Clinton Observed

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In the fullness of time, when the flaming passions that surround President Clinton have faded into flickering embers, historians will be able to write objectively about the man and his administration. However, I and my fellow cartoonists—the four on these pages are Pat Oliphant, David Levine, Barry Blitt, and Robert Grossman—have no need to wait before handing down our verdict. We who have chronicled his Presidency for the past eight years speak as one when we state our opinion: Bill Clinton was just about perfect.

Not only did Clinton have a face easy to caricature—a supreme virtue from our point of view—and not only was he outstanding in practicing those hypocrisies we have come to expect from our Chief Executives, but he didsomething that no other President has accomplished: He got caught in the Oval Office with his pants down. With this feat he made political cartoonists (generally a morose and downbeat lot) grateful to be plying their trade at this juicy historical moment.

A word or two about the cartoonists and caricaturists here. All with the exception of Pat Oliphant appear in magazines rather than newspapers. Political cartoons in newspapers generally comment on late-breaking news and tend to be ephemeral. Satiric drawings in magazines, on the other hand, address the larger story and as a result have a longer shelf life. Moreover, a magazine caricaturist has a less brutal deadline, and that extra time can result in greater artistry. But Pat I Oliphant is an exception, able to produce drawings of superb draftsmanship in spite of a daily deadline. Pat came to America from his native Australia more than 35 years ago. He began at the Denver Post, was syndicated by the Los Angeles Times in 1965, and the following year drew a political cartoon that won a Pulitzer. He is now syndicated by Universal Press.

Barry Blitt had less of a journey. He arrived from Montreal in 1990 and quickly became a favorite caricaturist for half a dozen periodicals— The New Yorker, Vanity Fair , and Entertainment Weekly among them. Brooklyn-born David Levine is celebrated for his watercolors as well as his caricatures, which have been a staple of The New York Review of Books since 1967 and more recently The New Yorker as well. Robert Grossman and I have done caricatures for a variety of magazines. We appeared regularly in New York magazine during the sixties and seventies, more recently in The Atlantic Monthly and The Nation , and now sometimes find ourselves in the same issue of The New Yorker .

As the following drawings suggest, William Jefferson Clinton pushed us to the top of our game. When cometh such a one again?