The news and events of 2012 as drawn by Arizona Republic political cartoonist Steve Benson and nationally syndicated Valley cartoonist Brian Fairrington.
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. 2012 was a bountiful year for political cartoonists. It was an election year which, by default, guarantees absolutely no shortage of material. Tonight we take a look at 2012 through the eyes of Brian Fairrington, a nationally syndicated political cartoonistist who makes his home in the east valley and Steve Benson, cartoonist for the "Arizona Republic." It's a pleasure for you as well. Let's move on.
Steve Benson: I thought we got rid of the plastic Ken doll when Romney lost but good to see you.
Ted Simons: Let's start here with the idea it was a political year and election years, they should be just a bountiful of riches for you guys.
Brian Fairrington: Yeah. The election years likes this every four years are the Super Bowl for cartoonists and satirists. We were overloaded with garbage from the left and the right and frankly I am glad it's over.
Ted Simons: Did it ever get to the point where you said, please stop it? Every day there was something new?
Steve Benson: It was intense like Brian said. But I have been doing this for 30 years, believe it or not. And I have never seen so much, I am going to use a big word here, animus, vitriol, and all that stuff. Got to look that up. It was pretty mean, pretty ugly. But every day was different and it was kind of fun, actually because the Ganet chain, had me team up with a conservative cartoonist, Gary par sill we were doing point counter point.
Ted Simons: A little bit like what we do year.
Brian Fairrington: Young, old, fresh, old.
Ted Simons: We will get started and get to the election in a minute but we will start with Arizona and the idea of immigration and Arizona, never goes away, Steve.
Steve Benson: It never goes away. And to you'd to that, Jan Brewer never goes away. She got this idea that, OK, we will give in to the deferred action program where kids who were brought here without any choice of their own can go to school, and can work but we are not going to give them licenses to get to either place bullpen it just to me is fundamentally unfair. And it's not their fault and these kids are great, they add to the economy, they join the military, and they end up being productive citizens. And Jan is not a productive citizen. She is a counter productive reporter and apparently she's hitting reporters now.
Ted Simons: Mission accomplished goes back to the Bush administration and this was the idea a lot of people thought SB 1070 survived and was celebrated by the Supreme Court and other folks thought otherwise.
Steve Benson: On the two out of three pillars of the law the court struck it down but they did hold up the right of police officers to ascertain citizenship status at the point of stop. She took this mission accomplished and ran with it and we know how accomplished the mission was. What the court is waiting for is a test case where somebody was stopped and believed they had been profiled. I think the court in all will strike down the third pillar.
Ted Simons: Do you think, Brian, obviously the immigration here was, have you hugged a Mexican today? Is this going to just come and go as far as policy issues in Arizona are concerned? Every election now will we see this rise again?
Brian Fairrington: Well, it's going to be Arizona and all the border states, it will be a hot bed issue. I think that Arizona, like a lot of places, will adopt a sensible policy over time that that's what the public will want. But, yeah, it's going to be a hotbed issue from the right wants extremism and the left wants to be a little bit more lenient. Reasonable. And I think a reasonable policy is justified. The Hispanic people that come to this country provide in our society and I think more people are realizing that.
Ted Simons: We will get back to the election in a second. You mentioned a reasonable ideas and policies. Mass shootings in headlines this year, unfortunately. How, I see your cartoon here but how do you deal with something like that?
Brian Fairrington: Regarding Aurora, the batman screening, it's a culture of violence, it's a culture of, you know, where people don't know how to turn and don't know what to do and so they turn to violence. And you know, it's going, like the immigration, it's going to be a hotbed issue for a long time.
Ted Simons: You got batman tearing up his NRA card here.
Brian Fairrington: Batman is strong on crime but he's also in this cartoon he's also fed up with what the NRA has lacked to do and that's to stands up. There's nothing wrong with owning guns and the protection of the second amendment but there's also nothing wrong with entertaining the idea of licensing handguns and things like that.
Ted Simons: Steve, you have got the NRA as well here.
