FL: Your process..... Let's start with Clinton and then we'll go to
Dole. What you see in that face and what finally becomes Clinton. All the
details that you can remember and think about.
In approaching Clinton, for me the key was the man of excess, the man of
largeness. Living large. There's something about Clinton that embraces
everything that he comes into contact with. Not only people who are mourning
or who are in trouble, who he likes to publicly identify with, but also issues
that he may have previously disagreed with. He finds a way to embrace
everything. He's a wide, soft, like a Macy's balloon kind of character. Very
round, very broad. So when I draw him, I draw this person of excess. Where
everything is just kind of sticking out and thrusting itself. The jaw thrusts
out. The cheeks are not jowly. They're just wide. To me he's just this real
balloon, marshmallow type character. The excess is even in the nose. He's
got this WC Fields nose that's sort of giving you a key that he's doing too
much of something. Too much agreeing with people, or too much eating, or too
much womanizing. All of the stuff that we all think about him doing.
And yet perhaps all of this mass is covering up the person. It's covering up
what he's really feeling. Because I never really get a sense of what he's
truly feeling. I'm always getting a sense about what he's appearing to feel.
And of course two different things. So for me, he's the big Sta-Puff
marshmallow guy at the end of "Ghostbusters." You remember they shoot the
bullets into the creature and the bullets just get absorbed into the big mass
of marshmallow. So when I draw Clinton I'm always doing round things. Big
round forms. Kind of untouchable and large.
FL: And you said you feel Clinton is a sort of a gift to a caricaturist, as
opposed to the face of say, a Reagan. Contrast the two.
I wouldn't say he's a gift. I'd say he was difficult. Because for all of what
I said I still don't have a clue as to what he is. I still don't know what he
is. And that's what's confusing and frustrating about Bill Clinton. He doesn't
give easily to you what he is. So I started out at the beginning of the
campaign last time, drawing him one way, or feeling one way about him and then
always finding that that wasn't quite right. That wasn't quite the way he is.
Until finally I arrived at this point where I'm just drawing these concentric
circles. One for the head, one for the nose. So it's just this roundness. No
sharp edges on him. The eyes. The bags under the eyes. They're round. The
mouth is round. The teeth are round. He has no ears, almost, so there isn't
even the ear to create an angle when you're drawing him full face. I give him
a little turnip head though at the top to kind of, I don't know, it seems his
head comes to a point and that's kind of a happy little key in because of the
old cliche about the pointy headed intellectual. Because I'm feeling
sometimes perhaps he's missing the point. So I just put that little point up
there. It's a little dunce cap I give him. But he's, I don't feel he's a gift
in this way. I don't feel that drawing a vague character is really nailing it.
I don't feel I've ever really nailed him.
FL: You also said to me that in the beginning, you took a real journey with
Clinton. Talk a little about that journey.
He was and is difficult to pin down as to what you feel he is. At least what I
felt. When he was elected, I think a lot of people voted for him thinking he
was one kind of a thing. I guess fill in the blank. If you were perhaps a
more conservative person, you saw his campaign rhetoric as truly being a new
Democrat. Someone who was really going to believe in the strength of market
forces to straighten things out. Those people voted for him. Other people who
were more left wing, heard the health care plan promise, and other promises and
voted for him thinking that he was perhaps going to pick up where Bobby Kennedy
And all those people found out that they were wrong. I don't know of anybody
who thought they were right about Bill Clinton. And so what do you have? You
have frustrated electorate in 1994 who voted in Republicans. And now you have
poll numbers that show something else. That people are sort of saying he is
what he is, but what that thing is seems to be a decent person, a person who's
caring, particularly after seeing Republicans for two years in the Congress and
listening to Dole's rhetoric, so I think the whole country's been on a journey
with Bill Clinton changing radically month to month on how they feel about the
guy. And I think he's got all of us pretty confused.
As a caricaturist, and satirist, looking at Clinton's face, why does it
give you a problem.
There's no telling in the face where he's going. There's no telling in the face
what his core is. He leaves all the options open. Unlike any president that I
can remember, he's this way. Except for Gerald Ford. But I always felt with
Ford that he was vacuous. That that came as a result of a person who was
disengaged and not terribly interested in what was going on, but really wanted
to just take another dip in the pool and another shot of golf. But one doesn't
get that feeling about Clinton. Clinton is always reading and talking to
people and engaging with people. He's got a powerful intellect. He's always
calling people up to tell them he's read their book. He meets people, he says,
"I read your book." He probably did read their book. He's got an intense
curiosity. Again, this living large kind of creature.
