Cartoonist skewered presidents for 50 years

For more than half a century, Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Paul Conrad poked fun at politicians, taking on presidents from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush.

This undated file photo provided by the Huntington Library/Independent Television Service shows cartoonist Paul Conrad at his drawing board.

This undated file photo provided by the Huntington Library/Independent Television Service shows cartoonist Paul Conrad at his drawing board.

LOS ANGELES — For more than half a century, Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Paul Conrad poked fun at politicians, taking on presidents from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush.

Conrad, who died Saturday at age 86, won the coveted prize three times for his efforts but he also made Richard Nixon’s enemies list.

He died at his home in the Los Angeles suburb of Rancho Palos Verdes surrounded by his family, his son David Conrad said. The death was from natural causes, David Conrad said, but he did not offer specifics.

Conrad worked in the heyday of political cartoonists, and he was among the elite. His three decades at the Los Angeles Times helped the newspaper raise its national profile.

His total of three Pulitzers is matched by just two other cartoonists in the Post-Second World Ward-era.

He was fierce in his liberalism and expressed it with a stark, powerful visual style. Southern California political junkies for decades would start their day either outraged or delighted at a Conrad drawing.

Conrad’s favourite target was Nixon. At the time of the president’s resignation, Conrad drew Nixon’s helicopter leaving the White House with the caption: “One flew over the cuckoo’s nest.”

“He always said he was most proud of being on Nixon’s enemies list,” David Conrad said.

In a 2006 interview, Conrad compared his favourite target to then-president George W. Bush.

“I felt two ways about Nixon. First, how did an idiot like that become president,” said Conrad, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native.

“And, secondly, how soon can we get rid of him. Almost the same thing applies to Bush.”

One of Conrad’s final images showed Bush as Sisyphus, rolling a huge boulder labeled “Iraq” up a hill.

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