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Ehrlich IV With Political Cartoonist Pat Oliphant

Political Cartoonist Pat Oliphant Hopes McCain "Would Disappear"

by Richard S. Ehrlich

SAN FRANCISCO -- Political cartoonist Pat Oliphant, who wields ink to warn and ridicule, hopes U.S. presidential candidate John McCain "would disappear" and fears vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin is "obviously not ready to be the leader of the free world."

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Oliphant's "Dominatrix" cartoon appears in a San Francisco gallery for sale. Photo © by Richard S. Ehrlich

"I would rather McCain would disappear," Oliphant said while discussing the upcoming election during an interview.

"What worries me is Mrs. Palin, for the obvious reasons. She is obviously not ready to be the leader of the free world. I always collapse in laughter, and then tears, to think of that.

"It could happen. Nobody ever lost money betting on the intelligence of the American public, and I'm learning that more and more after being here about 44 years," said Oliphant.

The world-famous political cartoonist was born on July 24, 1935, in Adelaide, Australia, but is now a U.S. citizen based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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Pat Oliphant signs a copy of his new book, which features a cover illustration portraying Bush as a fool riding an old horse symbolizing America, while Cheney leads them carrying a shotgun. Photo © by Richard S. Ehrlich

"Nobody has been in control except on the evil side, for eight years," in President George W. Bush's White House, he said.

Republican Party candidate McCain, "is part of the same group.

"I'm just developing a new symbol for the GOP. It's not an elephant anymore. It's a pig with lipstick." White-haired Oliphant is not optimistic, though he is intrigued by Barack Obama.

"I've been drawing him as sort of a spindly silhouette, and letting him development. I don't what he's about either.

"But these criminals who have been in the White House for eight years are already thinking, 'Maybe we can get away with this again. We can beat this rap' -- and give us 12 years, for God's sake.

"This will be destructive to the country. Very, very bad." Oliphant was signing copies of his new book during the interview at San Francisco's Meridian Gallery, where scathing art works critical of the Bush administration, the U.S. war in Iraq and other American policies, were on display.

"My book is [titled] 'LEADERSHIP: Oliphant Cartoons & Sculpture from the Bush Years,' which is intended in full irony -- 'leadership' being the operative word," he said, laughing.

"We haven't had any leadership for a long time. But as the cover [illustration] shows you, the big old horse represents the country. Cheney is leading him, carrying an inevitable shotgun.

"And our fool of a president is sitting up on the back of the horse. With any luck we will get rid of all their influence soon, but one wonders," he said.

"The crime is that they led this country into a war [in Iraq] that was totally phony." Despite the gloom, America's political plight makes for good satire, he said.

"That's always been the great thing about this country, anything can happen. It's very good for cartoonists. It's not very good for the country, but very good for cartoonists." Oliphant now focuses much of his attention on America's future, and its international image, which he said needs correcting.

"We will have no chance, if we elect [McCain], at repairing all that damage that was done overseas, to our reputation, by the Bush crowd.

"Not only the psychological damage, but the actual damage, reputation-wise. We are no longer the leader. We no longer have the authority we used to have.

"It's very important that that be repaired," he said.

"It's a very hairy time for this country right now. It's McCarthy times almost." In the early 1950s, U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, and others, investigated Americans suspected to be communists, resulting in blacklists, paranoia, suicides, and a 1954 Senate censure against the disgraced McCarthy.

Three full-size reproductions of Oliphant's original cartoons were on display -- and for sale at 400 U.S. dollars each -- in the gallery's "Art of Democracy: War and Empire" exhibit.

These included his cartoon titled, "Dominatrix," showing U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dressed in black, with black gloves and boots, brandishing a bullwhip.

"The United States doesn't do torture!" Rice yells in Oliphant's cartoon. "Do I make myself clear?" Another exhibited Oliphant cartoon, titled "Iraq Pieta," portrayed Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney approaching a dying U.S. soldier.

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Oliphant's "Iraq Pieta". Photo © by Richard S. Ehrlich

Bush says in the cartoon to the collapsed soldier, "Would it make you feel better to know we had inaccurate intelligence?".


Richard S Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based journalist who has reported news from Asia since 1978. He is co-author of "Hello My Big Big Honey!", a non-fiction book of investigative journalism, and his web page is

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