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Herblock Looks at 1973: Fifty Years Ago in Editorial Cartoons, Part II

As Richard M. Nixon began his second term as president in 1973, negative reaction to the Vietnam War and testimony about Watergate eroded the support from his overwhelming election victory. As the Paris Peace Accords progressed but ultimately failed, Herblock expressed his horror at bombing Vietnamese civilians. Congress, which has the power to declare war under the Constitution, passed the War Powers Resolution of 1973 to limit the Nixon administration’s ability to escalate the war in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

Herblock addressed such Watergate-related issues as Nixon’s use of executive privilege to attempt to prevent the Senate’s Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities from examining the 1972 break-in in the Democratic National Party headquarters. While Herblock focused on politics, he drew many cartoons about the impact of inflation on consumers as well as the effects of the oil embargo imposed by the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC).

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.

September 29, 2023–March 23, 2024

“IT’S CALLED SEPARATION OF POWERS—WE SEPARATE YOU FROM YOUR POWERS”

Herblock humorously represented the Nixon administration as a thief, coming in the night to steal the constitutional powers of Congress to declare war, investigate the executive branch, and control the budget. Although Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Baines Johnson had wielded exceptional presidential power, Nixon faced a Congress controlled by the Democratic Party on the eve of a Senate investigation into the Watergate break-in. Believing that the Constitution granted him executive privilege, Nixon and his administration pushed back against Congress.

“It’s Called Separation of Powers—We Separate You from Your Powers,” 1973. Published in the Washington Post, April 15, 1973. Graphite, India ink, opaque white, and overlays over graphite and blue pencil underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (001.23.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-08202 A 1973 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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“I CAN REPORT TODAY THAT THERE HAVE BEEN MAJOR DEVELOPMENTS . . . ”

By showing the White House awash in a tidal wave and using a direct quote from President Nixon as a title, Herblock expressed his opinion that Nixon doomed his presidency when he promised to suspend any government employee indicted by a federal grand jury. Herblock wrote that, “[Nixon] made a series of statements and television appearances designed to turn back the rising tide of ‘Watergate’ problems.” This is the first in a series of cartoons Herblock drew on the theme of rising flood waters in the White House.

“I Can Report Today That There Have Been Major Developments. . . ”, 1973. Published in the Washington Post, April 18, 1973. Graphite, India ink, and opaque white over graphite and blue pencil underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (002.23.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-08204 A 1973 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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“FIRST THE BAD NEWS, THEN THE WORSE NEWS”

By featuring two grocery shoppers with a nearly empty cart, Herblock visually depicted the impact inflation had on American consumers. In a Herculean effort to control both domestic and import prices, the Nixon administration issued a freeze on prices. Although the price control system had been popular with consumers, it led to shortages of foods and goods. Under Phase IV of the Nixon administration’s program, prices surged.

“First the Bad News, Then the Worse News,” 1973. Published in the Washington Post, July 22, 1973. Graphite, India ink, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (003.23.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-08268 A 1973 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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“WE ALL HAVE OUR BURDENS TO BEAR”

Herblock used a shivering consumer to comment on the effect of oil shortages after the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) suspended shipments to the United States in October 1973. As consumer demand outstripped supply, selling petroleum products became increasingly profitable. At the same time, oil company executives testified before the Senate Watergate Committee about political donations made to the Committee for the Re-election of the President. Federal judges imposed misdemeanor fines on executives who complied with the re-election committee’s demands to donate to Nixon’s campaign.

“We All Have Our Burdens to Bear,” 1973. Published in the Washington Post, November 21, 1973. Graphite and India ink over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (004.23.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-08354 A 1973 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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“WHEN DO YOU PASS THE WORD TO HIM?”

