2010: A Year in Cartoons

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A look back at the news and events with Steve Benson of the Arizona Republic and nationally syndicated cartoonist Brian Fairrington.

Ted Simons: Good evening, ask welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons.

Ted Simons: Tonight a year in cartoons. We'll take a look back at the news and events of 2010 through the comical, often caustic work of the political cartoonist.

Ted Simons: Curiously unnerving to be a cartoon, but so be it, and how appropriate, because tonight we take a look at the work of Steve Benson, political cartoonist for "The Arizona Republic," and Brian Fairrington, a nationally syndicated political cartoonist who makes his home here in the valley. Gentlemen, thank you so much. I feel like I'm in the club now with Homer Simpson and Mr. Magoo. It's fantastic.

Steve Benson: It's an honor to be on the same set where Jan Brewer said nothing for 60 seconds.

Ted Simons: I'm sure you'll say more than that. Or else we've got a long show ahead of us. Before we get started, looking at the cartoons you each did, Steve let's start with you, good year, bad year for cartoonists?

Steve Benson: It was bad for the state; it was bad for the nation. It was great for cartoonists. You know Arizona is on the map when SB 1070 becomes a phrase that somebody in Vermont understands. We really took it in the chops and justifiably so.

Ted Simons: It is the kind of thing where some of these are so obvious, maybe over the top, it's difficult to do a cartoon?

Brian Fairrington: We had a year packed with mid-term elections, the health care debate, the oil spill, we had lots of stuff to do. And of course the blessing from the heavens above, Jan Brewer and her blessed ways of air headedness kept us busy for a long time. She'll be governor and provide a lot of material.
Ted Simons: All right. Well, let's look at the material from last year and we'll go through these one by one and have you comment on them. Steve, we'll start with you regarding immigration, obviously major topic.

Steve Benson: The hot topic. The big topic arguably you could say for the year. Even though Obama recognized we needed immigration reform, we need to use some teeth, clearly there's been some poorness to the border -- this happens every time we have an economic downturn. Blame the brown people. That's why we have Arizona saying, white on, with this antimmigration 1070 law that passed, albeit temporarily before a sensible judge got to it.

Ted Simons: The white-on cartoon, get very much response from that? A lot of happy feelings coming from that one?

Steve Benson: I got people who said I misspelled right. It was crazy, and I still get -- it's interesting to see these people come out from under the cacti with their prickly responses to these cartoons.

Ted Simons: Next one is ship of fools, and this obviously on the good ship SB 1070.

Steve Benson: Yes. Jack Harper wants to send the Arizona militia down to the border, just make sure you bring your own gun, your own ammo. The ammo has to be compatible with National Guard ammunition and then we'll keep Arizona safe.

Ted Simons: The material, pretty controversial stuff going on here in Arizona.

Brian Fairrington: Yeah. Wove got a national profile because of SB 1070. So we get a lot of extra publicity. And Russell Pearce, bless his heart, going on all the news shows like he does.

Steve Benson: And saying that Jan Brewer owes him.

Brian Fairrington: Yes.

Steve Benson: If it wasn't for me, Jan wouldn't have a job.

Brian Fairrington: The de facto governor, Russell Pearce we should say.

Ted Simons: OK. Let's keep it moving here. We've got -- Steve, you've got the immigration --

Steve Benson: yeah. A letter from a reader who said ho how dare you have the Statue of Liberty crying, I said that's not the Statue of Liberty, that's Winged Victory on top of the capitol, you must be a snowbird.

Ted Simons: Then from that we go to one that doesn't need much in the way --

Steve Benson: The beheaded bodies littering the desert, and she coming on -- your debate. I think she was stunned by your good looks or something and said nothing --

Ted Simons: Brian we're now moving on to your cartoon regarding the governor, what are we looking at here?

Brian Fairrington: Jerry Brown won in California big, and the Browns lost big in Arizona that same night. Jan Brewer saw to that. You know, she's -- I think her dream would be to evict everybody -- every Mexican on AHCCCS in Arizona who needs a transplant. That's her dream, I think going forward for the next calendar year.

Ted Simons: When you speak to cartoonists around the country, do they say you lucky dogs, do they say -- what do they say?

Brian Fairrington: They say, "I need a job."

Steve Benson: That's basically the way of the world.

Brian Fairrington: Yeah, any time somebody gets political blessing was some bonehead politician; it's always great for our business.

Ted Simons: Well, just remember that particular -- I think you're referring to a particular politician, one big -- won big. The state of Arizona --

Steve Benson: She was trailing by 20 points until she decided to sign SB 1070.

Brian Fairrington: SB 1070 shot her way over the finish line, there's no question about it.

