The death this week of David Levine prompted me to sort through the work of another favorite political cartoonist. The Daily Worker wasn’t generally noted for its jocularity, but when Syd HoffÂ (1912-2004) took on the nom de plume “A. Redfield and drew The Ruling Clawss cartoons for the Worker, the paper was â€” at least momentarily â€” good for a sardonic smile. As you’ll see, subtlety was not Hoff’s strong point but his portrayal of America’s economic upper crust was dead on; in part because his anger at the suffering caused by the Great Depression was so palpable in his drawings, and he took great glee in pointing his pen at those who were to blame.
Despite Hoff’s efforts, the proletarian revolution never did come to fruition, but we still have his great cartoons. Here are a few of my favorites. Sad to say, they could have been drawn in 2009:
I know, I had promised a Spiro Agnew Christmas, but a Spiro Agnew-type flu (I guess that’s not true, it wasn’t swine) intervened, so a Spiro Agnew New Year will have to suffice (wouldn’t it be great if on the Chinese calendar this was the year of the ass?). I own a few Spiro Agnew treasures, but none better than thisÂ Spiro’s Greatest Hits Album. No, he doesn’t sing “Stairway to Heaven,” but he does offer a delightfully delicious delicacy of draconian drivel on a number of topics then on the lips of everyone in 1968 and 1969, such asÂ student demonstrators (“impudent, elite snobs”) and of course, the liberal press, those “nattering nabobs of negativism” (who were also, “hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.”)
Those memorable lines were written by William Safire, whose right-wing views later columnized much of The New York Times op-ed page. When Safire died this year, so many of his former colleagues weighed in what a great guy he was, what a terrific columnist, blah, blah, blah, I wondered if they had all suffered from some kind of communal long-term memory loss. Not too many of them talked about how much hatred and division he sowed in this country through his vice presidential talking dummy.Â How many heads were beaten, how many lives permanently destroyed or lost as a result of the politics of Agnew and Nixon, whose popularity could be credited in large part to the words written for them by Safire and Pat Buchanan.
There was nothing charming about any of those people and certainly any good that Safire did subsequentlyÂ in his life was far out-weighed by the vicious hatred he helped spread. Ultimately, I think, he wore the stripes of the person who paid his salary. Whatever that made him, you decide.
Here’s the front of the Agnew album. Below that is the back cover. Click on it to more easily make out the terrific liner-notes.
I couldn’t include these tremulous treasures of tripe without offering a link to the words themselves. Click here for Agnew’s impudent snobs speech and then maybe go out and bash in a few hippie heads when you’re done to celebrate Agnew’s legacy.
(Yes, that is a working Apple Newton)
Our Richard Nixon Chanukah celebration interrupted the Dubin at Work series, but the original Zelig is back again. This time Harry is attempting to maneuver a Panel-boot Victoria cab [correcting my erroneous statement that it was a hansom cab, see the comment on this below] around Central Park. Judging from the look on his passenger’s face, and the fact that Harry appears to be driving on the sidewalk, his efforts were probably not going to earn him a big tip. For those unfamiliar with this remarkable series of photographs from the 1940s, scroll down a bunch of posts to see the original story I wrote about the Dubin at Work pictures taken by his son Ronald. And as usual, click on the image to see the grande versionÂ â€” as opposed to the “tall.”
And on the eighth day of Chanukah my true love gave to me â€” or am I mixing up my holiday songs â€” an official Richard Nixon showerhead!
I’m bummed that I’ve misplaced the attachment, over which you slip Dick’s face, but it was a good one, perhaps not in the class of Kramer’s Commando 450 but still powerful enough to get a warning letter from the water department. You just have to get over the fright of seeing Nixon in full shit-eating grin every time you step into the shower (The artist must have based his design on a photo of Nixon the day he ordered the carpet-bombing of Hanoi).
Here it is:
Now, I couldn’t end this series without a few pieces of business. First, it seems to me that if the Yule Log is the traditional way to enjoy Christmas in homes without true fireplaces, then in a house where there is no Richard Nixon to celebrate a Richard Nixon Chanukah, this link to Nixon’s Checkers Speech must suffice. Nixon fans love to chuckle overÂ the great line about Pat’s Republican cloth coat, but my favorite part is right at the beginning where he nearly chokes over the word “integrity.”
Two, while this is not really a Nixon joke, it’s still a good one, so I offer it as a sort of Chanukah sock stuffer: It was 1968, and late into the night the election was still undecided. Finally Hubert Humphrey realizes they’re not going to know the outcome until the morning, so he and his wife decide to go to bed. But ever the optimist, just before they turn out the light, Hubert turns to his wife and says, “Muriel, when you wake up in the morning, you’ll be sleeping with the president.”
Well, the next morning they wake up to the bad news. Muriel looks at Humphrey and says, “So is Dick coming here, or am I going there?”
And that’s just about it, ladies and gentlemen, except one final thing. If anything, I hope this series has inspired you to think about the mystery of Richard Nixon’s popularity. In fact, I think it’s such a huge question that only a new Web series such as Big Questions can tackle it, so please, head over to the Big Questions Web site and help get it off the ground so we might ksolve the mystery of Richard Nixon’s life and career once and for all.
