Cocktail Chatter

Presidential Beards, Occupy Riverdale, and the Fading Glory of Editorial Cartoons

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

Matt Wuerker Inequality Politico cartoon.
“Those kitchen tables Americans sit around”, one of Matt Wuerker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoons

Matt Wuerker/Politico.

Editorial Cartoons Are Stale, Simplistic, and Just Not Funny: The Pulitzer committee should honor slide shows, infographics, and listicles instead,” by Farhad Manjoo. “Single-panel editorial cartoons are an increasingly timeworn form,” complains Manjoo. He points to inspired examples of graphs, memes, and other visualizations that he feels are more deserving of Pulitzer Prizes in our digital century.

The Audacity of Rope-a-Dope: Mitt Romney may not be the most popular politician with the Republican Party’s conservative base, but Team Romney knows how to throw them a bone,” by David Weigel. When Obama adviser David Axelrod made the millionth joke about Mitt’s dog-on-the-roof debacle, his GOP counterpart, Eric Fehrnstrom, hit back with a tweet about Obama’s account of eating dog meat in his memoir.  Unlike the gentile John McCain campaign, says Weigel, Romney’s team is not afraid to throw a few punches at the incumbent.

The Bubble Wars: Both Obama and Romney are trying to paint the other candidate as out of touch with real Americans,” by John Dickerson. The two leading presidential candidates have eerily similar strategies: They want Americans to think their opponent is a snooty elitist. And while polls reveal that Obama is perceived as more empathetic than Romney, the GOP front-runner may be closing the gap.

The Book Club: Bad Religion,” between William Saletan and Ross Douthat. In a 10-part back-and-forth, Slate’s William Saletan spars with Ross Douthat, author of the new book Bad Religion, over homosexuality, evolution, contraception, and other flashpoint issues in the church-and-state debate.

 “Slaves to the Child: A review of Elisabeth Badinter’s The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women,” by Katie Roiphe. In reviewing The Conflict, by French feminist Elisabeth Badinter, Roiphe challenges us to throw off the shackles of our “child-centric culture” and take possession of our own lives without using kids as our excuse to ignore the demands that come with such ownership.

Let’s Ignore North Korea: Pyongyang’s threats and bluster are a cry for attention. Don’t give it to them,” by Fred Kaplan. Kim Jong-un’s histrionics about military might are just a show: North Korea poses far less of a threat to the United States than the Fearless Leader wants us to think. “Let loose a head-spinning statistic now and then, on how much air, sea, and ground power we could amass on the Korean peninsula while barely lifting a finger,” Kaplan advises the White House. But above all, “don’t get bent out of shape.” 

Lincoln Had One. So Did Uncle Sam: Why don’t politicians today grow beards?” by Justin Peters. Beards were symbols of power for much of the pre-modern era, and American presidents such as Lincoln, Grant, and Van Buren sported enviable facial hair. But today a beard “makes it seem like a politician is either emerging from or embarking on a three-day Smirnoff bender,” Peters says.

Facebook Isn’t Making Us Lonely: And Americans aren’t all that lonely, either. Refuting the new Atlantic cover story,” by Eric Klinenberg. In taking on a recent article blaming Facebook for increased loneliness, Klinenberg argues, “Articles about American alienation may well feel true to those who long for simpler, happier times, but they’re built on fables and fantasies.”

Big Bird: Are New York’s pigeons getting fatter? An investigation into animal obesity,” by David Merritt Johns. As Americans become more obese, are the animals that eat our garbage also getting fatter? The answer is not as simple as it seems.Johns weighs in on whether we’re in an era of the obese animal and tries to get to the big, fat bottom of whether pigeons really are plumper.

Occupy Riverdale: Gay marriage, Obama, and the Occupy movement come to Archie’s wholesome hometown,” by Ruth Graham. In the comic-book town of Riverdale, Graham finds that wholesomeness and progressive values aren’t in conflict but instead go down as easily as a malted milkshake from Archie’s favorite hangout.