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The Power of Political Cartoons

Ann Telnaes started in print and is a pioneer in animated editorial cartoons; she does three a week for Her cartoons use the voices of the people they're skewering, and the audio drives her cartooning. "We're supposed to criticize people in power," she said. She, too, is a liberal, but sees "a lot of young ones coming up who are right or moderate."

Scott Stantis of the Birmingham News is conservative and libertarian; he draws daily political cartoons as well as the comic strip "Prickly City," which runs in The Post. "For me, being a conservative-libertarian makes the most sense for the life of an artist. Change needs to come from artists and writers. Not the state."

Most complainers thought that the Oliphant cartoon appeared in print. It didn't. I showed it to several Post editors. While it was clever in some ways, most editors -- including me -- would not have run it. The Post has a policy against defaming or perpetuating racial, religious or ethnic stereotypes. That was why The Post did not run the Danish cartoons about the prophet Muhammad.

Oliphant wasn't surprised that it didn't run in print. "Many publications are too timid" to run some of his work, he said, but "the Web is giving us more of a solid venue."

Hiatt and his deputy, Jackson Diehl, decide what cartoons are run in Saturday's Drawing Board on the op-ed page.

The online world is different. Syndicated cartoons are not chosen at; they are posted through an automatic feed, said the Web site's executive editor, Jim Brady. "I have always opted for the approach that we should not limit the cartoonist's freedom of speech. We prefer to present the cartoon and allow the reader the choice to read or to express their own freedom of speech if they're bothered or offended by it."

One cartoon aside, I deeply appreciate editorial cartoonists; they are powerful molders of opinion -- with either a laugh or a sock in the gut.

Deborah Howell can be reached at 202-334-7582 or

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