But for all of that you would expect a person to come down somewhere. You would
expect that intellect to bring him somewhere but in the face there's no key to
that. It's terribly frustrating as a caricaturist, for me to draw Bill
Clinton, because I'm always looking for that key and I can't find it. So my
solution is lack of key. My solution in drawing him is the open window. The
mask that could be read in a hundred different ways.
How about Hillary's face?
You can see the lines, the laugh lines that come down from the nose to
the mouth are deep when her face is at rest. You see this kind of strength,
this kind of determination. There's tremendous determination in the cheeks, in
the jaw, in the mouth and it's not a convincing smile. It's not a persuasive
smile. I don't feel she really does smile with her eyes. She has big lips and
big teeth, and a kind of a shy jaw, but the eyes sort of stay intense at all
times. A person looking for control, I think. A person needing to control.
There's that neediness in her face that I think you see in the eyes, the
eyebrows, the jaw, the lines around the mouth, the lips. A powerful, intense
face. And I think maybe scary to some people.
Hillary's face is a far more intense one. This is a face with huge piercing
eyes and determined eyebrows. She's looking for opportunity. She's looking
for opportunity wherever she can find it. She's a real eater. She's a real
conqueror. Her face tells me she sees her role as an important woman in
history. And she needs to use this opportunity to make history and that makes
her a hero to certain people and a terrifying figure to others. And it's that
intensity that frightens those people. It says putting this person with this
kind of intensity in a position of power will mean God knows what for those of
us that want to keep things the way they are. She's always changing her
hairstyle. This is something that people are very upset about. I wonder why
that is? Why do people rag on her about that? I can only think that it's
because there is this feeling that she's trying every which way to become more
powerful, to become more important. It's in her mouth. She's got a very tight
kind of jaw. And she's always perfectly coiffed and dressed and a person who
doesn't seem to be willing to let go of any flaw to be examined or seen in her
appearance and that keys into what people think about her kind of personal
quest for sainthood as a public figure.
And so I haven't drawn her that much, because I don't feel that politically
she's a person that anyone elected and she's a side show as far as Clinton is
concerned. His administration and what policies have gone down really are
Clinton's responsibilities and as a cartoonist I bring them to him. I still
don't feel it's fair to attack his wife, although I think she's done some
beauts. There have been things in the administration that she's responsible
for that are absolutely horrible. But her problems I think come come from her
inability to accept her own frailties and her own imperfections and I think you
see this in her face.
Couold you describe this Hillary one.....
I did this piece for The New Yorker about Hillary testifying and she's
surrounded by snakes. So she's sitting at the table testifying and she's just
sort of looking around at these snakes. It's not the strongest Hillary piece
I've done, but I think it has that jaw and it has those lips and it has that
kind of intensity about it that I was talking about. She's there. Wherever she
is, she's there. She's got both feet in everything. And I think that's why
some people really love her. They feel that about her. There's a sense of
commitment. And she's believable as a character whereas Clinton isn't really.
You really sense a strength of conviction in her, in her face and that's what I
try to bring out.
Talk about your process in relation to Dole.
Okay. Well, Dole, for me, is a kind of a lone wolf type character. Walking
his landscape, looking for food. He doesn't, you get the feeling that the
excess that you see in Clinton would be completely out of the question with
someone like Dole. Just simply because of the way he's lived his life. He's
had to make do. He's had to improvise and he probably looks at all
opportunities as a one time shot. So he's gaunt, he's got hollows in his face.
He's very, his skin is very leathery like some animal that lives in the desert
in the sun all the time. He's always tan. He always goes out on the deck and
tans himself in the Capital when he was Majority Leader. He's, there isn't any
fat on Dole. For a 72 year old man, we don't see people that age without any
fat on them. He is someone who is hungry. I view him as a person who's
hungry, carefully taking his opportunities and intensely working on the problem
all the time. So a different life form than Clinton all together. His mouth
is pursed. He's, at rest his mouth is very tight. His jaw is tight,
constricted. The big funny thing about Dole was him trying to relax. All
these photographs of him trying to relax where he doesn't look anything like
he's relaxing. He doesn't look capable of relaxing. And that might be due to
how uncomfortable he is. He might be in much more pain every day than he tells
people. Or it may be just a lifestyle that he's evolved over a lifetime of
being in pain. Whether or not he has it now, he may be just there in that kind
of a way of living. But he's, but he rarely smiles. I have a large file of
Dole photographs that I work from to draw caricatures of him. And I don't
think I have more than two or three smiley Doles. He is under control to an
extraordinary degree. And so when I draw him, I draw him very thin, very lean,
very, the skin is parchment like. The eyebrows are furrowed, Nixon-like. Not
that I feel he is dishonest as Nixon is, or was, but he has the intensity of a
Nixon. He has that, that need to burrow in so much that he may not be aware of
how that's reading to people. That it may be coming across as something that
it's not. Whereas Clinton is very aware all of the time how he's coming
across. He tailors every small movement to the camera. Whereas Dole, I don't
think he is aware of how the camera or the artists, or the photographs are
reading him, and that may be part of his problem. His hair is perfectly combed
all the time. It's thin up there, but there's always a little rippling
pompadour on the top. And so it's a very different portrait of Dole I'd be
The essential qualities that you take out of the face.
