“This is the House Committee on Cartooning. Didn’t you see the panel on the door?” a visiting member of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists joked during a Hillside reception that turned from cheery to combative faster than it takes to sketch a Pinocchio nose on an unsuspecting politician.
The event started innocently enough, as 120 artists from around the world — including 16 who practice their craft in the political hotbed that is the Middle East — gathered late last week to produce caricatures of any lawmakers or staff who elected to pop by the Longworth House Office Building. The reception was the brainchild of House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), both of whom praised their occasional tormentors for keeping Congress honest.
McGovern said what upsets him most about the attacks his hometown cartoonist levels against him is not the tone or tact of the meticulously inked broadsides, but that “he’s really talented.” McGovern didn’t specify which of the double-trouble treatment at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette he was referring to, either Don Landgren Jr. or David Hitch. His office later confirmed that Hitch is the source of McGovern’s pain/admiration.
The love-fest came to an end, however, once lawmakers opened the floor to questions.
Several cartoonists accused McCarthy of kowtowing to the tea party and endorsing voter suppression. “Is this a top issue with all cartoonists? Because I feel like I’m at a town hall,” an exasperated McCarthy said after 20 minutes of rhetorically jousting with angry artists.
Others urged both sides to get their act together. “Stop this insane back-and-forth between the parties. It’s very destructive to the country,” warned one incensed Oregonian.