Steve Benson: Well, yeah. I think the NRA is complicit. Any proposed gun law is an automatic enemy of the NRA. I hate their extremist in their provisions. I privately own a gun. I was a cop for nine years. I have nothing against the heller decision by the Supreme Court which said you had a constitutional right to protect your domicile and yourself using a firearm, but unlimited magazines in terms of their capacity, easy access to gun, there needs to be better coordination between Federal and state laws for background checks so that these kinds of folks don't slip through the cracks. And the absurd argument is that these people only had had guns they would have been able to fight back like in Aurora, in a crowded, black, dark theater. It would have been mass mayhem. It would have been a massacre brought to you by the NRA.
Ted Simons: Do you get much of a response, I note answer to this, much of a response on anything that deals with gun issues?
Steve Benson: Absolutely. I just did a cartoon on the player for the Atlanta Braves who offed himself and his girlfriend. The chiefs. Yeah. Not the Braves. Kansas City. Yeah. And the Braves. They're all messed up in this. Kansas City chiefs, and had him in the pistol offense, where it's shooting away.
Ted Simons: Response when you criticize the NRA?
Brian Fairrington: Well, you know, they are a powerful lobby. They are one of the most powerful in the country. So they, they post any cartoon or any criticism on a website, you get overloaded with emails. But I think it's important as far as the gun issue goes, certainly we have to look at what causes the violence. The gun is probably the mechanism that causes it but we have to look at why we have a culture of violence.
Ted Simons: And obviously the entertainment industry is something that you see is --
Brian Fairrington: Well, yeah. Video games. My kids, my boys want games and they all involve shooting and blowing things up. We had that but it was doing this about Well yeah exactly.
Ted Simons: Back to the election here. And I don't know, Brian, what it is about Newt Gingrich but you certainly have a thing for this. Is he just fun to draw?
Brian Fairrington: The primaries went on longer than normal because of the campaign situation this year. And he didn't get out -- and Newt Gingrich went against the cardinal rule that Saint Reagan said that thou shalt not talk negatively against fellow Republicans and they just went against Romney full force.
Steve Benson: And Newt is still on the Republican Party.
Ted Simons: Here we go again with this huge head.
Brian Fairrington: This is system like -- Yeah. He's great to draw. They tried after a while the establishment wanted him to just go away and bury him so they could get along with Romney. It would have been interesting had he got the nomination but I don't think there was a chance in heck if he actually have.
Ted Simons: That again was a primary?
Brian Fairrington: He is going to be a political figure for a long time. And the primary as far as Arizona is concerned, we had our own politician who had some curiosities unveiled.
Steve Benson: I know, I don't give a tinker's darn about his sexual orientation but he showed extremely poor judgment by posting his availability on a gay website. I don't know if that means that he shouldn't be sheriff.
Brian Fairrington: The mayor of Tempe? Wasn't it? He did the same thing?
Steve Benson: Some public officials of the same penchant. It was, I just thought it was extremely bad judgment on his part.
Ted Simons: All right. Tough to do a cartoon on that as well? Is that an easy cartoon to do or --
Steve Benson: I -- he searched the website heavily to get all these images. I spent some time on his hair.
Ted Simons: I got you. As far as the national debates, election debates and all these kinds of things are concerned, it was interesting to watch the ebb and flow of this particular campaign season. The president was high, the president was low, the president was some point in between. And you thought that rising prices with gasoline was a big factor there.
Steve Benson: Well, it was for a while. Certainly the open pigs was trying to make it that way. They were conveniently ignoring the fact that under Bush, gasoline hit $4 a gallon for the first time. But people, you know, blame the president, and he was suffering for a while for rising gas price. But the president really doesn't have much control over that.
Ted Simons: The economy was supposed to be the major factor in this election.
Brian Fairrington: Well, yeah. That's what's interesting. You would think. It was Romney's race to lose. And he definitely lost it. If you can't beat Obama on paper under these circumstances with the economy, you know, and Romney as word has it was totally shocked that he thought.
Steve Benson: Shocked, I say.
Brian Fairrington: It's shocking that he thought that. But you know, like a lot of, now that Obama has a second term, he would have, he is going to get the blame when things are bat and if things turn around he will come out looking better than I does.