Steve Benson: In Arizona what you win, you sign something that's unconstitutional and then you hide. That's the formula for success.

Ted Simons: The formula for getting the car down the road by way of this judge's -- I like this little bump in the road, a little bump in the road?

Steve Benson: That's what she said, a little bump in the road. Actually the judge found it unconstitutional, and I guess the opponents of the judge's ruling say, well, your ruling won't stand because were you born in Kenya. I'm sure they'll come up with something like that.

Ted Simons: On we go now to national politics; obviously, we could go on forever with state politics, national politics big as well. Brian, what are we looking at here as far as the White House?

Brian Fairrington: The oval office got remodeled this year, a lot of fanfare and press over that. Obama, you know, he wanted to be part -- both sides wanted to remodel him as well with the Republicans and Democrats. You know, I think going into 2012 if the economy stays the way it is he's going to be in trouble. He's going to be Jimmy Carter's fishing buddy. If it improves somewhat, he'll be a formidable opponent. But he doesn't very much fans in the Democratic Party right now, especially after the tax thing.

Ted Simons: Next we go to --

Steve Benson: This was -- I'm willing to call a spade a spade, and after, of course, November 3rd it's clear the democrats got hosed. I had a colleague say we can get in the family newspaper a donkey I getting an anima?

Ted Simons: Thank you for that.

Brian Fairrington: Anything for cheap ratings.

Steve Benson: I disagree with Brian; I think right now both 60% of the Republicans and the Democrats pulled agree with the compromise on the tax bill that Obama struck with the Democrats. When you get Limbaugh saying the Republicans lost on this, then that means that Obama is ahead, he made something --

Brian Fairrington: I think Limbaugh said that they lost on it because he doesn't want any compromise. Going forward there's a lot of democrats that are furious at him.

Steve Benson: They're the true believers, and they'll be forced to the middle. Any way --

Ted Simons: Let's get to the Tea Party. That was a major story this year.

Steve Benson: Yes, it was. I am not a witch that went down as the number one quote from Christine Mcdonnell. We got the Jihad coming in riding with their turbines in the form of Tea Party pods. They're not -- they're an organization like Jan Brewer without a head. Who knows what kind of national longevity they'll have. We'll see.

Ted Simons: And you went now from elephants, stampeding elephants to a resting wildebeest.

Steve Benson: Well, the unemployment is stuck at 9… percent -- Brian is right, as long as the unemployment is high, Obama will have a difficult time. But I don't think he's going to get a primary challenge and I think he'll be a substantial force to be reckoned with in 2012.

Ted Simons: Compare politicians, cartoons about politicians and cartoons about the economy.

Brian Fairrington: Well, it's always fun to vilify big business, players in the economy, because everyone -- it's always been the economy, stupid, as they always say. People on Goldman Sachs during this economy, and other corporations like that getting big bonuses like that and that infuriates people.

Steve Benson: But you still voted Republican?

Brian Fairrington: I don't remember. Billionaires who get these huge bonuses, and this happened with just about everybody that got a government handout, they still gave bonuses out to their top executives, and that makes people mad.

Ted Simons: But the concept of -- when you make a joke about the economy, it better be a pretty good joke because let's face it, the economy --

Steve Benson: What are we doing here tonight?

Ted Simons: Yeah. But the economy has got to be -- you gotta get it --

Steve Benson: When you can take something that's a two-fer where you can take the economy, it's picking up speed, at the same time -- think of picking up speed, we think of Toyotas without any brake pedals. So here we kind of combine the two, kind of the lighter side to losing your job.

Ted Simons: And -- all right. And next we have Brian, explain, please?

Brian Fairrington: You know, the people that are opposed to the tax cut tried to paint it as a tax cut when we are just basically trying to continue the current tax rate. Now, I think no one would argue the fact that a lot of people who make over a million dollars a year probably could pay more taxes. But the problem is at the $250,000 limit, that affects a lot of people that file their LCs to small business --

Steve Benson: This talking point brought to you by the GOP.

Brian Fairrington: But it's the truth. Steve is one of those bleeding heart liberals that makes over a million dollars --

Steve Benson: Yeah, right. I'm going to have a heart attack after that.

Ted Simons: While you're recovering, we have another one here regarding health care, a major concern this year as well.

Brian Fairrington: You know, it was a hard pill to swallow, or suppository, depending on how you looked at it. The problem with the health care bill that passed, it didn't really do anything to address the costsof health care. All it did was address the insurance companies. Everyone knows the historical nature of the insurance companies, that's their job --

Steve Benson: All it did was address the insurance company? That's a good start!

