In the 1990s, growing prosperity encouraged Americans to move beyond the controversial "trickle-down" economic policies of Ronald Reagan. Herb Block's work increasingly reflected a variety of national concerns: health care coverage, gays in the military, gun control, the tobacco industry and President Bill Clinton's relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
The sorcerer's apprentice
George Bush ran against Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination during the 1980 presidential campaign, criticizing his opponent's economic program as "voodoo economics." Herb Block comments: "Later, on being considered for the vice presidency, he not only switched to supporting Reagan's economic policies but did 180-degree turns to change from a Planned Parenthood supporter to a 'right-to-lifer' and a sudden convert to all of Reagan's social policies, including teaching of "creationism" with evolution, and a constitutional amendment to bring organized vocal prayer into the public schools. He was also for a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget. He got the job. And four years later The Big Job. But his 1988 pledge, 'Read my lips. No new taxes' came back to bite him when he agreed to a budget plan to increase taxes."
On May 2, 1991, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that about 20 percent -- approximately $125 billion -- of medical spending is administrative in nature. Spiraling costs, the plight of uninsured patients and the need for universal health care coverage were among the concerns raised by Democratic candidate Bill Clinton during his successful 1992 presidential campaign.
President George Bush, running for re-election in 1992, portrayed himself as an agent of change by supporting the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and voucher programs for education and health-care. But the Savings-and-Loan scandal and the fact that Bush was held responsible for its ballooning costs to taxpayers was also costly politically. Bill Clinton benefitted from a campaign supporter's slogan, " It's the economy, stupid," to help him win the day on November 3.
Not Negroes! Not women! Not gays!
Within days of his inauguration, political pressure from the military and other sources forced newly-elected President Bill Clinton to delay his campaign pledge to lift the ban on gays in the armed forces. Gay and lesbian leaders subsequently announced their intention to hold Clinton to his election promise. Eventually a watered-down and largely ineffectual "Don't ask, don't tell," policy was announced and later questioned by Clinton himself. In this image, Herb Block lampoons earlier unsuccessful efforts by the military to avoid including African Americans and women.
The daily sacrifices
In 1993, Congress took up the Brady Bill, named after Ronald Reagan's press secretary who was severely wounded during a 1981 assassination attempt on the president. The bill required a five-day waiting period for the purchase of a handgun, as well as other modest anti-crime measures. Herb Block has been a constant critic of the National Rifle Association noting that although statistically the United States has far more gun fatalities than all the rest of the industrialized nations of the world combined, the NRA has opposed firearm-control legislation of any kind, including machine guns, cop-killer bullets, and limits on purchase of any number of handguns over any time period. President Clinton signed the Brady bill into law, in October 1993, but the NRA has continued to fight against its extension.
"What -- Us tell fibs of some kind?"
On April 14, 1994, the Chief Executive Officers of the seven largest tobacco companies in the United States testified before the House Subcommittee on Health and the Environment that they did not "believe" that nicotine was addictive. Indications that these CEOs were hardly being candid surfaced in the spring of 1996. Herb Block comments, "Internal documents showed a consistent pattern of knowledge and concealing of information on calculated efforts to promote and increase cigarette addiction." He portrays the CEOs with Pinocchio noses.
"True, I had coffee with those big contributors, but I didn't swallow"
During his 1992 presidential campaign Bill Clinton admitted that, while out of the country as a young man, he had smoked marijuana, but said he had never inhaled. Later, during a Senate investigation into campaign fund-raising abuses, the White House reluctantly turned over video tapes of coffees held with potential donors. Although the tapes ultimately showed no illegal activity, the White House's hesitance to disclose them prompted Republican leaders to call for an independent counsel investigation.
"True, I had coffee with those big contributors, but I didn't swallow," October 9, 1997. Ink, crayon, porous point pen, opaque white, and overlays over blue pencil underdrawing on paper. Published in the Washington Post (113) LC-USZ62-126889
"What have we got that's more like a close shave?"
In 1998, President Bill Clinton's sexual relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky and his alleged perjury in grand jury testimony and obstruction of justice was the big issue. After their election losses that year, many Republicans were wary of calling for impeachment and urged consideration of censure instead.
Despite the reluctance of many senators, the House vote for impeachment required them to proceed. The trial began January 7, 1999, and after heated exchanges on both sides, the Senate acquitted President Bill Clinton on February 12. On September 22, 2000, independent counsel Robert Ray, continuing an investigation begun six years earlier, dropped charges against the Bill and Hillary Clinton concerning a Whitewater land deal going back to pre-presidential days. Herb Block comments, "The chief independent counsel in the more than $50 million investigations was Kenneth Starr, whose tactics were widely criticized. His performance contributed to Congress's failure to renew the independent counsel law."