During the oil embargo in late 1973, gas stations shuttered their facilities as supplies dwindled. Herblock pointed out that money spent on highways could be better spent on mass transit, which benefitted cities by reducing traffic congestion and air pollution. However, Congress stripped rail investment from the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1973, which it passed before the oil crisis. At the end of the year, Congress voted for mass transit funding, but anticipated that President Nixon intended to veto it.

“When Do You Pass the Word to Him?” 1973. Published in the Washington Post, December 26, 1973. graphite, India ink, opaque white, and overlays over graphite and blue pencil underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (005.23.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-08379 A 1973 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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PEACE WITH HORROR

Herblock expressed his opinion that the Paris Peace Accords between National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger and his Hanoi counterpart, Le Duc Tho, had failed to stop the horror that befell North Vietnam. By depicting a red cross, the international symbol for hospitals, Herblock may have been referring to the multiple attacks on the Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi during Operation Linebacker II in December 1972. Convinced that he could force North Vietnam back to peace negotiations through sustained bombing, President Nixon angered the world.

Peace With Horror, 1973. Published in the Washington Post, January 11, 1973. Graphite, India ink, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (006.23.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-08135 A 1973 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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SEEDLING

Published on the eve of the signing of the Paris Peace Accords on January 27, 1973, Herblock suggested that the olive branch in its protective enclosure amid rubble offered hope. However, peace turned out to be elusive; fighting continued.

Seedling, 1973. Published in the Washington Post, January 26, 1973. Graphite, India ink, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (007.23.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-08146 A 1973 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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EASTER EGGS

President Nixon announced the Paris Peace Accords using the words “peace with honor,” which Herblock used ironically in this cartoon about the resumption of bombing in Laos and Cambodia just before Easter Sunday 1973. The Nixon administration argued that North Vietnam had violated the cease fire by pushing into both countries, and that– in the name of stopping the spread of communism–it needed to act. Writing in the Washington Post, journalist Murrey Marder noted, “it is Nixon administration policy to bomb to achieve an effective cease-fire.”

Easter Eggs, 1973. Published in the Washington Post, April 17, 1973. Graphite, India ink, and opaque white over blue pencil underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (008.23.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-08203 A 1973 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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“IF WE WORK AT IT, WE CAN GET THEM USED UP BEFORE THE AUGUST 15 DEADLINE”

Under the Nixon administration, bombing in Southeast Asia increased to the point that it mobilized the American anti-war movement and Cambodian anti-American sentiment. In an attempt to right the balance of power, Congress passed the War Powers Resolution to reaffirm its authority to declare war and appropriate military funding. Congress also prohibited the use of federal funds for the war in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia after August 15, 1973. Herblock looked ahead and foresaw an intense bombing campaign, and imagined gleeful administration officials.

“If We Work at It, We Can Get Them Used Up Before the August 15 Deadline,” 1973. Published in the Washington Post, July 5, 1973 as “If We Step It Up, We Can Use Them All Before the August 15 Deadline.” Graphite, India ink, and opaque white over graphite and blue pencil underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (009.23.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-08257 A 1973 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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“I HEAR THE AMERICANS ARE SUFFERING A FUEL SHORTAGE”

As the United States government began bombing Viet Cong strongholds in South Vietnam, Herblock imagined a conversation about the OAPEC oil embargo to the United States between two villagers surrounded by downed airplanes, jeeps, barrels, and other detritus of war.

“I Hear the Americans Are Suffering a Fuel Shortage,” 1973. Published in the Washington Post, November 16, 1973. Graphite, India ink, and overlay over blue pencil underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (010.23.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-08351 A 1973 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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HERBLOCK’S PEN

Pen Used by Herbert L. Block (Herblock). Gift of Brian Noyes, 2010. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (011.00.00)
LC-DIG-ppmsca-67916.