Brian Fairrington: It didn't do anything to actually bring down the cost. That's the problem. The insurance companies don't control health care, they just pay the bills. And that's one of the things that failed.

Ted Simons: I Want to keep this conversation elevated, but so far we've had reference to an enema and suppository. Is this what is happening to cartoonists professionals these days?

Brian Fairrington: Again this cartoon here shows that the cost of health care, why does it cost -- my wife had to go to the emergency room, she thought she was having a miscarriage.

Steve Benson: She found out she was married to you.

Brian Fairrington: She was so excited she had a heart attack. She ended up being a kidney stone. So we went to the emergency room and the bill was $5,000. And I thought, for one hour, that's ridiculous. There's got to be something to keep the costs in line and this bill didn't do anything to address that.

Ted Simons: Steve, you've got health care ideas of your own.

Steve Benson: Well, the health care approach to the G-NOP, the party of no, everything that Obama is for, we're against. For the fact of the matter is, most Americans when polled are in favor of preexisting condition coverage, are in favor of putting their kids on their parents --

Brian Fairrington: To go back to the health care bill, one of the failures was it didn't get the public option. We don't know what we are missing if they don't give it to us. I think a lot of people -- the democrats said --

Steve Benson: It's like Pelosi. You won't know what's in the bill until we pass it.

Brian Fairrington: Unless you read it, exactly.

Ted Simons: All right. Can we get another one here, this looks like a traffic accident waiting to happen.

Brian Fairrington: They've been fighting out, and they'll continue to fight on it now that they've got this ruling, it's going to be a big fight for the next year, and the little people get caught in the middle. That's what happens.

Steve Benson: You're talking about the judge in Virginia --

Brian Fairrington: Yeah. The ruling there --

Steve Benson: This is an activist conservative judge, an unelected conservative judge, this has got to stop! Making his own laws.

Ted Simons: Let's keep it moving. Can you not speak like that again? It's hard for to us pick that up on the microphone. The oil spill, again, you've got something that is just a disaster, in a variety of ways. How do you make a cartoon that maybe tickles a couple of ribs, but also says something on something like this?

Steve Benson: Greetings from the gulf coast. All these things you can do on vacation, you can serve the oily waves, knock oily balls over the net, you can lather yourself in greasy stuff.

Brian Fairrington: Sound like my honeymoon.

Steve Benson: Whoa. That was fun to draw. I just enjoyed drawing it.

Ted Simons: Brian, you addressed the situation.

Brian Fairrington: Obama kind of had a Georgia bush moment post-9-11 where he sat there and he had the perception he wasn't really doing anything. Of course the president is limited, he's not Superman, but he wasn't as fast to act on that as he could have been. But again, it's our dependency on fossil fuels we find ourselves in this situation. And we should look at other forms --

Steve Benson: I think he was fast to act, but what I didn't like was the administration was then fiddling with the numbers. About how much oil was actually still bubbling around, floating beneath the surface. They actually lied to the American people.

Brian Fairrington: Right. And they candy coated it on the end, saying it's all taken care of, we've mopped up all the oil and everyone out there in the field said that's impossible.

Ted Simons: OK so you've gone from the nuclear option here, to basically a toast for Americans who are still so dependent on --

Brian Fairrington: Yeah you know, big oil wins. And we who drive big SUVs, I'm guilty of that, thank you, my wife made me buy a big SUV --

Steve Benson: Hypocrite.

Brian Fairrington: But we -- they are -- we are getting to the point where I think in the next few years we're going to have viable electric options and other things like that when they bring the cost down. We'll see what the world looks like in ten years.

Ted Simons: I see the coffin up there in the martini glass. You've got to be careful drawing coffins, don't you?

Brian Fairrington: You have to make sure you draw them correctly. There's a certain way to -- actually, I've been called on the carpet by --

Ted Simons: Really?

Brian Fairrington: Yeah, the flag has to be a certain way. If you do it upside down or backwards, that's what I get criticized - that's what I got

Steve Benson: Being a conservative, I can understand why you draw it upside down and backwards.

Ted Simons: You address the oil situation as well.

Steve Benson: Well, in a way, with this mission accomplished cartoon. Why did we go into Iraq? Because that's -- we need to stabilize our oil supplies I have a Saudi Arabia, Iraq is a mortal enemy of Saudi Arabia, now we have mission accomplished, we're going through the same thing that we went through with bush. I think we'll be there for years to come.

Brian Fairrington: Obama said he would have a time line where we'd get out by 2011, and that's not going to happen. The amount of money we're wasting over there, we could really certainly use it in our economy. And it could solve a lot of problems. But that's not going to happen --

Steve Benson: Thank goodness we have Republicans who are not funding a war via deficit spending. We wouldn't want to do that, would we?

