Herblock Looks at: 1972 | 1970 | 1969 | 1968 | 1967 | 1966 | 1965 | 1964 | 1963 | 1962 | 1961 | Communism

Herblock Looks at 1972: Fifty Years Ago in Editorial Cartoons, Part II

Within days of the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., on June 17, 1972, President Richard Nixon (1913–1994) disavowed participation in the scandal. That November, he won a landslide victory over Democratic candidate George McGovern, garnering sixty percent of the popular vote.  As early as June 20, 1972, Herblock castigated President Nixon for his role in the Watergate break-in, and ultimately drew 140 cartoons focused on Watergate between the break-in and Nixon’s resignation on August 8, 1974. In 1973, Herblock shared a Pulitzer Prize with fellow Washington Post colleagues Ben Bradlee, Bob Woodward, and Carl Bernstein for their 1972 Watergate coverage.

Herblock also lifted his ink brush and pen to address issues of inflation, taxation, and the increase in violent crime that affected many people in the United States. An avowed independent, Herblock humorously addressed dysfunction in the Democratic Party as it attempted to find a candidate who could win against President Nixon. The cartoonist highlighted international issues, showing sympathy for Vietnamese refugees caught between the attacks from the North by the People’s Army of Vietnam and the resulting air bombings.

These ten cartoons—with new drawings introduced into the exhibition every six months—have been selected from the Library’s extensive Herbert L. Block Collection in the Prints and Photographs Division.

April 9, 2022–September 17, 2022

THE UNSCHEDULED WITHDRAWALS

Herblock reflected on the anguish and misery of refugees after North Vietnamese troops launched an Easter Offensive on South Vietnam in March 1972. By the end of April, the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN, the regular army of North Vietnam) had pushed far enough into South Vietnam to send more than 350,000 refugees, which included South Vietnamese troops, scrambling southwards toward Huế. Although the Easter Offensive ultimately ended in a military stalemate as the South fought back, the refugees’ dislocation was not resolved.

The Unscheduled Withdrawals, 1972. Published in the Washington Post, May 2, 1972. India ink, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (001.20.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-07958 A 1972 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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“WE WON'T LET ANYONE TORPEDO THE ANTI-INFLATION EFFORT”

Herblock figuratively took President Richard Nixon’s declaration against AFL-CIO President George Meany that he “would not be permitted ‘to torpedo and sink’ the battle against inflation.” Meany and several labor leaders had abandoned Nixon’s Pay Board, established to fight inflation, arguing it favored business. More to Meany’s point, wage freezes set by the Pay Board damaged the working class, who initiated strikes for higher wages to offset inflation. Nixon’s modest success in controlling inflation ended when oil prices increased in 1973, upsetting his economic controls.

“We Won't Let Anyone Torpedo the Anti-Inflation Effort,” 1972. Published in the Washington Post, March 24, 1972. India ink, graphite and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (002.20.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-07931 A 1972 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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"HOW ARE THINGS AT THE JIGSAW PUZZLE FACTORY?"

With President Richard Nixon guaranteed to receive the Republican Party nomination as presidential candidate in 1972, the elephant laughs at the Democratic Party donkey trying to patch together a leader capable of beating Nixon. At the beginning of April 1972, there were twenty-three Democrats vying for their party’s nomination. After George McGovern’s decisive win in Wisconsin on April 4, the candidate pool dwindled, although Edmund Muskie and George Wallace remained strong candidates. Ultimately, Richard Nixon resoundingly defeated George McGovern.

“How Are Things At The Jigsaw Puzzle Factory?” 1972. Published in the Washington Post, April 6, 1972. India ink and graphite over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (003.20.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-07940 A 1972 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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“SH! DON'T LAUGH TILL AFTER HE LEAVES”

Although Nixon signed the Tax Reform Act of 1969 with the intention of benefiting the poor and increasing taxes on the rich, Herblock shows a common citizen left nearly penniless after paying his income taxes. In seeking to stimulate the economy, the Nixon administration had reduced corporate income taxes. Reflecting on this, Herblock depicted bloated businesspersons, labeled “Subsidized Industries,” “Corporate Farms,” and “Freeloading Big Businesses,” who stand and wait to receive government handouts and favors and hold back their laughter at the little man.

