Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Interview With Michael Ramirez

My interview with Michael Ramirez (seated) 

When I wrote briefly for a conservative newspaper at UC Irvine, the now defunct Irvine Review, I contacted political cartoonist Michael Ramirez. Not only was he nationally-renowned conservative, but also a UC Irvine alumnus.

Because of the direction of the newspaper, I ending up quitting, and I lost contact with Ramirez after that.

Ten years later, I reconnected with Ramirez through Facebook. He had been following my writings for a long time, and I was glad to make up for lost time with him.

Finally, on September 29, I got to meet him face to face, to see the work that he does and how he gets his cartoons out to the world. Taking time out of his busy schedule (he edits and writes as well as draws for the Investor's Business Daily), Michael greeted me warmly at his South Orange County home.

Right away, he shared his appreciation for my work. I could not help but gush, so glad was I to meet the political cartoonist who had enraged college students running for office, now intimidating liberal politicians (and holding the conservative politicians accountable).

I asked him about how he got started in the political cartoon business.

"This wasn't my first career. I wanted to be a cardio-vascular surgeon."

The rest of his siblings went into medicine, and he was following the same pathway.

While studying pre-med at UC Irvine, Ramirez also studied art and history:

"Medical schools wanted students who were well-rounded."

He was even writing for the New University newspaper, reporting on concerts. Then he drew a cartoon of the university college council candidates.

File:UC Irvine, Science Library.JPG
Science Library: UC Irvine
"I made fun of them because none of them stood for anything."

The candidates, and the campus in general, reacted immediately, and with intense outrage.

"It was then that I learned the power of the political cartoon. I never expected the outrage and protests which followed."

Switching from medicine, Ramirez focused on drawing political cartoons. He submitted his work to local  as well as national papers. At least three publications in the Orange County region were posting his cartoons. He then took a job in Tennessee with the Memphis Commercial Appeal, a part of Copley New Services, where his cartoons enjoyed national syndication, including USA Today.

About the tone of his reporting, and the sources of his parodying, Ramirez made clear that he is an equal opportunity offender.

"I am a registered Republican, but I am independent when I put my journalism hat on."

Early on, we discussed the liberal crises in California, including the water issue, the public sector unions, and the welfare state.
"Conservatives have to gain a foothold in three main pillars of society: education, popular culture and the media.
Regarding the third, Ramirez has  made enormous inroads (of course), mentioning also the work that I was doing.

He also talked about the missed opportunities that the California Republican Party needed to recoup with the Hispanic community in California, especially since they are culturally conservative a number of issues.

Returning to the influence of the public sector unions in California, and to CA GOP Chairman Jim Brulte, I asked Ramirez " What do you think of the new chairman?
Ramirez was honest without being caustic:

"He is managing as best as he can. He is not doing a good job with the structure of the party. Not recruiting enough new people to run."

Like me,  Ramirez was offended that Brulte took union money:

"It's a foundational principle."

About the amnesty debate which has reemerged among the GOP, Ramirez actually senses an opportunity: "Many Latinos oppose amnesty."

I asked him about his favorite US Senators:

"Ted Cruz. The man is brilliant"

Then he mentioned Marco Rubio, and I was surprised, because he voted for the amnesty bill in 2013.
Ramirez responded that he believes Rubio has learned his lesson, how bad that legislation really was.

"At the latest Koch Conference, Rubio had reformed his views."

Then I asked him about US Senator Rand Paul.

"My fear with him is his extreme libertarian isolationist positions. This 'we are an island' foreign policy does not work. There are too many crises in the world to ignore. ISIS is one of them."

I then asked him about the House Conference. Does anybody stand out of him there?

"There aren't that many that I talk to. There isn't enough vocal opposition form them. Today, we have the most unlawful administration in US History."

I asked about Speaker John Boehner:

"He is not cutting it. They have a superficial knowledge of governance. US Senator Robert Byrd knew the process back and forth. In the GOP, no one is like that."