Ted Simons: The next cartoon here, Mr. Benson, deals with the mosque in New York City. Boy that was a big story.

Steve Benson: That was a big story. And what ticked me off, we ran a letter to the editor saying it's not true that two blocks off the site there's strip clubs and paramutual bedding facilities. Yes, it is true. This is not sacred ground. And Muslims are not sacred, at least the first amendment as it applies to them is not sacred. I'm a liberal commie puke and I'm in favor of the Muslims being able to enjoy the benefits of the first amendment.

Brian Fairrington: But at the same time you have to admit it would have been great public relations for the Muslim community if they had said, OK, we'll move it a little bit -- there's a lot of Muslim centers down there and prayer centers all over Manhattan.

Steve Benson: There's a prayer center a block away --

Brian Fairrington: They're praying in this place now and they have been for a long time. It would have been good public relations to move it a little bit.

Steve Benson: Excuse me, the constitution is not determined by P.R.

Brian Fairrington: But the Muslims worldwide probably need some good P.R. --

Steve Benson: Most Muslims are not terrorists, believe it or not.

Ted Simons: The cartoon would like to speak here, the animated cartoon. Because not only did you mention the ground zero mosque, you mention it as well and this is a tough cartoon. This is -- you have some feedback on this one I'm guessing?

Brian Fairrington: Yeah, I did. I got -- from the far right wing loved it and the left didn't, surprise, surprise.

Steve Benson: I think the good taste battalion didn't like it either. But that's why I enjoyed it.

Brian Fairrington: It's fun to draw those cartoons that will get under people's skin, and this certainly got -- it was one of the higher ones.

Steve Benson: You know, someone said you can't get under my skin, I wear too much makeup so you can only go so far.

Ted Simons: I would imagine this next cartoon, and we're moving here now to the similar Muslim-American issues, but this next one, I'm guessing you got some response on this one too.

Steve Benson: Burn the Quran for Jesus. You've got this nut job in Florida -- what would Jesus do. I try to point out the hypocrisy to these religious fanatics. What would the god that you follow do according to the book that you believe is in heaven? He would turn the other cheek. He wouldn't burn the Quran. He would wait until the end of the world and then burn it.

Ted Simons: Fair enough. Also we've got now -- what is this? This --

Steve Benson: This is one, the guy tried to blow up a car in downtown New York, and so I just -- the cute little phrase, I love New York, don't you get the image --?

Ted Simons: I suppose so.

Steve Benson: Somebody had to say it, someone had to draw it. And of course we've got the same problem we had after 9-11, we don't be able to see -- I'm talking like Brian now. We don't seem to be able to connect the dots on terrorism effectively. We're trying, but --

Brian Fairrington: That's a great clever cartoon.

Steve Benson: Thank you.

Ted Simons: You got a pretty good one here regarding -- well, I don't know. It's a little unnerving actually , but it regards safety security --

Brian Fairrington: What I learned going through these, on the down side you're going to be late for your flight. But on the positive side, you're going to come away knowing you have a healthy prostate. And I think --

Ted Simons: That joke had a police escort.

Brian Fairrington: There you go. It's kind of one of those necessary evils. Where do you draw the line? I haven't gone through the body scan yet.

Steve Benson: I want to do one of the underwear bomber with the tighty whities across his face.

Ted Simons: We've got a groping joke, and then Benson we've got you, you gotta say it.

Steve Benson: Don't touch my junk. I agree with Brian, I think we need to be vigilant against the -- it was -- guys with box cutters got on, on 9-11. Box cutters of all things. And the rest is history. So we cannot be too vigilant on that.

Ted Simons: What about vigilant for those who just really don't look the part?

Brian Fairrington: I think grandma here, she's going to have to subject herself to the indignities of not being old --

Brian Fairrington: A lot of it has to do with the fact a lot of people don't want to fall into the category of profiling, even though we have to realize there has to be some of that. You will -- you have to profile to some degree certain --

Steve Benson: No, you don't racially profile. What they're trying to do is trying to spread the indignities evenly across the board.

Brian Fairrington: But your little old lady grandma is not going to have a box cutter and going to do that. I mean it's kind of a waste of time.

Steve Benson: How do you know? Famous last words until little old lady gets on board with a box cutter.

Ted Simons: Keep that in mind.

Brian Fairrington: OK. I'll tackle her.

Ted Simons: Sarah Palin must be an absolute bonanza for a political cartoonist.

