Attack of the Cheneys

MARCH 19, 2010

It’s not often when I can get a chance to make the editorial comment that relies pretty much on the strength of the drawing alone.  No situational premise, no “idea”, no real punchline.   It’s a welcome change of pace to let an expression in the portrayal of a particular subject tell the story.  The opportunity presented itself in such a manner for the cover story illustration in the current issue of THE NATION. 


The article, titled “Attack of the Cheneys”, spends a good deal of copy on the two members of the glorious Cheney family, Liz and Dick, who have been expending a lot of energy savaging the current administration’s policies on terrorism and national security, while calmly and coldly brushing aside any responsibility for the damages to our world standing, foreign policy, internal security and rule of law, created during the Cheney/Bush years.  It’s also an examination of the shameless and unapologetic manner with which the neo-cons press their myth(s) and work to obfuscate the truth about their reckless and ill considered decisions over the past decade or more, not to mention the grim zeal with which they smear anyone or any organization that disagrees with their views. As I’m not running for office and concerned about alienating potential voters by speaking the truth, I feel free to say that it appears the neo—cons, in a perverse anticipation, wish for another terrorist attack if for no other reason than to utilize the tragedy to their political advantage.


So, what to do?  How to illustrate a situational setup with Cheney, his daughter at his side, as the perpetrator/orchestrator of some evil action that hasn’t been done before, and probably better?  I very quickly came to the conclusion that any scene established, no matter how evil, would merely add to the image of Cheney as a power to reckon with, and I didn’t want to do that.  I just was in no mood to flatter him with an acknowledgement of the power he still wields, within the world of politics as well in the world of media with his own personal mouthpiece, FOX-TV, generously providing him a podium from which to fulminate.  There was another point to consider as well.  Cheney’s a very malevolent character who, following in the grand tradition of many malevolent characters, leaves very little evidence behind of his criminality.  He directs the show, but also constructs around himself a very high wall of deniability.  Others will fall on the sword, voluntarily or not, on his behalf, but he’ll never cop to anything. It’s not the decisions he makes in plain sight but what we don’t see that makes him such an insidious presence in modern American politics.  It’s what goes on behind that calm demeanor that should give one the chills.  The bottom line is that it’s all about power and holding onto it. 


So I decided to go for a pretty much normal scene and rely on the expressions to speak about the characters and a general mood with the colors.  It didn’t take much time finding the right shots to work from.  These people seem singularly incapable of hiding a basic malignancy of spirit behind their seemingly calm banality.   Even their smiles look like sneers or sizing someone up for a kill.  My one bone (pardon the expression) I threw to the inner gag department was to portray that pampered, clueless, forever wrong pundit and lapdog, Bill Kristol, as just that. 

First complete sketch once I decided on the direction.
Richard Kim, the art director, gave an enthusiastic OK on the first sketch, with a minor qualification that hinted at not going all out on Liz. This was the drawing all set and dry mounted to go to color finish when I slammed on the brakes and reconsidered. It seemed to have become too academic and studied. Needed to loosen up a bit with a new try.
More like it. Now to the color. I reconsidered the consideration on Liz and decided to err more on the side of not pulling punches.
The final result.