Section One

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February 27, 1962: “Isn’t There Some Way To Blow The Hatch On These Things?”
Washington Post

The image in this Herblock cartoon recalled the nearly disastrous ocean landing of astronaut Gus Grissom in Liberty Bell 7 in 1961. The hatch prematurely blew off the capsule, allowing seawater to flow in and sink it before the recovery helicopter could retrieve it. President Kennedy’s legislation seemed to be sinking just as fast. Five days before this cartoon appeared, the House of Representatives had killed JFK’s plan to create a Department of Urban Affairs and Housing. Following that defeat, Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield told the Associated Press that the odds were against congressional enactment of Kennedy’s programs of medical care for the aged, elementary education aid, and antirecession programs.

Herblock’s cartoon not uncharacteristically (see Herblock’s “Nuclear Freeze” cartoon in this exhibition) flips the Grissom sequence of events and has congressional “committee bottlenecks” sinking the capsule and JFK hoping to blow the hatch before the capsule sinks.