Commentary

Snow: They’ll be home for Christmas – for good

December 15, 2012 

You’re no doubt familiar with the adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” It’s true.

A newspaper cartoon can be worth even more. A clever mind and a good sketch pen are two of journalism’s most powerful instruments.

Many years ago, former N&O cartoonist Duane Powell – one of the finest – was having coffee in the office snack bar with me.

As we talked, Duane kept doodling on a napkin. When we got up to leave, he handed me the napkin. To this day, I cringe at the thought of that devastating caricature of me, Snow nose and all.

An editorializing cartoon can stir in the reader’s mind contempt, compassion, anger, humor or sadness.

I’m thinking of The N&O cartoon picturing Gov. Mitt Romney, during his post-election visit to the White House, sitting in the president’s chair in the Oval Office. His hands are clutching the edges of the desk as if he will never let go!

The president is saying, “Mitt, let’s sit over here.”

I found the cartoon more sad than humorous. But I’m a softie when it comes to losers.

Visiting the Oval Office had to be a soul-searing moment for the man who had worked for years, raised and donated from his own sources millions of dollars in his quest for the presidency, only to be denied the prize.

And yet we expect him, and others who ran but lost, not to show bitterness. We want them to come up with smiles and cheerful words, when inside they’re feeling the opposite emotions at perhaps the lowest moment of their lives.

A few days ago, I reread President Jimmy Carter’s “Christmas in Plains.”

Like the author himself, the book is a mild-mannered little volume, plainspoken, and an easy read. In it, Carter touches upon the emotional impact of defeat.

Yet, he recalls a lighter moment during his last Christmas in office, which can be a sad time for any defeated politician.

Carter said the children seemingly all wanted the game “Trivial Pursuit,” which was not to be found in stores anywhere.

Finally, an aide managed to get two of the games from the manufacturer.

On that Christmas morning, the family members gathered around the game were excited by one of the questions: “Who was the first American president born in a hospital?”

The answer was “Jimmy Carter.”

The former president said the family was not as thrilled by the next question, “Who said ‘Sometimes when I look at my children, I wish I had remained a virgin?’ ”

The answer was “The President’s mother, Lillian Carter.”

Since the 2012 election, network panelists have probed the psyches of a number of defeated politicians, especially Congressmen, on how they feel upon leaving office.

All expressed regret, if not outright sadness, which is not surprising. As the World War I song said, “How ya’ gonna keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?”

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, asked on CNN what she would miss upon returning home to Texas, replied, “When I was a practicing lawyer, after I had served in the state legislature for several years, I was negotiating on whether a comma went this place or that place. And I thought ... I’d rather be doing something that I thought would have a big impact and make a difference. And it is why we’re here and it is what we’ll miss.”

Let’s not discount the importance of commas.

Surely you’ve heard heard about an English professor who, stressing the importance of punctuation wrote on the blackboard, “A woman without her man is nothing,” and asked her students to punctuate it correctly.

The men in the class wrote: “A woman, without her man, is nothing.” The women wrote: “A woman: without her, man is nothing!”

Seriously, as 2012 runs down, what better time to put aside our political animosities and, yes, the memories of one of the ugliest political campaigns in our history?

What better Christmas gift for the nation than a truce, even temporary, of nonpartisan peace and good will toward each other?

Snow: 919-836-5636 or asnow@newsobserver.com

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