EDITORIAL: Lay Off and Give Obama a Chance
Remember when Herblock gave Richard Nixon a shave
"Herblock" was the signature used by the late Herbert Block, a longtime editorial cartoonist for The Washington Post. An unabashed liberal of the FDR stripe, he had no use for the Republican Nixon. During the 1950s, when Nixon was Eisenhower's vice president, Herblock always drew him with beady, malevolent eyes and a five-o'clock shadow that made him look like a thug.
Sometimes, when he thought Nixon was acting as Ike's hatchet man, he even portrayed him with a bloody hatchet in his hand. And when Nixon ran for president in 1960 and again in 1968, the heavy, sinister growth of beard remained on his jowls in Post cartoons. (Nixon shaved twice a day to avoid resembling that unflattering caricature.)
Then, in the election of '68, Nixon beat liberal Democrat Hubert Humphrey. And Herblock, feeling in an expansive and conciliatory mood, surprised Post subscribers by drawing the president-elect in a barber chair and announcing that he was giving him a clean shave and a fresh start.
Americans of all political stripes should do the same thing, figuratively speaking, for our current president-elect.
Remove the Unfair Labels
Barack Obama doesn't have a perpetual five o'clock shadow. In fact, contemporary cartoonists complain that he doesn't have any distinguishing physical features that lend themselves readily to caricature, unless you count those ears. But his detractors have plastered a lot of sticky notes all over him. Now that the campaign is over, let's strip them off and give him, too, a fresh start.
-- That tiresome "socialist" label, sometimes even inflated to the silly level of "Marxist," won't stick, of course. When Obama spoke with Joe the Plumber about "redistributing wealth," he was talking about the brackets of the income-tax system, which has been around for a century or so. Marx believed in government takeover of means of production and distribution. Obama does not.
-- Obama doesn't want to take away your guns. He has made that clear.
-- He is not a Muslim, of course. He's a Christian who went on network TV to proclaim Jesus Christ as his personal savior. What more does it take? (Ironically, a letter elsewhere in this section expresses concern that Obama will be too pro-Israel in his foreign policy. Hardly a mark of your typical Muslim, is it?)
-- He does not want to "open our borders to illegal aliens." This, too, is baloney.
A Mood of Reconciliation
John McCain has made a commendably gracious concession speech, including a sincere pledge to support the man who defeated him. President and Mrs. Bush cordially welcomed Obama and his wife for a White House visit, and the current and future presidents were said to have hit it off. Obama himself has been behaving most magnanimously in victory and speaking of bipartisanism.
This mood of reconciliation and mutual respect is most refreshing. It's starting to feel a bit like "morning in America" again. It is too bad that there are those on the angry and uncivil far right who are still clinging to their old hatreds and trying to make Obama into a bogeyman.
If putting the long and bitter campaign in the past and coming together and looking to the future is good enough for John McCain and George Bush, shouldn't it be good enough for the rest of us?
Give the guy a chance. There will be plenty of opportunity to second-guess him later.
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