Where is Thomas Nast(y) when we really need him?

August 14, 2009|By ALLAN POWELL

Thomas Nast, from whom we inherit the word "nasty," properly brought on the wrath of political personalities and vested interests he held up for ridicule. Using a "political zoo" of animals such as elephants, tigers, foxes and jackasses -- political symbols still used today -- Nast exposed corruption, chicanery, greed and abuse of power in the post-Civil War era.

Nast must have been a formidable force. His cartoons were in demand, earning him an annual salary of $20,000 when journalists were not highly paid. It is claimed his sting was so sharp that Boss Tweed offered him a hefty sum to stop his artistic assault on Tammany and the Tweed Ring.

At this juncture in our national history, we could use the pointed potency of Nast's style of debunking the psychobabble and transparent fraud being put forward by a party bereft of its senses. Surely, the public is nauseous at the steady bombardment of nonsense dispensed as newsworthy.


Nast would have to expand his "political zoo" to include hogs, skunks and squirrels if he were alive today. The new crop of rascals gobbles up enormous sums of campaign funds from almost any available source -- no matter how smelly -- and then postures and jumps up like squirrels in the park.

The "birthers" easily qualify as "squirrely." For whatever goofy reason, they are obsessed with the delusion that President Obama is not really a U.S. citizen and, therefore, is ineligible to be the legitimate president. What can you do with people who will not accept documents showing otherwise? Typically, they show no signs of embarrassment at their folly.

Then, we have Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C. Nast's tiger is a fitting symbol for her since she evokes fear. She actually claimed a clause in the House health bill was an encouragement to euthanasia and the Republican version "would not put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government." It should be superfluous to point out that Foxx crossed the line of decency.

An ugly concurrence of greed, stench and slippery words (symbolized by the hog, the skunk and the squirrel) is the biggest attraction at the "political zoo" at the moment. On several committees in both houses of Congress are those who will have a life-or-death vote on the health bill now being debated. Almost, if not all, Republicans aligned with several "Blue Dog" Democrats have indicated their opposition.

What is alarming about all of these members is the amount of money contributed to their re-election campaigns by insurance companies and health providers. The amounts, on public record, stagger the mind. Some of these members of Congress are reported to have been given hundreds of thousands of dollars for their campaign funds while others report sums reaching into the millions. Each one of these politicians declare, without reservation, that they are absolutely not influenced by these huge donations.

Since nobody is a mind reader, there is no way to prove them liars. One could, however, be forgiven for supposing that their donors had good reason to expect something in return for this steady flow of cash. In truth, we do not know to what extent our political representatives are "bought and paid for" by wealthy and powerful interest groups. But it is too much an act of faith to buy into the easy generalization that "most of our members of Congress are hardworking, honest people."

Thomas Nast would undoubtedly chuckle in disbelief at the number of phony Republicans who cry crocodile tears at the massive debt accumulated by the recent stimulus efforts. They conveniently ignore the massive debt they created by stimulus tax cuts to those who needed them the least. Their shameless moaning is an insult to any informed person.

If Thomas Nast could return and use his artistic skills today, he would have a joyful field day in our "political zoo." The "party of no" will provide the posturing, braying donkey-like antics for his cartoons. His Nast(y) talent would be most welcome.


Allan Powell is a professor emeritus at Hagerstown Community College

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