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Herblock Looks at 1973: Fifty Years Ago in Editorial Cartoons, Part I

As Richard M. Nixon began his second term as president in 1973, he had support throughout the United States. Evidence mounted for his knowledge and participation in such 1972-reelection scandals as the break-in at the Democratic National Party headquarters in the Watergate hotel, dropping an International Telephone & Telegraph (ITT) investigation in exchange for a campaign donation, and accepting campaign contributions from milk producers. During the Senate’s Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities televised hearings, White House aides implicated the president in wrongdoing. Federal Grand Jury trials began and aides resigned. Nixon turned to radio and television to assert his innocence. However, his hegemony started to collapse with the knowledge that he had recorded private conversations held in the Oval Office.

Herblock also lifted his ink brush and pen to address issues of the 1973 influenza, inflation, minimum wage, gasoline, and pollution. When he believed the Nixon administration had inserted itself into issues to the detriment of the American people, Herblock relentlessly expressed his opinion.

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.

Exhibition dates: March 25, 2023–September 2023

“WHAT A WALLOP! IS THAT STUFF IMPORTED OR DOMESTIC?”

Reacting to the epidemic level of flu cases in January 1973, Herblock repurposed a cartoon drawing that he had published in reaction to a flu epidemic in 1968 in which he had used alcohol as a metaphor. Dubbed the “London Flu” by the press, the 1972–1973 outbreak was not as severe as the 1968 pandemic but still led to somewhere between 6,000 and 23,000 deaths from the flu and pneumonia.

“What a Wallop! Is That Stuff Imported or Domestic?” 1973. Published in the Washington Post, January 7, 1973. Graphite and ink brush with opaque white and blue pencil over graphite underdrawing with paste-on. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (001.22.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-08132 A 1973 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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“THINGS ARE PICKING UP”

By showing business people aloft in a hot air balloon having hooked a consumer who frowns at “living costs,” Herblock compared differing expectations between those who made goods and those who had to pay for them. Economists, in looking back, acknowledged that wholesale prices did not rise as much as consumer goods, leading to larger business profits. A combination of high international demand and bad weather led to skyrocketing food prices in January 1973.

“Things Are Picking Up,” 1973. Published in the Washington Post, January 10, 1973. Graphite and ink brush with opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (002.22.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-08134 A 1973 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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“WE’VE GOT TO HOLD THINGS DOWN”

Arguing that increasing the minimum wage from $1.60 to $2 was inflationary, President Nixon vetoed congressional legislation. Herblock contrasted a low-wage worker anchored to the floor and stretched by inflationary prices with the cocktail-drinking businessman standing next to the president. Given that inflation had driven up the cost of living 35% since the previous minimum wage increase in 1967, union leaders reacted, calling the veto, “a callous, cruel blow to the worst paid workers in America.” Under pressure of increasing inflation, Nixon acquiesced to the increase in 1974.

“We've Got to Hold Things Down,” 1973. Published in the Washington Post, September 9, 1973. Graphite and ink brush with opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (003.22.00)
LC-DIG-ppmsca-17210 A 1973 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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GAS STATION AND THREE LARGE AUTOMOBILE BILLBOARDS

Before the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) imposed an embargo on the United States on October 19, 1973, oil companies waged an internal war on independent gas stations. Independent stations had been purchasing excess gasoline not sold to branded stations. Producers imposed supply limitations to support their own brands of gasoline, which forced hundreds of independent stations, mostly in rural areas, to close. Herblock juxtaposed advertisements for large vehicles with the lack of available gasoline.

Gas Station and Three Large Automobile Billboards, 1973. Published in the Washington Post, June 7, 1973. Graphite and ink brush with opaque white over graphite and blue pencil underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (004.22.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-08238 A 1973 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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NIXON AND TWO MEN RIDING IN AUTOMOBILE

When the White House requested to further delay implementation of the Clean Air Act of 1970 controls on automobile pollutants, Herblock used the visual metaphor of President Nixon tossing a bag of garbage into the face of a hiker. The automobile industry wanted to delay installation of catalytic converters on tailpipes, which put it in direct conflict with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Nixon had created the EPA in 1970.