Until next year, Happy Richard Nixon Chanukah everyone.
Now on to a Spiro Agnew Christmas!
In the early 1950s, Life magazine’s Philippe Halsman got the zany idea of photographing famous people while they were jumping. He got nearly 200 people to leap into the air for his camera, an exercise he called “jumpology.”
One of the people he convinced to make the jump was the then vice president of this great country, Richard Nixon.
Jump ahead 25 years, and I’m sitting in the office of the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee, and next to me, Alger Hiss is opening his mail. From one envelope he removes the umpteenth version of Halsman’s photo of Nixon jumping along with a request for him to sign and return it. Alger signed just about anything for anyone who asked, but he drew the line at photos of Richard Nixon, the former Congressman from California who teamed up with Whittaker Chambers to send Alger to jail for a crime he most certainly did not commit. This being America, a man who spent his entire adult life serving this country honorably ends up in Lewisburg, while a pair of thieves and liars like Nixon and Chambers live out their natural lives in physical â€” if not emotional â€” comfort. Alger, by the way, lived out the rest of his life in both physical and emotional comfort. Good for him!
Anyway, Alger looked at the photo and laughed and handed it to me. “You keep it,” he said. I was too respectful to ask him to sign it in part because he would have done it for me. I suppose that would have made this a valuable souvenir, but then it might not have been the perfect gift for Richard Nixon Chanukah, Night Seven.
So here is the photo that Alger handed me, of Richard Nixon jumping. Clearly, it is the jumping style of a man so uptight, he would wear the same shoes and socks he’s wearing in the picture on long strolls up and down the beach at San Clemente. As for the stain on the lower left of the picture, I prefer to say that it was actually in the shot, that Nixon being the true dog that he was, had a tendency to mark his territory in the White House, but, alas, it’s not, it’s just the remnants of a cup of coffee.
Perhaps Alger signed it after all.
Photographic proof that white men can’t jump, especially this tighty whitey
Tonight, for your viewing pleasure on this, the sixth night of Chanukah, we present what surely will become a classic commemorative photo of Louis the Dog doing to Richard Nixon what he did to the country for six years.
Before we go, however, how about a classic Richard Nixon joke (told to me years ago by my buddy Eric Effron)?
It was the day after Richard Nixon’s inauguration in January 1973, certainly the high point of his life (unless you count the day he found out he was going to spend World War II playing poker in a PX instead of actually fighting for his country). It was such a nice sunny day that he decided to take a walk around the neighborhood of the White House. Suddenly, though, there in the snow, written in urine were the words, “Richard Nixon is a lying asshole.”
“This is terrible,” said Nixon to the Secret Service agents accompanying him. “This isn’t just an attack on me; it’s an attack on our country and everything it stands for. You must find out who did this.”
So the agents called in the FBI, and the FBI carefully cut out the big chunk of snow with the handwriting on it, put it in a freezer truck and carted it off to its lab.
A few days later, the head of the FBI called.
“Mr. President, we have good news and bad news about the message in the snow.”
“Good news and bad news? What could it be? Give me the good news first.”
“Yes, sir, the good news is we were able to detect the perpetrator by analyzing the urine.”
“That is good news, but who is the scoundrel?”
“Well, Sir, it was Henry Kissinger.”
“Oh, no, how terrible. It was Henry, I thought he loved me like everyone else. But wait a minute, if that was the good news, what was the bad news?”
“The bad news, Sir, is that the message was written in your wife’s handwriting.”
Say your favorite GOP couple and their charming kids, little Trish and little Julie are coming over dinner. It’s important to set a nice table, so tonight we have a gift suggestion that that will not only impress your guests but also be the perfect conversation starter about the glory days of the Southern strategy or when Dick put those incorrigible long-haired Jewish hippie war protesters to shame when he proved he knew more about college football than they did.
Here it is. If he were still alive and a reader of the Kisseloff Collection (and who isn’t, at this point?), Richard Nixon would have taken the opportunity during this holiday season to express his admiration and personal affection for the Jewish race â€” those tapes, be damned â€” he was just kidding. After all, I’m sure he’d add, his best friend, Henry Kissinger, is Jewish, and make no mistake about it, there isn’t a finer example ofÂ the true noble and peace-loving nature of his people than Henry.
Now, one of the Kisseloff Collection biggest donors, Ms. Deborah Frost (a Jewess of the highest order), suggested that Philip Glass’s “Nixon in China” would be the perfect gift to go along with our theme. Alas, Ms. Frost makes two mistakes. 1) she is not quite familiar with the rules of the Kisseloff Collection as set down by its Board of Directors. According to page 120, paragraph 4, section 3 of the Kisseloff Collection constitution, any items on display must actually be in the possession of the blog’s proprietor; or 2) if she indeed has gone over the published rules and regulations of the boardÂ she has overestimated the proprietor’s culture and taste.
However, because of Ms. Frost’s commitment to the financial health of the collection, we have made a special effort toÂ accommodate her wishes, so we present the Kisseloff Collection depiction of the meeting of Nixon and Mao:
This official Richard Nixon tie clasp is for that special GOP friend who needs to get dressed up and take his special someone (presumably not his wife) out for a fancy night on the town.
Happy Fourth Night of Chanukah!