Hunger. What I basically get from Dole is a sense of a hungry person. A
person who is seeking his opportunities carefully, methodically, coldly. There
is a coldness in him, in his face, in his fatlessness and bloodlessness. A
sense of constant, almost desperate calculation.
If you're drawing Clinton, or Newt, or Dole you are drawing someone who is not
just a man. You are drawing someone who is the embodiment of the feelings,
the political need of millions of people. So what you're looking to do is to
use that face as a symbol. And that's all they are to me when I'm drawing them
in a cartoon framework. They are symbols for movements of people. Symbols for
issues. So a good caricaturist I think can make it work so that by doing a
portrait of an individual that portrait can achieve a level of iconography that
will carry with it a message about what the person stands for politically.
Can you go back to the face of each of them.
That's why I draw and I don't write. Dole's face is a face of a person who is,
I believe, he is embodying a kind of fear. There's a fear of change, a fear of
where the world is going. A need on the part of Dole to return to something.
For people, I think he symbolizes the yearning to return. The sense of where
the country was after World War II. Unity, stability, that's of course
operating with a selective memory because if you're black you don't want to
return to 1946, or if you're a woman and you want to achieve something other
than being a housewife and a mother, which is are wonderful things to do, you
don't want to go back to 1946, but for millions of people for whom 1996 is not
working, Dole may be their last chance to get back to Ozzie and Harriet which
is a place he's not really telling us how to get to. But I see that in him
and I see that in his face.
For Clinton, he is covering so much ground and trying to suck in so many
precincts with his personality, it's that largeness that I think is covering
the earth. Where he's, there's enough of him and he's big enough to cover all
those people over there who are for health care and all those people over there
who are for uniforms in schools and school prayer and whatever all he's going
to encompass. So all those people, if he plays it right, can feel that he's
their guy. And only by virtue of his bigness, by the broadness of his
personality, of his wild fabric of convictions and so that's the thing I hit on
with him. It's vague, and big.
Why is Nixon so beloved by photographers and caricaturists?
Nixon was perfect. Nixon was a delight. There wasn't anything about Nixon,
one felt there wasn't anything about Nixon that didn't make it on to his face.
It was all there. The hunger, the fear, the shiftiness, the slyness, the
coyness, the need to subvert, the jealousy, avarice, all the ugly things were
there to the point where, the five o'clock shadow, the sweating upper brow, the
furrowed eye, the hollow eyes. David Levine, who is my hero as a caricaturist,
was the greatest caricaturist of Nixon. And he would draw the eye lid, the
lower eye lash, of Nixon which was prominent in him, but David Levine made you
really see that and he extended that out so that it looked extra decadent. The
way he combed his hair back in a Dracula fashion. His stooped over, hunched
over posture. The thing he did with his hands where he looked like he was going
to eat something. He was just marvelous. And you knowit was a once in a
lifetime opportunity to draw Nixon. Sorry he's gone.
Can you talk about your belief in the human face. A window into a part of
I don't have the exact quote, but Lincoln at some point said something about
this. And I'd have to look it up. He said something like, "People over 40
ought to be careful of their face." Meaning that what they are will show
itself in their faces after a certain period of time. So obviously he believed
that too. That you can find these things in someone's face.
I don't think it's always the case that you can tell the book by the cover. In
fact, I find that through life, that's not true. But in terms of doing
political caricatures, it's a conceit of the political caricaturist that what's
under the surface can, through the art of caricature, be brought to the surface
and it's sort of a way of turning a face inside out. So you really are finding
things and creating things together simultaneously. And, but I think as a
caricaturist I'm lucky this year, this election cycle. We have two people who
make it so easy. They give you lots of things that are easy to find.
