Two men looking at a newspaperIn his cartoons and book Herblock Special Report (1974), Herb Block traces the political rise and fall of Richard M. Nixon. His account begins in the 1940s and 1950s, when Nixon used “dirty tricks” in his run for congressional office, followed by his 1954 “anti-communist” campaign that damaged the careers of reputable senators, his role in the Watergate break-in and cover-up, and his eventual departure in disgrace from the presidency. In his foreword, Block explains that his cartoons and book did not arise from “simply ‘not liking’ [Nixon]. . . . It was not liking what he did.” Along with colleagues at the Washington Post, Block won a special Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Watergate scandal—work that helped precipitate Nixon’s resignation in the face of probable impeachment. Noting that he probably created more cartoons relating to Nixon than he did about any other individual, Block observed that Nixon’s career “in some way has affected all of us.”

“We Got To Burn the Devils Out Of Her”

Herblock believed that the House Un-American Activities Committee overstepped its bounds first by defining what was un-American and then by acting as a court and judging. Here, he satirizes Congressmen Richard Nixon, J. Parnell Thomas, and Karl Mundt as destroyers of American liberty days before they sent the Mundt-Nixon Bill regulating communist activities to the members of the House for a vote. The bill passed on May 19, 1948, three days after this cartoon appeared, by a vote of 319–58.

“We Got To Burn the Devils Out Of Her,” 1948. Graphite, ink, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post as “We Got to Burn the Evil Spirits Out of Her,” May 15, 1948. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (42.00.00). LC-DIG-hlb-01941

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“Here He Comes Now”

During his 1954 “anti-communist campaign,” Vice President Richard Nixon insinuated that a number of Democratic legislators were soft on communism. As Herblock recalled, “it occurred to me that he was figuratively criss-crossing the country by sewer.” He thus memorably condemns Nixon’s smear tactics by showing him emerging from the depths with a five o’clock shadow. When later asked if he regretted drawing some cartoons, Herblock replied that he might have done some differently but not “the manhole cartoon.”

“Here He Comes Now,” 1954. Graphite, ink, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, October 29, 1954. Loan courtesy of The Washington Post Company (43.00.00)

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“Who Would Think of Doing Such a Thing?”

The first person to call Richard Nixon “Tricky Dick,” Herblock followed Nixon’s political career to its downfall. On June 17, 1972, five men were arrested at the Democratic National Committee Headquarters in the Watergate in Washington, D.C. Both Nixon’s re-election campaign manager John Mitchell and Attorney General Richard Kleindienst denied involvement. Although the Nixon campaign did its best to dispel rumors, Herblock pointed a finger at those involved as they disavowed James W. McCord, Jr., the salaried employee who was nabbed at the scene.

“Who Would Think of Doing Such a Thing?” 1972. Graphite and ink over blue pencil and graphite underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, June 20, 1972. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (44.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-20000

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“We Broke the Law? We Are the Law!”

Standing before a portrait of Federal Bureau of Investigation founder J. Edgar Hoover, FBI agents voice indignation at the idea that they break the law, despite the incriminating tools they hold. Herblock indicts the abuses of power the agency practiced for years. During Hoover’s long tenure as director (1924–1972), he established the world’s largest fingerprint file and a crime-detection laboratory, but he also used agency resources to gather information illegally and intimidate political protestors and others whom he considered subversive.

“We Broke the Law? We Are the Law!” 1978. Graphite, ink, porous point pen, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, April 16, 1978. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (45.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-21941

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“I Am Authorized to Say ‘What Whale?’”

Herblock uses the visual metaphor of the dead whale in the room for the evidence that by June 1973 the Watergate scandal had overwhelmed Richard Nixon personally, despite his continued denial. As the Senate began the Watergate hearings on May 18, 1973, Nixon’s staff exposed his knowledge and participation in the illegal activities. Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward reported on June 3, 1973, that former White House Counsel John Dean, a key Watergate witness, intended to reveal Nixon’s involvement when he testified.

“I Am Authorized to Say ‘What Whale?’” 1973. Graphite, ink, opaque white, and overlays over blue pencil and graphite underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, June 5, 1973. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (46.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-04895

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“Here I Am, Copper”

On July 16, 1973, White House aide Alexander Butterfield testified before the Senate Watergate Committee that President Richard Nixon had a secret taping system that recorded conversations and phone calls in the Oval Office. Herblock produced this cartoon shortly after Nixon refused to turn over presidential tape recordings to either the committee or special prosecutor Archibald Cox. As Nixon attempts to barricade himself in his office, the furniture itself appears symbolic of the executive privilege that he defiantly invokes for legal protection.

“Here I Am, Copper,” 1973. Graphite, ink, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, July 27, 1973. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (47.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-21942

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Bubble Dance

Herblock humorously equates the legal maneuvering Richard Nixon did with the Supreme Court and the Senate Watergate Hearings Committee over the White House tapes to an erotic bubble dance. The House had instituted impeachment hearings on May 9, 1974. When the first of Nixon’s inner circle, his Special Counsel Charles Colson, pled guilty, Nixon’s implication was further exposed, and it became clear that his hold on the presidency was about to burst.

Bubble Dance, 1974. Graphite and ink over graphite underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, June 6, 1974. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (48.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-21943

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Position of Moral Leadership

Herblock uses a simple banner and the White House to express his opinion that Richard Nixon held no respect for the office of president or the American people, even though he had campaigned in 1968 on a platform of “moral leadership.” As the Watergate scandal investigation uncovered new abuses—including income tax fraud—it became clear Nixon used crime both to remain in office and to thwart those whom he perceived as enemies.

Position of Moral Leadership, 1974. Graphite, ink, and opaque white over blue pencil and graphite underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, April 13, 1974. Prints and Photographs, Library of Congress (49.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-21944

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