Steve Benson: Every time she opens her mouth I think I've died and gone to heaven. I'm not going to get 71 virgins, but nonetheless Sarah Palin, Obama can't even talk without a teleprompter, and she's got that written on her hand. I mean who is she to talk without a telepromter? She talks with one all the time.

Ted Simons: I refudiate this?

Steve Benson: Yes. She says I'm like Shakespeare; I invent all kinds of words. Listen, some of us knew William Shakespeare, and Sarah --

Brian Fairrington: The fact of the matter, if she's nominated, heaven forbid, I'll have to start learning how to speak Canadian, if she's nominated it will be a disaster for the Republican party. She represents the anti-intellectual, and that's what's wrong with the Tea Party. They don't have any details about things, and she makes good -- she doesn't make good TV. Her reality show is terrible.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about, though caricatures of women --

Steve Benson: Look at him --

Ted Simons: You just drew Sarah Palin, and now you tried something here, this looks to me like something that would get a response.

Brian Fairrington: Yeah, it's gotten a little bit of response.

Steve Benson: I thought it was a guy when I saw it.

Brian Fairrington: You know, she's not Sarah Palin, but -- this got a little response. The national organization of women named me as the top of their media hall of shame this year.

Steve Benson: Congratulations.

Brian Fairrington: I had to deal with that. I got about -- I probably got a thousand emails because they put my email on their website to direct all these angry women. So I won't be getting any dates because of it.

Steve Benson: I don't think you're one to talk. The haircut you gave Kagan is the one you've got.

Ted Simons: All right. Let's move on to don't ask, don't tell.

Steve Benson: What is wrong with John McCain, he says I think men and women should be able to choose who they serve with in the fox holes. Excuse me, did he have to deal with homosexuality issues in the Hanoi Hilton? This reminds me of the '40s when 80% of the members of military was Portland and said they didn't want to serve with black people. So Truman desegregated the military.

Brian Fairrington: A lot of people would realize if someone that homosexual wants to go to battle with them and take a bullet, I don't think anybody has a problem with that.

Steve Benson: What did Goldwater say --?

Brian Fairrington: Exactly.

Ted Simons: Real quickly, I want to get to a couple of local issues here regarding AHCCCS, we've got --

Steve Benson: You have access to health care when you're dying as long as you can raise a hundred thousand dollars overnight. What's unreasonable about that? We need to use our compassionate social heart like they do in Europe and actually pay for this safety net that will keep you and me alive to cartoon another day.

Ted Simons: And speaking of that our last cartoon deals with something, you make a lot of jokes about who gets elected in Arizona, this won in Arizona.

Steve Benson: Weed the people.

Ted Simons: Oh, that's nice.

Brian Fairrington: He's gone down twice to the doctor with a hang nail and he still can't get it.

Steve Benson: He's gone down with a hangover buddy.

Ted Simons: It's a busy year, a lot of things -- what do you see for 2011? Do you think it's going to be as bountiful? What's going on?

Steve Benson: I think we'll see gridlock in Congress, I think Obama has been forced to the middle, and we're going to see more cooperation, but it's going to be slow going and gridlock is maybe not a bad thing.

Brian Fairrington: I think locally you'll see a lot of brewer and Russell Pearce as they go into the 2011 year. They're going to want to butcher AHCCCS, she's got to deal with these transplant issues.

Steve Benson: The 14th amendment. They want to do away with it.

Brian Fairrington: It's going to be an exciting year, and we'll finally by mid summer find out who is going to be running for president for the following year.

Ted Simons: Let me ask you this, obviously both you guys have your cartoons run around the country. Does that --

Steve Benson: I do.

Ted Simons: Does that -- are you going let him get away with that?

Brian Fairrington: His run in the bottom of bird cages.

Steve Benson: That's original.

Ted Simons: When you're seen -- are you tempted to avoid or emphasize national issues? There's so much going on in Arizona. You can do something almost every day.

Brian Fairrington: We have been recently, we have been blessed there has been a lot of issues. Normally being nationally syndicated I don't do hyper local stuff, but with brewer and the marijuana cartoon, which I had one, but it didn't make the cut, but they smoked it, I think Steve rolled it up and smoked it. You're right; Arizona is on the map, not always for the right reasons.

Steve Benson: Exactly. This reminds me, if I can go back, I was doing four cartoons a week, and that became national news. So, yeah, in a kind of bizarre and unfortunate sort of way, we have made big-time across the world in Arizona.

Ted Simons: Gentlemen, once again, great stuff. Thank you so much for joining us, another good show. We'll see you again soon. At least in the pages if not on the this particular --

Steve Benson:Arizona Republic cartoonist;Brian Fairrington: Nationally syndicated cartoonist;

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