What about newly installed majority leader Kevin McCarthy?

"I like Kevin. I hope that he stands on principles instead of satisfying the Chamber of Commerce."

I mentioned Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa:

"You need a voice like his in Washington. I just wish the due process was smarted, better coordinated, with better questions."

Conservative critics have shared this concern. Chairman Issa seems to be working alone rather than with a cohort of his Republican colleagues.

The lack of unity among the Washington DC Republican representatives was a recurrent them in my interview with Ramirez.

I then admitted that one of my key interests in meeting Ramirez personally was that I wanted to see his process for brainstorming then submitting his cartoons.

He gave me a tour of his office, where he is working on another collection of his cartoons: Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Obamacare - An illustrated Guide to Impeachment.

I saw a plain poster with writer in big black marker ink: "Columbia Rescind Ramirez Pulitzer"

"Why did you keep that?" I asked him.

"I was protesting myself," Ramirez answered.


He then explained that on the day he was going to receive the Pulitzer Prize (he's won two), protests lined up outside Columbia University.

"I found out that the protesters had no idea what I looked like, so just for fun a friend of mine and I joined the crowds and started protesting me."

Ramirez never lets up on the lunacy of the Left, and takes any opportunity to poke fun, whether in word or deed.

Briefly, I asked him about why he left the LA Times (which was the last time I had contacted him).

Investor's Business Daily Logo
(See Ramirez' cartoons here)
The official reason, he told me, was that the paper was cutting costs, but Ramirez acknowledged that he did not get along with the Opinion Editor.

His new assignment, as Senior Editor for Investor's Business Daily, he has a better deal and works with more like-minded, well-informed staff than at the LA Times.

From his office, Ramirez then showed me his drawing studio. Impressive. He showed me some of the rough drafts from his latest cartoon. I took time to look around the studio, including two bronze statues he sculpted a bust of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan in a cowboy-showdown pose.

"Those statues were part of an art collection which I held on display."

Back in his office, I asked him about the 2016 Presidential election.

"Republicans will have a deep bench", Ramirez believes. He hopes to a see a governor run and win the nomination. "Governors understand the process of leadership", he explained. He mentioned Indiana Governor Mike Pence (who had briefly flirted with a Presidential run in 2008 as a Congressman). Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker would be a strong contender, he agreed, if he wins his reelection this year.

He also likes US Senator Cruz as a potential contender, but Ramirez offered that the Tea Party backed US Senator didn't stand much of a chance: "The Left-wing media has already begun to caricature him into something that he is not. Senator Cruz may be smart enough to overcome it, but the media has a political agenda and a powerful voice which has been proven to be very influential on an uninformed public.  But he is a brilliant man."

Because he had another speaking engagement to prepare for (his third visit to Texas), Ramirez and I had to cut the interview short, but our one hour together gave me deeper insight not just to his views and his means for sharing them, but the whole creative process for his cartoons, from start to finish.

To meet with and see Ramirez work in person,  was something I had looked forward to for a long time. Getting his thoughts on the current political problems facing the country, including conservative responses to liberal infiltration in key public institutions, was interesting as well as insightful.

1 comment:

  1. Investors Business Daily editor and cartoonist Michael Ramirez: “Conservatives have to gain a foothold in three main pillars of society: education, popular culture and the media.”

    I like IBD and I enjoy Ramirez's cartoons but I take exception to his comment. The three main pillars of society are: First the Family as Ordained by GOD, Second the Church as Ordained by GOD and the government as Ordained by GOD but set up and organized by men. Everything else is secondary. This is the problem our country faces today. The first pillar should be the strongest and it is failing. The second pillar has also been weakened because part of it's foundation is based upon the first and GODs Word which is rejected by many churches today. The third pillar is now bearing more weight than it was ever ordained for, and it is failing.

    To build your pillars of society upon the ones mentioned by Ramirez is a fools errand.