Editorial Cartoonists Hear LBJ and Kay (Graham) on Tape

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By: Dave Astor

Editorial cartoonists heard Henry Cisneros talk about a possible future U.S. president before hearing a past U.S. president talk a little suggestively to late Washington Post Publisher Katharine Graham.

During an Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) convention session about editorial-cartoon lover Lyndon Johnson, LBJ Library archivist Claudia Anderson played a 1963 tape of the president talking on the phone with Graham, who wanted Johnson to speak at a newspaper publishers meeting.

Meanwhile, Johnson wanted the Post to write editorials urging Congresspeople to get back to Washington to start passing some legislation. But before he got into that, the president said to Graham: “Hello, my sweetheart. How are you? The one thing I dislike about my job is I’m married and can’t get to see you.” Presumably he was joking.

In addition to the phone recordings and numerous other items, the LBJ Library has more than 4,000 cartoons amassed by Johnson.

“He was an inveterate collector of cartoons,” said session moderator Ben Sargent, cartoonist for the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman and Universal Press Syndicate.

Michael MacDonald, the library’s museum specialist, noted that Johnson had his presidential assistant constantly ask cartoonists for (preferably signed) originals of positive or negative drawings about him and his administration.

The Washington Post’s Herblock got so disgusted with these incessant requests that he decided he wouldn’t give his originals to anybody, according to Herblock Foundation curator Harry Katz. “That’s why we have a huge collection now,” Katz added.

But most cartoonists did give their drawings to Johnson, who was an “incomparable” cartoon subject, said John T. Davis, author of a lengthy recent Austin Monthly article about Johnson. “He was such a larger-than-life character for cartoonists to bounce ideas off.”

Johnson’s love of cartoons began well before his presidency. MacDonald said the oldest drawing in the library collection dates back to when Johnson was a Congressman in 1937.

Thirty-four years later, Johnson invited AAECers to his ranch when they held their 1971 convention in Austin. He also welcomed them to the White House when the AAEC convention was in Washington.

The LBJ Library is marking the centennial of Johnson’s birth this year.

Earlier on Friday, former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros spoke with cartoonists about the Thursday-night meeting he attended in Washington between the Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton camps. (The meeting was mostly closed to the press.)

Cisneros — who had supported Bill Richardson and then Clinton until they left the presidential race — said he left the meeting impressed with Obama and with the knowledge that Clinton is hurting.

“It’s very difficult to give up power,” said Cisneros, who was Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Bill Clinton. “Hillary Clinton expected to be the nominee and wanted to be the nominee worse that I imagined. She’s giving up a dream here, and you could see it in her face. But she’s handling it like an adult.”

When Los Angeles Sentinel editorial cartoonist David Brown asked Cisneros why Clinton lost, the speaker mentioned the well-known reasons of Clinton banking too much on the results of Super Tuesday, Obama concentrating on smaller as well as larger states, Obama raising tons of money via the Internet, and Clinton “picking the wrong theme — experience at a time when people wanted change.”

One thing Cisneros will try to do for the Obama campaign is help convince Clinton’s many Latino supporters to back Obama. The speaker noted that the number of U.S. Latinos — and the number of U.S. Latino voters — is growing rapidly.

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