Two men standing near a dump truckHerb Block remained active into his last years, with his zeal for tackling key issues and assessing the deeds and words of prominent public figures undiminished. His cartoons about Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush highlight striking contrasts between the two: Bush, the self-contained “compassionate conservative” vs. Clinton, the initiative-driven activist. Block criticized trends or conditions that he found troubling during Clinton’s tenure: the rich getting richer, the lack of parity in women’s salaries, and a willingness to overlook human rights violations abroad. He criticized candidate Bush’s lack of forthrightness, and later, President Bush’s energy policy. Of special note, Block exposed flaws in the American political process that became apparent in the 2000 presidential election, namely, Bush’s fundraising that reached record highs, unchecked by campaign finance reform. Block also powerfully conveyed widely shared dismay when Bush became the first president in more than a century to take office without a plurality of the popular vote.

“Your Name Clinton?”

In this cartoon Herblock invokes the mythical figure of Atlas to convey the enormous responsibility that newly elected President Bill Clinton will inherit and sets a hopeful tone for the nation’s new chief executive. A former Rhodes Scholar, Yale University Law School graduate, and four-term governor of Arkansas, Clinton brought impressive credentials, experience, and energy to the presidency. The decisive winner of challenging primary and general election campaigns, he faced issues of global import.

“Your Name Clinton?” 1992. Graphite, crayon, ink, porous point pen, overlays, and opaque white over blue pencil underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, November 6, 1992. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (66.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-21963

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“Well, As the Fellows Don’t Say—Another Day, Another 75 Cents”

Herblock cared deeply about wage inequality. In 1963, when women made fifty-nine cents to every dollar that men earned, President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act. In 1998, the President’s Council of Economic Advisors reported that conditions had only increased to seventy-five cents on the dollar. In January 1999, President Clinton called upon Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and to pass legislation to improve pay parity but had no success.

“Well, As The Fellows Don’t Say—Another Day, Another 75 Cents,” 1999. Porous point pen, graphite, opaque white, and overlays over blue pencil underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, March 12, 1999. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (67.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-21964

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Oklahoma City, U.S.A.

In this cartoon, Herblock labels the act of internal violence “terrorism.” Angered by the destruction of the Branch Davidian Compound in Waco, Texas, on April 19, 1993, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols plotted, along with several other extremists, against the United States government. Two years later, on April 19, 1995, McVeigh detonated bombs in a Ryder truck outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and injuring more than 1,200.

Oklahoma City, U.S.A., 1995. Graphite, crayon, ink, porous point pen, overlays, and opaque white over blue pencil underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, April 20, 1995. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (68.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-21966

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“Creationism or Evolution? That’s Up to the States”

During the 2000 presidential campaign, George W. Bush famously stated that it was up to the states to decide policies about teaching creationism and evolution but that both ought to be taught. In Herblock’s series of panels, Bush explains his positions on contentious issues. Regarding creationism or evolution and rigged primaries, for example, he opts for state officials to decide. Noted for the high rate of executions during his two terms as governor of Texas, Bush, nonetheless says he would leave executions “Up to the executioners and the executed.” This and his preceding statements build to the irony of his final words, that the people need him—“A Real Leader.”

“Creationism or Evolution? That’s Up to the States,” 2000. Graphite, crayon, ink, porous point pen, overlays, and photomechanical print over blue pencil underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, February 4, 2000. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (70.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-21968

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Getaway Car

When the U.S. Supreme Court voted five to four to stop the recount of disputed ballots cast in the 2000 presidential election, it overturned the Florida Supreme Court’s earlier ruling for the recount, ensuring the election of George W. Bush. Herblock captured many voters’ outrage in his visual analogy showing a Supreme Court getaway car stealing the popular vote from a humble polling place. Although Democratic candidate Al Gore narrowly won the popular vote, he lost the electoral vote. He graciously conceded to Bush, but many voters felt betrayed.

Getaway Car, 2000. Graphite, crayon, ink, porous point pen, overlays, and tape over blue pencil underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, December 14, 2000. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (71.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-21970

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“Our CEO Is a Genius . . .”

Herblock uses sarcasm to expose corporate practices of laying off employees and reducing their benefits without decreasing executive salaries to remain profitable. In April 2000, as stock prices began to fall, the unscrupulous accounting practices of Enron, HealthSouth, Xerox, WorldCom, and other corporations were exposed. Top executives retained their extraordinary salaries, while firing workers. Other employees lost thousands of dollars in stock options and pension income.

“Our CEO Is a Genius—He Laid Off a Thousand $10,000-A-Year-Employees and Increased His Salary Another 10 Million,” 2000. Graphite, crayon, porous point pen, ink, overlays, and opaque white over blue pencil underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, April 2, 2000. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (72.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-21971

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“Drill the Wilderness! This Is An Energy Crisis!”

Herblock satirically points out that the American love affair with the SUV necessitated drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Bush Administration made oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge an issue during the 2000 presidential election campaign. Although proposed legislation to allow drilling died on the Senate floor in 2001, by 2003 Congress had approved it. Bush and Republican legislators linked Alaskan oil with energy independence from the Middle East, especially after September 11, 2001.

“Drill the Wilderness! This Is An Energy Crisis!” 2001. Graphite, ink, porous point pen, opaque white, and overlays over blue pencil underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, January 14, 2001. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (73.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-21972

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“We Must Be Careful We Don’t Make Them Lose Face”

Herblock objects to the Clinton Administration’s stance toward China by depicting the president losing his own face because of excessive concern over not offending Chinese leadership by too harshly criticizing its human rights violations. The Chinese figure brandishing a rifle and bomb stands on protesters’ bodies, a symbolic reminder of China’s violent suppression of its citizens’ human rights. On May 19, 1997, soon after this cartoon appeared, Clinton announced renewal of China’s Most Favored Nation trading status.

“We Must Be Careful We Don’t Make Them Lose Face,” 1997. Graphite, porous point pen, ink, opaque white, and overlays over blue pencil underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, May 8, 1997. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (74.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-22197

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