During this election season, editorial cartoons about the presidential race have been the most popular feature at newsday.com/opinion. But when it comes to one person and one cartoonist, there is no better matchup than Donald Trump and Garry Trudeau. Here is an excerpt of Trudeau’s preface to his book “Yuge! 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump.”
His message, conveyed through the tabloids, boiled down to this: Get off my cloud, loser. Which is not, of course, how satire works. The target, having set himself up, doesn’t get a say over the incoming. Besides, Donald Trump had already become the gold standard for big, honking hubris, and to ignore him would have been comedy malpractice. In New York City, he practically owned the ’80s, rocketing to the top . . . knocking off big-league rivals like Ed Koch, artist Julian Schnabel and Studio 54’s Steve Rubell. To those of us in the ridicule industry, the man Spy magazine dubbed “a short-fingered vulgarian” was a gift beyond imagining, and we made him a permanent part of our business plans.
The earliest strips (mocking Trump’s first presidential trial balloon) began in the fall of 1987. “People tell me I should be flattered,” he told Newsweek. But as there was nothing remotely flattering about the portrayal, he soon became confused, then irritated — all the more as I was drawing him in a way that suggested I was unaware of how good-looking he was. By the end of the week, it was game on: Trump had someone new to wail on, and I had a new recurring character, one whose real-life counterpart could be counted on to react in real time.
I was one lucky tar baby, and remained so for years. Of course, I’ve had plenty of company. Google “Trump” and “third-rate,” and you’ll come across the names of most of the country’s first-rate comedians. And no matter how many wise guys wanted a piece of him, there was always more than enough of the big fellah to go around — an embarrassment of follies . . .
But the best was yet to come. As Trump bore down on his 70th year, he needed a new neighborhood to ruin, so after 30 years of lusting after a certain teardown at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he made good on his threat and actually ran for president. Tan, rested and ready? Not so much. More like orange, hyperactive, and breathtakingly unprepared. When his physician Harold Bornstein declared that Trump would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency,” Trump publicly thanked Jacob Bornstein, his doctor’s father, who’d been dead since 2010.
You can’t make this stuff up, so why try? Some people feel that Trump is beyond satire, but we professionals know he is satire, pure and uncut, free for all to use and enjoy, and for that we are not ungrateful. For our country, though, we can only weep.