Post-Debate Dumbdown

Joel Pett is the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist of the Lexington Herald-Leader. His work also appears in USA Today. E-mail:

After months of vicious, degrading, unfair, unenlightening attack ads and political cheap shots, we finally got the presidential debates. The candidates did their best to include their shopworn talking points (by my count, President Bush mentioned John Kerry’s tax votes 98 times and the Liberal Senator from Massachusetts couldn’t wait to rush into the Iraq war fray). But they’re at least forced to speak in complete sentences, paragraphs even, on a variety of issues -- such as protecting Pell Grant recipients from being drafted into the war on cargo containers to defend Dick Cheney’s lesbian daughter’s right to a safe and legal assault weapon.

So when voters finally get the unabridged version, how do cartoonists react? Well, we translate the debates back to vicious, degrading, unfair, unenlightening cheap-shot attacks.

After about my 20th drawing deploring attack ads, it occurred to me that those spots are the products of minds exactly like mine! They’re essentially cartoons: quick, biased, inherently unfair exaggerations, executed to make a point. Only their creators probably get paid a lot more, and have plenty of time off after the election.

The attack-ad game ... hmm ... I’ll get my resume in order.