Conrad’s disdain for Nixon never waned, following the latter even to the grave. After Nixon’s death in 1994, Conrad became incensed upon hearing anyone utter even the barest praise for the deceased former president. “I think it’s sick,” fumed Conrad. “We know what the bastard did.” To be sure, Conrad penned his own unsentimental eulogy for Nixon: a cartoon drawing of the late president’s gravestone with the inscription: “Here lies Richard Nixon” – suggesting that Nixon’s mendacity would persist for all eternity.
Yet another high-profile Republican president whom Conrad openly detested was Ronald Reagan. The cartoonist’s antipathy for Reagan actually had its roots in the 1960s, when the latter began his tenure as governor of California. At that time, Conrad depicted the actor-turned-politician as a bumbling, intellectually deficient, and often mean-spirited chowderhead who understood nothing about the concerns of ordinary folk – a wholly unqualified dimwit who had stumbled into politics only as a fortuitous result of his celebrity. Indeed, this would become the left’s enduring view of Reagan for decades thereafter; Conrad was among those most responsible for launching and helping to popularize that image.
To be sure, Conrad’s hatred of Reagan was entirely understandable; Reagan was his ideological antithesis. When Reagan in 1973 proposed a ballot measure to restructure the tax system of California, Conrad put his cartoonist’s pencil to paper and depicted the governor as “Reagan Hood,” soaking the poor in order to give to the filthy rich. This simplistic, hackneyed paradigm remains, to this day, the left’s reflexive characterization of virtually every genuine conservative who comes down the pike.
Dutifully and tirelessly pushing that image, Conrad continued to portray Reagan as a heartless monster indifferent to the needs of the poor, a trigger-happy warmonger who preferred to spend billions of dollars on fancy weaponry rather than on food and shelter for society’s most vulnerable. After Reagan’s election to the Oval Office in 1980, Conrad wrongly condemned the president’s military buildup as a foolhardy endeavor whose funding was made possible only by draconian cuts to vital social programs. To drive his point home, Conrad asserted that Reagan had bequeathed a $2.5 trillion federal debt – presumably created by unnecessary military expenditures – to “our children, and to their children and to their children’s children.” To further illustrate Reagan’s alleged simplicity, Conrad in one notable cartoon depicted the president immersed and playing contentedly in a bathtub filled with toy warships bobbing in the water.
When it came to international conflicts involving the United States, Conrad generally could be counted upon to view America as the antagonist. The last “good war” the U.S. fought, said Conrad, was World War II. Not surprisingly, Conrad’s blame-America-first impulse extended also to our country’s closest ally in the Mideast, Israel, which he depicted as an egregious abuser of human rights. Casting the Jewish state as an agent of mass murder, in the early 1980s Conrad drew a Star of David formed by the corpses of Palestinian men, women and children. In a 2002 cartoon, Conrad showed an Israeli airplane flying directly toward a pair of high-rise mosques bearing an unmistakable resemblance to the Twin Towers that had once stood in lower Manhattan.
During his 43 years as an editorial cartoonist, Paul Conrad did his utmost to advance a leftist worldview among his exceptionally large audience. Now he is gone, but his corrosive legacy lives on.
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