Oh yeah. I'm a people watcher. I love to look at faces. And my favorite thing
to do is to go to Central Park on a Sunday afternoon and look at people. And I
try to imagine their whole life story as based on their faces. And I love to
sometimes just sketch them. Look at somebody, close my eyes, and then draw them
really fast. But just based on what I saw. Holding that picture in my mind
and just drawing. I'm guilty of that. I do look for meaning in all the faces
that I see. I can't help it. It's what I do.
Last question. You were talking about the wild hatred for the Clinton's in
this country. What buttons do they press? What's the source of that rage
among some people?
I don't know why people hate Clinton as much as they seem to. I know that I at
times hate him, but probably for other reasons. Although I don't know. I mean,
for me it's, I hate to put words in people's mouths, but I think the problem
might be that he represents a kind of lifestyle in which one gets by sloppily
which runs counter to the myth that people carry about the President. The
mythology of the Presidency is connected more to a man who is upstanding in
every way. And we know so few of them have been. And Clinton comes from a
generation where the rules were taken away. There were no rules for people in
the `60's as there had been before. Everyone I knew was smoking pot. Everyone
he knew was smoking pot. It was like beer. So for him to be vilified for
smoking pot, seems ridiculous. Thousands of people evaded the draft, many on
moral reasons. The war was wrong. Why give your life to a cause you didn't
believe in? Because somebody told you to do it? He was thinking for himself.
Cheating on his wife. Well, we all watch television programs about that every
night. We seem fascinated by that.
Clinton is doing, and to his own detriment now, things that lots of Americans
do but maybe don't want to confront it. So perhaps Clinton, the extreme anger
at Clinton is America being angry at itself. It's a kind of an unpleasant
reminder of some of the things that we really are. Excessive, a little
dishonest, a little lazy, finding easy virtue, in many ways he is us. And I
think part of our culture, aside from doing these things, is also to deny it.
And it's that denial perhaps that is causing people to have a very difficult
time. And also with Mrs. Clinton. She's an achieving, powerful woman. And in
a lot of places that is something that women want but maybe deny that they
want. And that might be the cause of a lot of people being upset with Hillary
Clinton. But I may be wrong.
And you mentioned arrogance,greed and us coming to terms with it.
Yeah. This is part of the whole thing with Travelgate and Hillary's
investments, you know these are things that everyone would like to do. If you
asked ten people on the streetcorner if they'd like to realize a $100,000 with
a small investment in commodities, they'd say "Sure. Let's do it." We don't
like to see it done perhaps in the way that they're doing it. There's
something about their style perhaps that drives people nuts. I'm not sure what
that is. But I think that they are, people are hating them for things that are
very common flaws in all of us and worthy of public examination and discourse,
but I think this level of hatred perhaps signifies a kind of denial that we're
FL: What drives your work...
I think for me the finest political cartoons have always been ones that have
something to say, that are put together with an intention to make a point about
the face. Not just to exaggerate. Make larger what's large, and make smaller
what's small, which is sort of easier to do. But rather, to find essences.
What is it that you feel about that face? What is that face saying to you?
And to 25 caricaturists it may say 25 different things. I think that's why we
all have our own Clinton, we all have our own Dole. And there's a process you
go through to find your Dole and to find your Clinton. And for me it takes a
while to sort of circle around that. Try different ways, different attacks to
get there. And after you do a number of pieces you sort of start to center in
on how this person is. What that face means. It's a search for meaning in a
FL: Can you talk about the importance of anger driving your work.
I read the papers and listen to the news and I get upset about 90
percent of the time. So for me the cartoon is the technique of relieving that.
And I sort of have to do it.
The anger comes from this feeling of needing to speak out against something
that's going wrong. So as a political cartoonist, I feel my job is to employ
the anger in a way that illuminates one corner of some debate that's going on
in the country.
For me there'd be no reason to do a political cartoon except for the desire to
want to change things in the world. That there's something wrong in the world
that needs to be changed. If things were fine, then I think political
cartoonists, or at least my kind of political cartoonists, probably wouldn't be
doing it. We'd be doing children's books or wallpaper design or something
useful to society. But the political cartoon is there for me as a way of
driving home a point about something, somewhere being wrong. Something that
has to be changed. So it comes through the anger.
I think the reason to do political cartoons is because you disagree with
something that's happening. It's an anti-act. It's an act of subversion.
You're feeling that something needs to be changed. If things were not going
wrong, if things were just fine, then artists could do other things. They could
be designing interiors, or, artists do that now, but I'm speaking of political
cartoonists, could be designing carpets and tapestries and that would be a
happy thing to do.