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Quick On The Draw

A cigar-smoking bird named Shoe and political caricatures have made Jeff MacNelly a newspaper favorite.
Neil A. Grauer
From the Print Edition:
Orlando Hernandez, Mar/Apr 99

(continued from page 9)

"I like guys like John McCain [Republican senator from Arizona], but I'm suspicious of him 'cause so many in the media have decided he's their favorite. The media favorites always are great copy. They tend to prop 'em up."

And as for Al Gore?

"I think Gore is as dead as a smelt. I mean, if I was running against Gore, I'd get all the film clips of him with his arm around Bill Clinton. I'd get a shot of him over in China, hugging whichever dictator he was hugging at the time. And then this campaign finance thing." Even though Attorney General Janet Reno decided not to recommend that a special prosecutor look into the matter, "I think it's going to hurt him," MacNelly says.

"I just don't know. We may be going into a period of boring straight guys--this may be a Harding-Coolidge thing," MacNelly concludes with a chuckle, referring to Warren G. Harding, the randy 29th president who trysted with a nubile mistress in a White House closet, then died in office in 1923 and was succeeded by Calvin Coolidge, a dour, taciturn, straight-laced New Englander.

Past presidents such as Nixon, Carter and Reagan gave MacNelly plenty of rich material with which to work, but he admits to having some problems drawing a few of today's politicos. "Gore is tough to do. [Rep. Richard] Gephardt [of Missouri] I do pretty well, even though he's very fair [complected]. It's the Jerry Ford problem: you know who it is but you can't do it in ink."

Nevertheless, he insists that he doesn't pine for those halcyon days of colorfully caricaturable officials.

"You know, I don't really miss anybody, because I'm having so much fun with this particular bunch of ninnies and hypocrites," he says with a satisfied grin.

He anticipates continuing his cartooning--on both the editorial and the comics pages--"probably forever."

"I think if I retired, I'd be twice as busy. I can't afford to retire, basically because I have too many projects that'd take up all of my time. So this way, at least, I have an excuse to relax, have fun and do my job." *

Neil A. Grauer, a Baltimore writer and caricaturist, is the author of Remember Laughter: A Life of James Thurber.

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