“When we first saw the image proposed by Brian Stauffer, Trump blinding himself to the danger of a global threat, there was a minute of hesitation: Trump on the cover yet again?” Francoise Mouly, art editor of the New Yorker, says of the illustration, titled “Under Control.” “But Stauffer’s image was too apt to ignore.” Mouly adds that it gets across the president’s “willful ignorance of facts and his eagerness to unleash a torrent of empty rants and tweets.”
Stauffer says that early in the Trump presidency, he was exhausted trying to keep pace with the president’s bending of presidential norms, but “at some point, my mind shifted towards visual solutions that used the president’s own actions to show the folly and failings.”
“I didn’t want to make hyperbolic images that fueled a general rage,” the artist continues. “I wanted to make a statement on the obvious ridiculousness that is forced on the American public daily as if it were normal and valid. It is not — and this was my way of saying so.”
(Disclosure: Stauffer created an illustration last year for The Washington Post in remembrance of slain Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.)
Meanwhile, on Tuesday morning, Davies drew a “simple little rough sketch” during the morning editorial-board meeting at Newsday. He then spent the day crafting more subtly complex ideas, yet by deadline, he says, “the mask over the eyes won the day.”
Davies thinks his cartoon “captures the foreboding feeling of a White House that is in denial about being unprepared and in over its head.”
“Early on, when I was first drawing Trump, I used to draw his eyes,” the left-leaning cartoonist says, adding: “Over time, I started dispensing with them, swooping his hair down to obscure them. I feel that best captures his nihilistic, visionless political philosophy.
“In the case of this particular cartoon,” he continues, “adding an additional layer of visionlessness was merely a natural progression.”
Davies contrasts Trump’s response to that of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to The Post’s Fact Checker, Trump provided mixed, sometimes inaccurate messages when trying to reassure Americans about the coronavirus during a news conference Wednesday, with the White House at times contradicting information from the CDC.
This week’s cartoons aren’t the first to use a mask to satirize official response to the coronavirus. In early February, Hong Kong-based artist Eric Chow posted on social media his illustration of WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus being blinded in his praise of China’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
Other artists have rendered Trump as metaphorically blind during his administration. The most controversial, published last year in the international edition of the New York Times, depicted Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a guide dog leading a sightless Trump. The cartoon was widely lambasted as anti-Semitic and prompted the Times to apologize and cease printing traditional-format editorial cartoons.
Numerous editorial artists have depicted presidents as the three monkeys that each refuse to use one of their senses. In 2016, for example, Dayton Daily News cartoonist Mike Peters drew three Trumps with the caption: “See no blind trust. Speak no blind trust. Hear no blind trust.”