Nixon and Two Men Riding in Automobile”, 1973. Published in the Washington Post, December 4, 1973. Graphite and ink brush with opaque white over graphite and blue pencil underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (005.22.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-08363 A 1973 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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FIRM STAND ON CRIME

In 1973, Nixon addressed the nation seeking congressional legislation to restore the death penalty after the Supreme Court had ruled it “cruel and unusual punishment” in violation of the Constitution. Nixon also called for longer sentences, castigating “permissive judges.” At the same time, he invoked the privilege of “executive power” to prevent his counsel, John W. Dean III, from testifying during the Senate nomination hearing for FBI director L. Patrick Gray III. Herblock used the visual metaphor of a garbage can to express his opinion.

Firm Stand on Crime, 1973. Published in the Washington Post, March 15, 1973. Graphite and ink brush over blue pencil underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (006.22.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-08180 A 1973 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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LATE RETURNS

Republican Senator Lowell Weicker of Connecticut opened the televised Senate Watergate hearings on May 17, 1973, with the statement, “So the story to come has its significance not in the acts of men breaking, entering, and bugging the Watergate, but in the acts of men who almost stole America.” Herblock, too, compared the somber hearings with the celebratory victory six months earlier, using the term “election return” not as a vote tally but as a moment to consider the machinations affecting the electoral process.

Late Returns, 1973. Published in the Washington Post, May 18, 1973. India ink, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (007.22.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-08225 A 1973 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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ABOVE ANY OFFICE

On August 29, 1973, as Richard Nixon resisted handing over his Oval Office tapes, Judge John Sirica, Chief Judge of the United States District Court in Washington, DC, ordered their release to him for review before deciding whether to turn over to the grand jury. The Nixon administrative invoked “executive privilege” and a constitutional doctrine of separation of powers, but failed to persuade both Sirica—and upon appeal, the Supreme Court. Herblock approved of the judge’s decision, seeing as one of the cartoon’s proposed titles suggested, “government of laws.”

Above any Office, 1973. Published in the Washington Post, August 31, 1973. India ink and graphite over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (008.22.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-08297 A 1973 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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THE OVERLOADED SHREDDER

Using a plumber as an allusion to the break-in at the Democratic National Party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel the previous year, Herblock depicted the efforts to which the Nixon administration went—unsuccessfully—to hide corruption and scandal. As testimony to the Senate showed, the Nixon administration was complicit in a number of illegal reelection schemes and other actions that abused executive power and undermined the electoral process.

The Overloaded Shredder, 1973. Published in the Washington Post, August 8, 1973. Graphite, India ink, and opaque white over blue pencil underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (009.22.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-08280 A 1973 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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“I HEREBY GRANT YOU EXECUTIVE CLEMENCY”

As testimony to the Senate Committee increasingly implicated President Richard Nixon in the Watergate break-in, as well as other election scandals, the president resolutely denied involvement. In a television speech on August 15, 1973, he insisted that he had made no offers of executive clemency to those involved in the break-in, despite testimony to the contrary. Here, Herblock turned the tables on the president’s speech, having him facing a mirror and offering himself a pardon with the evidence of his illegal actions surrounding him.

“I Hereby Grant You Executive Clemency,” 1973. Published in the Washington Post, August 17, 1973. India ink, graphite, and opaque white over graphite and blue pencil underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (0010.22.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-08287 A 1973 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation

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HERBLOCK’S PEN

Pen used by Herbert L. Block (Herblock). Gift of Brian Noyes, 2010. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (011.00.00)

Pen Used by Herbert L. Block (Herblock). Gift of Brian Noyes, 2010. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (011.00.00)
LC-DIG-ppmsca-67916.

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Herblock Looks at: 1974 | 1973 | 1972| 1970 | 1969 | 1968 | 1967 | 1966 | 1965 | 1964 | 1963 | 1962 | 1961 | Communism