Ted Simons: You got the president down here with the shovel. And basically when you are --
Brian Fairrington: I think going into it, there's no question that Obama inherited the economy. It's just what he did with it in the last four years and I think that there comes a point in the next four years he is going to have to take all the credit or what happens.
Ted Simons: Steve, someone suggested the reason the president won was Republicans went too far in one particular direction and that direction wasn't near the center. You agree that?
Steve Benson: Absolutely. In fact, the biggest slice of the electorate is the moderate section of the population. And he, the backup signature of the GOP were running around the stage, ripping their clothes off and pulling their toupees off and making scenes and making stupid statements. You got Todd akin about legitimate rape. You had Mr. Mourdock thought he was Mr. News rake talking about a rape induced pregnancy is a gift from god. These guys were totally out of touch with the concerns and realities of women and Romney lost the women vote. He lost a lot of other segments, too.
Brian Fairrington: The GOP has to come back to the center if they want success in the future. They wanting extremist right. Akin and others are example of what a lot of the moderates want to distance themselves from. He is a primary example of that.
Ted Simons: And a birther was another example.
Brian Fairrington: They I think a lot of rational Republicans and I know that's an oxymoron but I think a lot of them thought the birther movement was just insane. You have Arpaio sending people over to investigate Obama. It's really ridiculous.
Ted Simons: You also had Donald Trump on the birther issue and was considered, I don't know, for how brief a time, was he really a viable --
Brian Fairrington: Well, I think in his own mind. He's got the ego that's bigger than, you know, New York City. But he, it's questionable what's under that odd hair cut of his. Although I admire people with a good hair cut.
Ted Simons: And you like to draw people with those haircuts, don't you? What are you saying here, Steve, with this Air Force 1?
Steve Benson: Well, Obama has been to our state a few times. And his first concern is can he land here and be legitimate or is Brewer going to wag her finger at him at the tarmac and say, where's your damn birth certificate?
Ted Simons: By the way, this cartoon you gave special thanks to someone. Do you get all your ideas from someone?
Steve Benson: Thanks a lot. And Brian helps me. So, no, this was actually a reader that contributed this. And they won.
Ted Simons: You gave them credit.
Steve Benson: That's what we do every week. They're the best --
Ted Simons: The Republicans. And the birther issue obviously, you mentioned Arizona here with the Air Force 1 flying over, and then we had Ken Bennett inexplicably wading into those waters.
Steve Benson: Yeah. He toyed with the idea. He didn't come out and just distance himself quickly, firmly and completely so he got tagged as a birther.
Brian Fairrington: I think it's people in the GOP are trying to serve two masters. They are trying to apiece the far right but that's why he waffled on the issue because I think he probably realized that he doesn't want to end up --
Ted Simons: Before we leave the birther issue that's an uncomfortable position.
Steve Benson: Well, deputies over, they go to the State Department of records in Honolulu, demand to have the original birth certificate given to them so they can take it back to Arizona and test it. The governor has confirm would it's authentic. The stay records department has confirmed it's authentic but we know this was a big conspiracy between the two newspapers in August of, what, 1961 to work out these stories of this phony birth in the United States. What a joke.
Brian Fairrington: That behavior is what's amazing. Arpaio does all these things yet still he gets reelected and what is it the fifth time? Going on 20 years if the guy is what, 81 years old? He's amazing. He's good for cartoonists.
Steve Benson: Pink underwear he never changes.
Brian Fairrington: Pink with --
Ted Simons: Let's move on. Please. Back to the national election. We have got the etch a sketch with Romney. That one looked like it was, that probably just came almost came gift wrapped for you.
Steve Benson: It was gift wrapped and it was like his chief staff advisor. The primary is one thing but after the primary is over, do little etch a sketch wiggle and we reorient for the general. I mean, it was so, it was so blatantly political and consciousless.
Ted Simons: And another thing that people are still scratching their heads over is just bringing up big bird as a casualty.
Brian Fairrington: The fact is, PBS and we are on PBS, they represent such a small, small portion of the budget that to eliminate PBS is ridiculous. And again it's just playing to the extremists in the party.
