The controversial cartoon, titled “The MOUNTAINTOP,” pictures a climber standing on a small peak labeled “Presidency” and staring up at a huge volcanic mountain, marked “Expectations.” Smoke and lightning lend a vicious specter to the expectant volcano.
The offending aspect of the cartoon is the caricature of the climber who represents President Barack Obama. The ears and chin of the figure are exaggerated in size, and the end of his climber’s rope dangles at an angle that could be mistaken as a tail, creating a simian effect.
The cartoon was created by John Cole of Scranton, Pennsylvania’s The Times Tribune and picked up at SCC by syndication. Because it is easy to miss the primate connection, the SCC editors confess that they did not see it. When I showed the cartoon to my newspaper staff, 15 of 17 of them missed it, too. One, an African-American, said the figure looked to him like a mouse.
Mouse. Monkey. Pirate. Santa Claus… The nature of the caricature is satire. Public figures have long been subject to this American tradition. Obama is in good company. Witness President Abraham Lincoln caricatured as a monkey.
As we all quake with the challenges of our times, let’s not be so oversensitive that we can’t bear criticism without inflicting injury. I think Obama can take the controversial sting of satire. If he couldn’t, he wouldn’t have made it to the chief executive seat.