Updated at 10:43 A.M.: Scroll down for cartoonist Ann Telnaes' comments on controversy.
By now, you've probably heard about the early Christmas gift that The Washington Post gave to Ted Cruz: A quickly pulled cartoon depicting the Texas senator dressed as Santa Claus and an organ grinder (because editorial cartoonists are awful), with his two daughters as organ-grinder monkeys.
Thus begins the conservative-media outrage of the week, made more fun by the fact that it's conservatives who always complain about what sissys and lily-livered weaklings we all are, getting so easily offended by every micro-aggression here, there, and everywhere. How are we going to defeat ISIS and make desert sand glow green if we get offended by a cartoon that doesn't even show Mohammed with a bomb in his beard?
Since the cartoon ostensibly included Cruz's young kids (who, like politicos' kids everywhere, are used as props throughout campaigns), there's a sense that a line was crossed. How dare you write about/draw/do SNL skits about Amy Carter, Chelsea Clinton, the Bush girls, blah blah blah. Didn't the Post learn anything from its notorious takedown of First Daughter Margaret Truman's rotten singing circa 1950? "Some day I hope to meet you," wrote Give 'em Hell Harry to the critic. "When that happens you'll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!"
This round completely goes to Cruz and conservative media-bias chroniclers.
The Post deleted the cartoon, with the editorial page editor explaining:
It's generally been the policy of our editorial section to leave children out of it. I failed to look at this cartoon before it was published. I understand why [cartoonist] Ann [Telnaes] thought an exception to the policy was warranted in this case, but I do not agree.
Let's be honest. This cartoon, like virtually all editorial cartoons, is so failed on so many levels that only a Pulitzer-Prize winner could have drawn it. As Roger Williams said of forced prayers, it stinks in god's nostrils. And that's long before we even get to whether it's wrong to include children in such situations. Cruz is Santa but also an organ grinder? I thought only Eyetalians were organ grinders and isn't Cruz Canadian or something? And why Santa Claus—just because it's Christmas week? Why not Krampus, who takes things from people? Because Cruz wants to steal old people's Medicare and underwear and shut down the government, doesn't he, according to the liberal consensus…?
Whatever. Here's something more disturbing the Post did on the day before the Cruz cartoon got its 15 minutes in the sun. It ran this headline:
HONOLULU — A deeply conflicted President Obama warned earlier this year when he extended the American troop presence in Afghanistan that he did not support "the idea of endless war."
For Obama, the deaths Monday of six U.S. soldiers near Bagram air base underscore the perils of his decision to keep as many as 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through much of next year.
A war that Obama had pledged to end before he left office is now increasingly looking endless. That war followed him here to his native Hawaii, where he is on a two-week vacation with his wife and daughters….
Hat tip: Dave Burge (Iowahawkblog)
To be honest, I find this sort of headline and lede more indicative of media bias than anything any cartoonist can ever did. This is how you write a story about six dead Americans in a war that is supposed to be over already? No, this is more like reporting as ideological Vulcan mind-meld: How did the biggest single day of KIAs ruin Obama's vacation?
To me, it calls to mind the response of The New York Times' Scotty Reston to the death of Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquidick. Reston, an in-the-tank Kennedy family amanuensis, reportedly dictated the lede of the story as "Tragedy has again struck the Kennedy family." The Times chose to edit that and published a less-distorted version of events, but in that brief moment, you could glimpse something seriously wrong with the relationship between mainstream media and the people they cover.
The Post story is not in that league, of course, but it displays a disturbing perspective nonetheless and one far more insidious, at least to me.
Update (10:43 A.M.): The cartoonist tweeted this in response to criticisms.
Ted Cruz has put his children in a political ad- don't start screaming when editorial cartoonists draw them as well. https://t.co/7hafBacOiK
— Ann Telnaes (@AnnTelnaes) December 22, 2015