Politics

Politics 2003Week of September 1

DEATH OF THE “COMICS COMMANDO”

Unlike Stan Lee — major domo of Marvel Comics and creator of Spiderman, Captain America, the Incredible Hulk, Daredevil, and most of the “Marvel Universe” — Dick Hafer never became a billionaire with his comic book creations. He wasn’t a celebrity cartoonist, like Al Hirschfeld or Herblock, at least not to the general public. But he nonetheless won admirers nationwide and had an impact on politics by writing, illustrating, and producing graphic novels on conservative causes and candidates. When he died on July 5 after a long illness, Hafer had truly lived up to the nickname by which he was known among conservatives: the “Comics Commando.”

He was born in Reading, Pa., in a private home. (Rarely sick in life, he would never be in a hospital until days before his death), Hafer was raised in the Maryland suburbs of Washington D.C. Following high school, he took the Famous Artists Course and soon won several artistic awards-among them, interestingly, the Herblock Cartoonist award, named for and presented by the liberal hate cartoonist of the Washington Post.

As a young man, Hafer for 15 years had several well-paying private sector jobs in art production and advertising. Among the Maryland businesses for which he worked were Murray Steaks and the firm of media maestro Doug Bailey, and then Reynolds Rental Tools and Equipment. But his great love was cartooning and, upon leaving Reynolds, he used his severance pay to build a home studio. He would never work for anyone other than himself for the rest of his life.

Hafer’s 70-plus comic books, which skewered liberal heroes and many leftist causes celebres, were widely distributed by conservatives at political functions, in campaigns, or sent to friends. Every Family Has One: Little Black Sheep, his cartoon life story of Ted Kennedy, was spread around the Bay State by Kennedy’s Republican opponent Ray Shamie in 1982. Magical Mike, his parody of 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis, found its way under the seat of every delegate at the Republican National Convention in New Orleans that year. Medical Monster of Capitol Hill, a parody of the Canadian health care system, was a favorite of opponents of increased state-run health care.

More than one million copies of Hafer’s powerful comic book Throw Away Society, a scathing look at legalized abortion, were distributed by pro-life groups. Another Hafer-illustrated booklet, this one about a little-known Republican U.S. House candidate in Texas in 1984 helped make the Politico much better known and propelled him to Congress in his first-ever campaign in 1984-the recipient of Hafer’s help was Dick Armey, who would go on to be House majority leader and a national conservative hero.

As son Carleton Hafer recalled to me, “Dad never advertised or solicited business. Through word of mouth alone, he was kept busy for most of the last 25 years of his life.” Like his many works, Dick Hafer himself was an American original and one who will be sorely missed by the contemporary conservative movement. He was 65.

WILL SCOTT BID BYE-BYE TO BAYH?

Marvin Scott began to raise eyebrows among fellow Hoosier Republicans recently when the lone candidate seeking their party’s nomination to oppose Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh next year was one of the featured speakers at the Floyd County (Ind.) Lincoln Day Dinner. Although the two GOP gubernatorial aspirants, former Rep. (1994-2000) David McIntosh and former Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels, were warmly received and delivered highly praised speeches, Scott drew a prolonged standing ovation with a powerful address about why minorities should be Republicans. An unabashed conservative, Butler University Prof. Scott makes no bones about launching spirited conservative attacks on Bayh (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 12%): Scott contrasted his support of tax cuts with the incumbent’s opposition to the Bush tax cuts, his pro-life stand with Bayh’s pro-abortion position, and his passionate belief that “decisions are best made close to home” with Bayh’s record of supporting increased power in Washington. Scott supporters say this difference is underscored by the fact that Bayh moved his entire family to Washington even though Indiana is just a two-hour flight away.

Scott’s conservative message and magnetic speaking style appear to be making inroads against the seemingly unbeatable Bayh, a former two-term governor and son of former Democratic Sen. (1962-80) Birch E. Bayh. The GOP hopeful, who lost two races for the seat of Indianapolis-area Democratic Rep. Julia Carson, has just reported raising $1 million for his Senate bid.

There’s another factor that makes Scott’s challenge to Bayh intriguing: The GOP hopeful is black.

At a time when Democrats regularly make the case that the Republican Party is hostile to minorities, the very candidacy of Scott-who has taught at various levels and in locations ranging from Boston to Africa-is becoming a news story in Indiana and beyond. Indeed, the Scott camp reports that substantial out-of-state donations have come in, in part because of the attraction of the candidate’s background and the widespread appeal of electing a conservative Republican senator who happens to be black. All signs are that Scott will be the sole GOP contender for the standard against Bayh.

But Scott rarely brings up race save to argue that minorities are as welcome in his party as they are among Democrats, if not more so. As campaign manager Todd Tolson put it, “Taxes and the economy are what people are worried about here. When business is so hurt by regulations and taxes that 31,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in the last five years and our junior senator votes against tax cut proposals, something is wrong. That is one of the major themes of Dr. Scott’s campaign.”

SHORT TAKES

Although it was overshadowed by the gubernatorial recall election looming October 7, one nonetheless significant part of the California Republican Assembly convention in Burbank, Calif. (see “Politics 2003” last week) was the CRA’s hosting of a meeting of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies. Like the 69-year-old CRA, the NFRA represents conservative Republican volunteers through active organizations in 23 states. Their second national president, businessman and longtime conservative activist Paul Haughton of Atlanta, Ga., stepped down and fellow conservative Richard Engle of Bethany, Okla., took his place. A former Bethany city councilman, the 41-year-old small businessman/publisher was a conservative point man on the Rules Committee at the 2000 Republican National Convention. . .

Also in Oklahoma: State Republican Chairman Gary Jones was recently elected to a full term by Sooner State GOPers. A former 4th Congressional District GOP chairman and Comanche County commissioner, strong conservative Jones first won the party helm last year when then-Chairman Chad Alexander, formerly top aide to former Rep. (1994-2002) J.C. Watts (R.-Okla.), resigned. . .

Cobey’s Heir: To no one’s surprise, Republican National Committeeman Farrell Blount was elected state chairman by North Carolina Republicans. Blount’s election became unanimous when his lone opponent David Lewis dropped out of the race before the election by the party’s state committee. Blount succeeds fellow Jesse Helms Republican Bill Cobey, who resigned as chairman last month to seek the Republican nomination for governor next year. Cobey also picked up a rare pre-primary endorsement from former Sen. Helms, still the most revered Republican in the Tarheel State.


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