Herblock's History - Political Cartoons from the Crash to the Millennium
The Other Ascent into the Unknown
During the 1960s, America's space race with the Soviet Union vied for media attention with the Vietnam War. Herb Block was increasingly concerned with President Lyndon Baines Johnson's policy on the conflict and American military escalation despite denials by administration officials. Grim televised coverage from the front helped turn American opinion against the conflict. Herb Block later recalled, "In this country, there were just too many lights at the end of too many tunnels, and too many predictions of victory." During this period, Herb Block took on numerous controversial domestic issues as well, among them gun control, urban decay, race riots, and tobacco smoking.
The other ascent into the unknown
During the presidential campaign of 1964, President Lyndon Johnson suggested that Republican candidate Barry Goldwater could not to be trusted to keep the U.S. out of war. But not long after his election, Johnson increased American involvement in the Vietnam war and moved ultimately to take over the war itself. In the same week that NASA sent the Gemini 4 space capsule into orbit, setting new records for a two-man flight, the State Department announced that Johnson had authorized a potential role for direct American military involvement in Vietnam if requested by the South Vietnamese authorities. Herb Block was prescient in his view that this constituted a major step in the involvement of U.S. forces in Indochina.
"Our position hasn't changed at all"
After the State Department announced the possibility of a direct American combat role in Vietnam, the White House issued "clarifications," insisting that there had been no change in policy. On June 16, 1965, the Defense Department announced that 21,000 additional soldiers including 8,000 combat troops would go to Vietnam, bringing the total U.S. presence to more than 70,000 men. President Lyndon Johnson continued to obscure the extent of American involvement, contributing to a widespread perception of political untrustworthiness. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, based on a never-verified report of an attempted attack on an American ship, passed the Senate with only two dissenting votes, and gave Johnson all the authority he felt he needed to proceed with the escalation.
"It says here Congress is anxious to get out of town"
Since his move to Washington, D.C., in 1946, Herb Block has been an impassioned advocate for the social, political, and economic welfare of the city's inhabitants. In early October 1966 members of Congress openly expressed their desire to end the current session and leave Washington to campaign for re-election in November. This cartoon depicts the poor who were unable to escape the dismal living conditions found in many of the city's neighborhoods.
“It says here Congress is anxious to get out of town,”October 12, 1966. Ink, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing on layered paper. Published in the Washington Post (64) LC-USZ62-127091
In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson hailed the "good life" in the United States, as living conditions for many Americans reached high levels. However, inner city residents, especially blacks experiencing poverty and racial injustice, felt no share in it. During the summer of 1967, protests and riots broke out in several American cities, including Buffalo, Newark, Detroit, as well as many other cities across the United States. In response, the House passed a bill that made it a federal crime to cross state lines to incite a riot. This cartoon portrays Congress in the role of Nero, fiddling while U.S. cities burn.
For long-lasting deep-down comfort smoke Carcinos, with the special filter made from a rabbit's foot
Herb Block has foreseen some issues, including the anti-smoking campaign that had barely begun in the United States in 1967, but in which he was personally involved. In 1959, he suffered a heart attack and after six weeks in the hospital, quit what had been a multi-pack-a-day habit. In his 1993 memoirs, Herblock: A Cartoonist's Life, he wrote: "For quite a while I resisted doing cartoons on the subject, not wanting to be a reformed smoker calling on others to conform. But with the health hazards increasingly obvious and tobacco companies showing a callous irresponsibility, it was clearly an issue worth working on."
For long-lasting deep-down comfort smoke Carcinos, with the special filter made from a rabbit's foot, September 3, 1967. Ink, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing on layered paper. Published in the Washington Post (66) LC-USZ62-127081
"It's like the gun lobby guys say -- Laws interfere wit' us sportsmen"
Gun control became a hot issue when President John F. Kennedy was gunned down in 1963 by a man using a mail-order rifle. In the ensuing demand for legislation to curb gun sales, the National Rifle Association, under the guise of protecting the rights of legitimate hunters, opposed all efforts to prevent government regulation of firearms.
“It's like the gun lobby guys say--Laws interfere wit' us sportsmen,” June 6, 1965. Ink, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing on layered paper. Published in the Washington Post (60) LC-USZ62-127092
"We'll let the overcoat out all the way, and the robe will hardly show at all"
Governor George Wallace of Alabama had achieved national notoriety when he defied federal orders to integrate the University of Alabama in 1963, and he continued to fan the fires of racial intolerance. In 1968, he tried to capitalize on continuing resentment over civil rights measures beyond the South by running for president on a third party ticket. In November, he received the electoral votes of only five Southern states.
"We'll let the overcoat out all the way, and the robe will hardly show at all," February 11, 1968. Ink, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing on layered paper. Published in the Washington Post (67) LC-USZ62-127082
"She might have invaded Russia"
In January 1968, moderate communists came to power in Czechoslovakia, inaugurating a period of increasing democratization known as the "Prague Spring." The Soviet Union became increasingly concerned that the Czech experiment might spread to other countries in the Soviet Bloc. During the night of August 20-21, Soviet troops, joined by the forces of satellite countries, occupied the country by force.
"You see, the reason we're in Indochina is to protect us boys in Indochina"
Despite Richard Nixon's election campaign promises to end the Vietnam War, each new step widened rather than reduced American involvement.
“You see, the reason we're in Indochina is to protect us boys in Indochina,” May 5, 1970. Ink, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing on layered paper. Published in the Washington Post (70) LC-USZ62-126931