Steve Benson: And to eliminate this cartoon show is even more ridiculous.
Ted Simons: We will see about that. But again, regarding big bird and this, not so much big bird on this one, I can't tell you how many people told me that what really bothered them was the story of roof racking your dog on a vacation. It's, and the grand scheme of things it's not a big deal but for a lot of folks, that was a big deal.
Steve Benson: It was a big deal. And the story came out through because of one of Romney's sons blurted it out. We had a great vacation and the dog was tied to the top and couldn't control his bowels and was awful.
Brian Fairrington: In all fairness he probably wasn't a very nice expensive dog carrier and he was probably a well-treated dog by the way. But it was an example of politics at its best where the opposition took this and played it and put it back in their face.
Steve Benson: Romney, those were great.
Ted Simons: And now you are talking about the capture of Bin Laden. Do you think that really was a big a deal as people thought it was going to be at the time? In terms of the election?
Steve Benson: No. But it did serve to establish Obama's foreign policy bona fides.
Brian Fairrington: Biden said in regard to that, GM is alive and Bin Laden was dead. That was sort of their calling card.
Steve Benson: That was a great line. So I think that he really did, he guy that got Bin Laden. Bush set up and 12-year hunt and blah, blah, blah, and he didn't really pull the trigger himself.
Ted Simons: Yet this wound up regardless of what side you were rooting for it was still a horse race, wasn't it? At least, in terms of the total vote it was. Electoral college not so much but it was a close race.
Steve Benson: Well, it was, I had a bet with my editor for a steak dinner 47 points and I won in the popular vote but you look at the meshing of all the elements together, electoral college, the popular vote, the swing states, the segments of the population he lost, I thought in the end Romney got pounded. I thought Romney was going to win.
Brian Fairrington: What? I lost a steak dinner.
Ted Simons: It wasn't a steak dinner like this one that Benson drew? That is a colorful meal. Readers calling in how dare you insult the great memory of john the Baptist. He had his head on a platter. But I thought it was, if Obama was john the Baptist, the president, he would make sure he dressed well and got in the middle income through the taxes on the rich.
Ted Simons: Election over, now the big fiscal cliff. Here it comes and there it goes.
Brian Fairrington: It's Thelma and Louise 2 over the cliff. You scratch your head and you wonder, there's a notion out there that it's a strategy now for some of them to let it go over the cliff. But you wonder if politicians care about the constituency or what it's going to do. You can see why people despise politicians.
Ted Simons: We will see how much they despise or love Hillary Clinton. She seems to be the front runner but this suggests the world is blowing up around here.
Steve Benson: The campaign song, "I love you the way you are." You don't tell nuts in Iran we are not going to set deadlines. That encourages the nuts in Iran to build the nukes. That was giving away your game. That was totally counterproductive.
Ted Simons: General Petraeus. Do we need to say anything more?
Brian Fairrington: Self-explanatory. You wonder why the head of the CIA and America's stellar five star foreign intelligence agency, the guy didn't know that people could read his email. It makes you wonder. But it shows that people fall at the highest levels to sexual scandals because, you know, men are only concerned about two things in this world and one of them is blowing stuff up.
Ted Simons: And it's fun to draw people with lots of bars and stars. It's fun to draw uniforms.
Brian Fairrington: It's fun to draw uniforms.
Steve Benson: The thing about uniforms you got the rest right. Jumping on, when they finally go bye bye --
Ted Simons: Sure, sure. That kind of, that's a great look. This next one is a little uncomfortable to see, this is Steve Nash as Beelzebub.
Steve Benson: The reaction I got to this cartoon was, how dare you? How dare you make fun of Saint Steve Nash? It's like I had spit on mother Teresa's grave or something. It's just a cartoon and, yeah, he's going to the Lakers to get a better team and the better deal. Can you blame him?
Ted Simons: You know, I have to admit I was not really all that up on this story of Disney buying "Star Wars."
Brian Fairrington: You are one of those kids that read books and didn't watch ""Star Wars."
Ted Simons: What are you trying to say? But really?
