can’t get any worse. Sad."

-"Boss Tweet" (aka Donald Trump)



The first quote at the beginning of my story is attributed to William Magear Tweed, a corrupt politician noted for his cronyism, graft and an unbridled greed that eventually led to his arrest in 1873 and the dismantling of his infamous Tammany Hall in New York. http://www.biography.com/people/boss-tweed-20967991

I first became acquainted with "Boss Tweed’s" Tammany Hall in late nineteenth century New York politics through the drawings of political cartoonist Thomas Nast. As "Boss Tweed," observed, Thomas Nast’s caricatures of his visage were scathing. It is entirely possible that they may have had enough influence on public opinion to have played a role in his eventual ouster from public life. http://www.biography.com/people/thomas-nast-9420600

Recent political events have reignited my interest in the cartoons of Thomas Nast, often referred to as the "father of American political cartoons." These early political cartoons are fascinating for their exquisite narrative details and complex compositions. Unlike cartoons of today, they were complete story lines contained in a single picture. Today cartoons are more like a one-liner, punching out a central idea to be held up to ridicule (We have comedy skits like Saturday Night Live for narratives). In Nast’s cartoons, we get the whole picture of just about every transgression foisted upon the public by ne’er do well politicians and their cronies. It tends to make things a bit jumbled, but interesting. An illustration of Nast’s technique is shown below in the picture of Boss Tweed and his cronies in the guise of predatory birds, ostensibly vultures, picking apart the hapless public.

Because Boss Tweed sounds very much like "Boss Tweet," it occurred to me that it would be interesting to transpose this latter day "Boss" and his recent picks for cabinet appointments on to a Thomas Nast- like nineteenth century cartoon format. Doing so required reading a considerable amount of news and commentary in order to find out what the most fuss was about, then encapsulate all this in one picture. Channeling Thomas Nast from nineteenth century America, I placed the faces of Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, and Tom Price, on to the bodies of birds. More could be added, of course, but I ran out of bird space!

In my "Boss Tweet" rendition of a Nast style satire, Donald Trump is cast in the role of bird in chief. The "Tweet" part of his title, refers, of course to his favored medium of communication with his supporters. Although it is rather small and difficult to see, his talons grip a padlocked suitcase containing his unreleased income tax returns. In choosing photographic information upon which to base my portrait, I found that our president-elect has offered a treasure trove of unusual facial expressions. Modern cartoonists seem to favor a facial expression that exudes arrogance. I chose the ubiquitous "I can get away with anything" smirk.

"Boss Tweet," in my cartoon, points to vice-president elect Mike Pence. Although volumes can be written about the more dubious aspects of his political leanings, I chose to highlight just one. The "not allowed" circle on his chest refers to his difficulty in accepting same sex unions as a right to be respected and protected.

Peering over Donald Trump’s right shoulder is his pick for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. Alluding to the racial slurs that cost him a federal judgeship, a tiny, cheering hooded Klansman perches on top of Session’s head. For Mike Pompeo, there has been much commentary written about his Tea Party politics, his stance on tougher interrogation techniques, ties to Koch industries, and his appeal to overturn the Iran nuclear accord. But for the sake of brevity, my cartoon makes reference only to his advocacy for a return to bulk collection of America’s domestic calling record - hence the "CIA Sees You" label and the tearing up of the fourth amendment (protecting citizen’s rights to illegal search and seizure) in the bird’s talons.

Staring out from the background is a caricature of Steve Bannon. Once again, volumes could be written on his ties to disreputable news agencies and propagandistic rambles, but for the purpose of summary, I just place a teapot on his head, alluding to Tea Party politics. While looking over images of Steve Bannon, what struck me was his persistent five o’clock shadow. So this very simple cartoon face features that same stubble, with the teapot having hair stubble as well, just for good measure.

This brings the last cartoon portrait to the pick for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price. Because Health and Human Services funds Planned Parenthood and Tom Price is purportedly against government funding for Planned Parenthood, birth control, and reproductive rights in general, this does not bode well for the future of women’s health care. Many of those who oppose legal access to abortion services call themselves "Right to Lifers." Since nothing they advocate has anything at all to do with preserving or protecting the lives of adult human beings and may even put these lives in jeopardy, I prefer to call a spade a spade here, as the saying goes, and refer to the new Price is right agency as "The Office of Pregnancy Enforcement." I would not wish to disparage those whose religious beliefs confer personhood to a cluster of fertilized cells. I would argue that this is more of a living thing with a potential to become a person, though, and that in such a case, the life and health of an actual living person takes priority.

But perhaps the most disturbing thing that has come to light about Tom Price’s affiliations is his membership in the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. This is an organization that has come under fire from mainstream doctors and medical associations for its pseudoscientific proclivities. Most appalling to physicians is the organization’s soft stance on vaccination requirements, citing a link between vaccinations and autism - despite repeated demonstrations that there is no causal link between the two.

http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2016/11/30/the-new-secretary-of-health-and-human-services-is-a-member-of-a-fringe-medical-organization-heres-what-that-means/

A grass roots effort has been under way for some years now in the United States for parents to assert their rights to refuse childhood vaccinations. This has unfortunately led to a resurgence in potentially deadly childhood diseases such as Pertussis (whooping cough). http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/02/22/why-pertussis-is-making-a-comeback/?_r=0

It would be cause for concern then, and a scarey prospect for the health and welfare of American citizens, to have a "vaccination denier" heading up the agency that is supposed to be protecting us against plagues. At this point, we may not know to what extent the views promulgated by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons reflect the personal views held by the prospective head of the Health and Human Services, but in keeping with the AAPS’s purported positions, in my cartoon I have Tom Price rolling out the welcome matt for Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Zika and Polio. One can only hope that common sense will prevail here, and that the American public will not be put at a significant health risk or the nation at large put at a national security risk. As to the latter, just think of it - an open advertisement from our government that we intend to be sitting unvaccinated ducks. Coooome and get it!

Getting back to Thomas Nast and a borrowed cartoon, one often sees in these nineteenth century drawings images of a hapless public being eaten by something or crushed under the weight of some public policy or indiscretion. For this I submit that twenty-five million dollar wall with Mexico that president-elect Donald Trump has committed to building. So if Mexico won’t pay for it, then who will? A hint here can be found in the arms and legs coming out from underneath the wall with the labels "Tax payers" on them.

This might be the last of my political cartoons. They are actually quite difficult to do! Of course I made the job much more difficult by attempting the complex style of Thomas Nast. Something perhaps only a Nasty woman would think of.

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