“Sh! Don’t Laugh Till After He Leaves,” 1972. Published in the Washington Post, April 14, 1972. Graphite and India ink over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (004.20.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-07946 A 1972 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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“OUR STATISTICS SHOW THAT THINGS ARE BETTER THAN THEY WOULD BE IF THEY WERE WORSE THAN THEY ARE”

Herblock graphically portrayed a victim of violent crime learning from the Nixon administration that actual crime rates were down. In election years, crime statistics enter campaign discourse, with Republicans and Democrats promising improvements in law enforcement. The Nixon administration had declared a “war on crime” in 1970 and, along with the 91st Congress, introduced major crime legislation. Nevertheless, in 1972, violent crimes had dramatically increased, even while crimes against property and the overall crime rate had fallen.

“Our Statistics Show That Things Are Better Than They Would Be If They Were Worse Than They Are,” 1972. Published in the Washington Post, September 29, 1972. Graphite, India ink, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (005.20.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-08061 A 1972 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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“WHO WOULD THINK OF DOING SUCH A THING?”

Only three days after the June 17, 1972, arrest of five men at the Democratic National Committee Headquarters in the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., Herblock used the power of his ink brush and pencil to point a finger at President Richard Nixon, his re-election campaign manager John Mitchell, and Attorney General Richard Kleindienst. Herblock’s Washington Post colleagues, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, determined that one man whom police apprehended at the scene, James W. McCord, Jr., received a salary from the Republican Party.

“Who Would Think of Doing Such a Thing?” 1972. Published in the Washington Post, June 20, 1972. Graphite and ink over blue pencil and graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (006.20.00)
LC-DIG-ppmsca-20000 A 1972 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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“REMEMBER, WE DON'T TALK UNTIL WE GET A LAWYER”

Herblock used the White House barricade as a metaphor for the retreat and disavowal of participation in the Watergate break-in by President Nixon, his re-election campaign manager John Mitchell, and Attorney General Richard Kleindienst. As Kleindienst and Nixon quiver, Herblock portrays Mitchell as the leader barricading the door and giving orders. Herblock also selected newspaper headlines associated with Mitchell in his former role as attorney general and in his current role managing the Committee for the Re-election of the President.

“Remember, We Don't Talk Until We Get A Lawyer,” 1972. Published in the Washington Post, June 21, 1972. India ink, graphite, opaque white, and blue pencil over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (007.20.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-07994 A 1972 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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“COME BACK AFTER THE ELECTION—I'M KIND OF TIED UP RIGHT NOW”

Portraying the Committee for the Re-election of the President (CREEP) thrown into disarray by the Watergate scandal, Herblock personified the organization as a man entangled in tape attempting to slam the door against a man representing the United States Court. The Nixon administration demanded that hearings in a civil lawsuit on behalf of the Democratic National Committee resulting from Watergate break-in be delayed until after the November presidential election. Not long after he called the lawsuit a “political stunt,” John Mitchell resigned as Nixon’s campaign manager.

“Come Back After The Election—I'm Kind Of Tied Up Right Now,” 1972. Published in the Washington Post, July 19, 1972. Graphite and India ink over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (008.20.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-08013 A 1972 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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“THE SECRET NEGOTIATIONS ABROAD ARE NOTHING COMPARED TO THE ONES AT HOME”

After Bernard L. Barker, one of the five men arrested in the break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate Hotel, cashed a check made out to the Committee for the Re-election of the President (CREEP), the General Accountability Office launched an investigation. Herblock drew two people leaving the White House with funds, but the title of his cartoon compares the secrecy behind campaign fundraising with the secret negotiations in Paris between national security advisor Henry Kissinger and a delegation from North Vietnam.

“The Secret Negotiations Abroad Are Nothing Compared To the Ones at Home,” 1972. Published in the Washington Post, August 3, 1972. Graphite, India ink, blue pencil, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (009.20.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-08023 A 1972 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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“KEEP THE LID ON TILL AFTER THE ELECTION!”

By offering the visual metaphor of election campaign scandals escaping like steam popping a pot lid, Herblock showed the great lengths Attorney General Richard Kleindienst and President Richard Nixon went to thwart investigations into the Watergate break-in. Just days after Nixon was nominated by the Republican Party in Miami Beach, Florida, the U.S. Government Accountability Office announced that the president’s re-election committee had violated the Federal Election Campaign Act.

“Keep The Lid On Till After The Election!” 1972. Published in the Washington Post, August 29, 1972. India ink and graphite over blue pencil and graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (010.20.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-08039 A 1972 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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HERBLOCK’S PEN

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Herblock Looks at: 1970 | 1969 | 1968 | 1967 | 1966 | 1965 | 1964 | 1963 | 1962 | 1961 | Communism