An excerpt from an earlier tribute by essayist Roger Rosenblatt to his friend and former colleague, the Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Herblock.
JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight, editorial cartoonist Herbert Block, better known as Herblock. He died last night of pneumonia. His work won him four Pulitzer Prizes in the 55 years he worked for the "Washington Post." Three years ago, essayist Roger Rosenblatt paid tribute to his friend and former colleague. Here is an excerpt.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Herbert block, the political cartoonist who signs his work as "Herblock" has just published an autobiography, A Cartoonist's Life. The title is straightforward, like its author. Herblock cartoons are unmistakable. They are clear, funny, on the nose and they are right. And they and he have been right for 50 years.
Herblock knew and drew who Huey Long was, and who Stalin was; he knew that back in 1937, when most of the American left thought Stalin a savior. He definitely knew who Hitler was and what we ought to do about it. In the 1950s, he knew who Joseph McCarthy was-- he invented the term "McCarthyism." In the 1960s, he knew where Kennedy and Khrushchev ought to be on nuclear war, and where the country ought to be on racial equality. In the 1970s, he knew where Nixon ought to be on the War in Vietnam, and eventually that Nixon ought to be anywhere but the White House. He always had Nixon down cold, yet such was-- is-- Herb's sense of fair play that when Nixon was elected in 1968, a Herblock cartoon gave him a clean start and a free shave.
Cursed with being right all the time, Herb could have walked around like a gloomy Gus. I can attest otherwise. In the late 1970s, when I was writing columns and editorials for The Washington Post, I had my office next to Herb's, which was like having your office next to the Marx Brothers. He would bop in from time to time, wearing what he called his "Thinking Cap," a toy helmet with a light bulb on top, which lit up whenever he had an idea. Best of all for me, he would show me what he was working on for the next day's paper. The range of my critical responses ran from laughing very loud to laughing very loud, because Herb was always consistently great.
Herblock lit up the world with his pen, and his light bulb continues to work. He gives the business to President Clinton. He gives it to Kenneth Starr. He is an equal opportunity corrector, and all his art and all his humor derive from an image of America as it ought to be-- a valuable ideal. That's what political cartoonists do. They wish the country well by illustrating how dumb it can be, and worse.
At the end of his autobiography, Herblock writes of how infuriating are the misdeeds and failures of government. But, he is pleased to report; he can always vent his anger with a laugh. He has done so steadily for decades, as have so many others on whom the quality of the world depends.
I'm Roger Rosenblatt.
JIM LEHRER: Herblock was 91 years old.