It’s not exactly “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN,” but some newspaper editors are pondering how to deal with a “Doonesbury” comic strip to be published the day after the election that assumes Barack Obama will win the presidency.
Comic creator Garry Trudeau delivered a series of strips for next week’s papers showing his characters reacting to an Obama victory. But he offered no such option in the event of a comeback by John McCain, who’s trailing Obama in the polls.
Trudeau’s syndicator is offering papers a series of rerun strips from August. But the Obama story line is forcing some editors to question whether “Doonesbury” could put them in a spot — albeit in the funny pages — similar to 1948, when the Chicago Daily Tribune infamously declared in huge, front-page type that Republican Thomas Dewey had beaten Democrat Harry Truman for the presidency.
The strip shows three soldiers watching TV and reacting to this announcement: “And it’s official _ Barack Obama has won … Making him the first African-American president in history!”
“Hoo-Ah!” one of the soldiers says.
“Son of a gun! What a great, great day! We did it!” another soldier says.
“He’s half-white, you know,” says a white soldier.
“You must be so proud,” responds a soldier, who isn’t white.
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The rest of the week’s strips allude to an Obama victory.
Tim Bannon, editor of the Chicago Tribune’s Live! section, where the paper’s comics usually run, said the strip won’t appear in the comics section because of deadline issues but might end up on another page.
“If McCain wins, we would never run it,” he said. “If Obama were to win, we would try to see if we can get it in somehow in some other place. … It strikes us as being a little strange to have that strip if that’s not how it ends up. It’s not like he hedged it so it works either way.”
Kathie Kerr, a spokeswoman for the Kansas City-based Universal Press Syndicate, said about a dozen calls have come in from newspaper editors.
“They’re still coming in,” Kerr said Friday. “After we got the initial inquiries, we asked Garry to pick substitutes for the editors who were not comfortable with running the strips.”
Trudeau, who lives in New York, said he might have provided papers with a McCain option if the election were a toss-up. But, he said, at the time he drew the strip, poll analysts were giving McCain less than a 4 percent chance of winning.
“From a risk-assessment viewpoint, I felt comfortable with the odds,” Trudeau said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. “The way I see it, if Obama wins, I’m in the flow and commenting on an extraordinary phenomenon.
“If he loses, there’ll be such a national uproar that a blown call in a comic strip won’t be much noticed. Besides, I’ll be the one with the egg on my face _ not the editors.”
“Doonesbury” appears in nearly 1,400 daily and Sunday newspapers in the U.S. and overseas. Through the years, the strip _ born out of a cartoon that Yale graduate Trudeau wrote for the college paper _ has used humor and biting commentary to address a broad sweep of society’s foibles, from war, race relations and AIDS to same-sex marriage and stem cell research.
Trudeau has frustrated editors before:
— In 2005, some editors pulled or edited a strip in which former President Bush aide Karl Rove was referred to as “Turd Blossom,” one of several nicknames Bush reportedly had for Rove.
— In 2004, at least 20 papers objected to a strip in which Vice President Dick Cheney used the F-word, rendered mostly in dashes.
— Trudeau apologized in 2004 after a strip showed a man’s head on a platter two weeks after American Nicholas Berg was beheaded in Iraq. The strip was unrelated to the war and was drawn weeks before Berg was killed.
A strip that caused a stir in early October attacked Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s “family values.”
Naedine Hazell, assistant managing editor of features and business for The Hartford Courant in Connecticut, dismissed the fuss over the Obama strips. The Courant plans to run the series.
“It’s a comic. I don’t think people necessarily expect accuracy in comics. There’s all sorts of wack stuff in comics,” Hazell said.
“I don’t think Snoopy actually flies his doghouse either.”