WWII award-winning cartoonist Bill Mauldin did not age well. This collection of his political cartoons spans the years from 1978 to 1985. The toons are artistically well done and use a wide range of visual metaphors. Mauldin adds a bit of text to most pages, providing a little historical context to his targets. But I have two complaints: some of his visuals don't make sense, and (perhaps not unrelatedly) neither does his political viewpoint.
Mauldin dislikes women's lib, unions and Jimmy Carter. He idolizes Ronald Reagan, at least until deficits started to grow. Mauldin is anti-Israel, though perhaps anti-Menachem Begin is closer. He is anti-Ayatollah Khomeini, but loses points by implying that Iranians had no grievances against the US (how about using the CIA to topple their democratically elected government, for starters?). Surprisingly, Mauldin shows himself to be a libertarian on some issues. Several of his pieces lampoon the government's equation of marijuana with cocaine and heroin. This is positively progressive compared to most of his other material,
Mauldin's greatest sin is artistic: presenting images that are hard to decipher, regardless of his politics. What does it means when a coffee pot labeled "Reaganomics" is being heated by a wood fire fed by crutches, dentures and prostheses? How about a be-robed Arab holding a huge gas nozzle perplexed by an American car's tiny gas intake receptacle? And what to make of an angry, bald-pated magnate fuming at his TV and saying, "I want to see the roads out of Washington choked with refugees"?
At other times, Mauldin hits home. A shot of Ayatollah Khomeini offering a "last lollipop" to a 9-year-old about to face a firing squad is both relevant, clear and right-headed. A man is shown crawling into an endless oil pipeline at the end of which is a sun labeled "Solar Energy." The caption, which reads "The light at the end of the tunnel" puts the artist on the right side of some environmental issues.
But alas, much of Mauldin's work is what you would expect to see in a small-town newspaper in a conservative rural burg -- good-hearted, but ultimately uninformed, lacking nuance and often plain wrong. It's clear, however, that the opinions are Mauldin's and not that of some propaganda team trying to sway public opinion with misinformation. For this, regardless of his shortcomings, we should all be grateful. And nostalgic.