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St. Pete Times to publish Doonesbury strip Wednesday featuring Obama win

31

October

Some newspaper editors may be distressed over Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau’s decisionDoonesbury_sonofagun_2 to pen several strips for next week depicting Democrat Barack Obama winning the election.

But for the legendary, liberal cartoonist, banking on an Obama win a week before the vote had zero downside.

“I never considered NOT writing about the election, but to avoid lameness, I had to predicate it on an outcome,” wrote the usually comment-averse Trudeau in an e-mail sent exclusively to the St. Petersburg Times.

“The way I look at it is this: If Obama wins, I'm in the flow and commenting on a genuine phenomenon,” he added. “If I'm wrong, there'll be such a global uproar that a goofy call in a comic strip isn't going to be much noticed.”

But Trudeau may be overly modest. Already, the Chicago Tribune has decided to take the Nov. 5 strip off its regular comics pages, which will be printed before the results of Tuesday’s election are known (it could run on another page with a later deadline). Other newspapers, of the more than 1,500 that publish Doonesbury, have asked Universal Press Syndicate for a substitute strip.

Some newspapers’ concern: if McCain wins, they are stuck with at least four cartoons that read like an ongoing “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline -– celebrating a victory that didn’t happen.

“It’s a fictional world based on the real world . . . I think what happens there matters,” said Tim Bannon, editor of the Chicago Tribune’s Live!, its daily features section. “If Obama is elected president in (Doonesbury’s) world, will he stay president for the next four years?”

Garrytrudeau_2 Possibly, according to Trudeau, who called the notion of keeping Obama president in Doonesbury-land after a real-life McCain victory “a great idea.”

In his Nov. 5 strip, Trudeau shows American troops overseas cheering an Obama win, with a white soldier telling two black soldiers “We did it! . . . He’s half white, you know.”

At the St. Petersburg Times, features editor Mike Wilson said the newspaper will run Trudeau’s strips as he penned them.

“If he's right, the people who like him still like him, and the people who hate him still hate him,” Wilson wrote in an e-mail. “If he's wrong, everybody gets a "Dewey Defeats Truman" keepsake, and the people who hate him are happier than ever. It's a no-lose situation.”

Here are Trudeau’s responses to questions from the St. Petersburg Times, e-mailed as the cartoonist works to meet deadlines for next week’s strips.
1) What inspired you to write this strip, knowing that there was a chance you'd be wrong?

Fivethirtyeight.com, which is probably the most respected of the poll analysts, has the likelihood of a McCain victory at 3.7%. That was risk assessment I could live with. In any event, I never considered NOT writing about the election, but to avoid lameness, I had to predicate it on an outcome. The way I look at it is this: If Obama wins, I'm in the flow and commenting on a genuine phenomenon. If I'm wrong, there'll be such a global uproar that a goofy call in a comic strip isn't going to be much noticed.

2) If McCain wins, will you maintain an alternate universe where Obama is president?

What a great idea. Let's say yes.

3) What do you think of newspaper editors who are deciding not to run the strip in case you are wrong?

I think more of them. It means they're reading their own comics.

4) What would it say about American voters if you are wrong?

Obama would graciously say that the voters have spoken. Someone like Bill Maher would call them idiots. I'd split the difference and say the idiots have spoken.

5) Does this compare to 1984 when you predicted a Reagan victory? Were you relieved when you turned out to be right back then?

Relieved that Reagan was re-elected? You're not a regular reader, are you?

Seriously, a Mondale victory would not have been as good for business. Reagan was the gold standard for cartoonists.

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[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:52pm]

    

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