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Thad Cochran was nearly impossible to draw. Not because he didn’t have distinctive features — his white hair, his eyebrows and even the way his chin was shaped made him pretty easy to caricature. It’s just that I never really got the opportunity to draw the man. While Senator Trent Lott was out front of the cameras, raising Cain (not McCain) and making deals, Thad was quietly operating under the radar sending federal money back to Mississippi. His office was also known for good customer service when it came to constituent services. (Bureaucracies normally aren’t efficient.) I started as a cartoonist in Mississippi in 1996. It wasn’t until 2005 that I remember drawing him (there may have been other cartoons before that — I have created 6,000 plus cartoons and can’t remember where my car keys are most days).
The 2005 cartoon was about this: Katrina had washed the Mississippi Gulf Coast away. Congress was starting to buck the relief bill. Thad used his power as appropriations chairman in the Senate to attach it to a military spending bill. I drew him in leather with spikes and a whip saying, “No more Mr. Nice Guy.”
Which is about as far from his personality as you can get.
I got a lot of practice drawing him in 2014. Chris McDaniel ran a spirited race against him and, if not for one of the weirdest coalitions in recent political history, Thad Cochran would have lost in the runoff. (It was one of the nastiest races I’ve covered, too).
But he didn’t lose. He won.
There are many reasons (and yes, some tried to claim there were “binders full of fraud,” — yet those binders were empty) but what stuck out to me were so many people across the board in the state supporting him because of what he had done for them. Thad Cochran was well-liked by white, black, Democrat and Republicans alike. Our state owes him a debt of gratitude (especially the Gulf Coast — I’ve always half-joked that you wouldn’t be able to flush your toilet if not for Thad getting the money to rebuild the infrastructure).
Earmarks are gone. So are politicians who reach across the aisle. I’ve already heard from a few cranks who blame Thad for all of our nation’s problems. (That’s B.S., by the way.) He is a product of a long-gone era. As we live in a world where politics is polarized and people are hateful towards the other side, I am a bit nostalgic. Or it might just be gas. It’s probably gas.
Was he perfect? No. Was he a darn good Senator and someone who cared about Mississippi and its people? Yes. Today, many are saying he was decent. In a time with no decency, that’s a high compliment. In Mississippi, we know our politicians by their first name. To many of us, he was just Thad.
I drew Thad one last time today. May he rest in peace.
To see the cartoon, click here.