Brian Fairrington: Kind of a surprise. It was kind of a surprise but I don't think people expected George Lucas would sell out like he did to Disney. Not only do they own "Star Wars," they own marvel and the Muppets.
Ted Simons: They own the Muppets?
Steve Benson: Something what "Star Wars" because Lucas got so involved.
Brian Fairrington: He Tinkered too much and a lot of us think that perhaps this would be good for the franchise.
Ted Simons: Bambi starts walking around?
Brian Fairrington: There you go. Also,
Ted Simons: Brian, you have got an opinion on, what is this? The idea, what sugar is now against the law in New York?
Brian Fairrington: Bloomberg issued this order that they weren't going to allow to sell certain ounces above a certain amount of ounces. And I think -- 15-ounce drink. Super sized drinks. And I think a lot of people felt it was ridiculous. People you can side step around it. They can buy two drinks. Certainly America has a weight problem and a sugar problem. But I think the mayor probably be better suited dealing with things more --
Ted Simons: In a purely artistic fashion you had to show the cops as being heavy. Correct? Well, yeah. There's no way around that?
Steve Benson: That's just the doughnuts though
Ted Simons: Literally and figuratively.
Steve Benson: That's not just the doughnuts?
Ted Simons: Steve, as far as global warming is concerned, now, you can talk about issues that you thought people thought would be front and center in the election. I don't remember global warming as getting all that much attention.
Steve Benson: No, it didn't. It started getting attention with super storm sandy. You have a late season, hurricane level, although it didn't actually reach that technically, for a storm that is fueled by the warm waters of the ocean. And the waters are staying warmer because the climate is heating up and the climate is heating up because we are spewing man made stuff.
Brian Fairrington: I think sandy helped Obama because he at the end there, the end result he looked very presidential.
Steve Benson: Very presidential. Absolutely.
Ted Simons: But as far as climate change is concerned, again, on a cartoon like this, and when you do climate change or global warming, cards and letters come in?
Steve Benson: Not really much anymore. I think that there's kind of a slow acceptance of climate change of being real science. So it's not the hot button it used to be so to speak.
Ted Simons: Before we let you go, the changing nature of technology, let's talk craft here. Is this still, you still doodle on the sheet of paper?
Steve Benson: I still doodle on the sheet of paper. And I have originals to prove it. This guy does everything in his computer brain, how the 9,000, Dave, what are you doing? Dave, what are you doing? Stop, Dave, use the right template here, Dave! For me my stuff is pure ink off the bottle on to the paper into the paper, and I have originals to sell. Never had an original --
Brian Fairrington: He walked both ways Up in the snow on the way to school. He has an ink well
Ted Simons: Does it change anything?
Brian Fairrington: Well, in all fairness Steve doesn't live totally in the dinosaur age. He does email things. Technology is changing. There's devices now where you can draw right on to the tablets, like ipads kind of devices, and things like that, and I haven't graduated to that. I do a lot of stuff in photo shop and programs likes that. It's another way to do it. It's not any quicker or better. The younger generation coming up, they're sort of adapting to that.
Ted Simons: Another question regarding technology. With the internet, the interweb as we like to call it, so prominent, so just taking over everything, does it change the nature of delivery? Does it change the nature of how you prepare, how you deliver? Because it used to be Benson cartoon is there and the Benson cartoon is going to be there. You to get internet you can see Benson cartoons really from the dinosaur age.
Steve Benson: Well, the interesting thing because of the web, you basically have circulation delivery of your paper 24/7. And we have a constantly morphing daily site, AZCentral and we are putting up first run, first production. They say that journalism is history on a daily basis. And so people aren't wedded to Absolutely a daily basis. We're updating hour by hour. And we're updating hour by hour.
Ted Simons: All right. We will stop it right there. Gentlemen, once again, a good year for cartoonists and a good year for us having you here. Thank you so much for joining us.
Steve Benson: Brian Fairrington: Good to be here.
Ted Simons: That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.
In this segment:
Steve Benson:Political Cartoonist, The Arizona Republic; Brian Fairrington:Cartoonist;
Also in this episode:
STAY in touch
Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: