Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, November 20, 2006
So it’s kind of old news now, but in the gubernatorial election here in Michigan earlier this month, local boy Dick DeVos was trounced by incumbent Jennifer Granholm. What made this semi-timely news for a comic last week was the final tally of just how much money Mr. DeVos personally spent on his campaign — somewhere in the neighborhood of $35 million. Now this really isn’t a big deal considering that this is done all the time in America (Ross Perot, Michael Bloomberg, Peter Coors, for example). And let’s face it, $35 million to a billionaire scion like Mr. DeVos might just be like a rounding error in a checking account to you and me.
But what made this comic-worthy for me was the fact that DeVos ran his campaign on the notion that a successful businessperson (which he is) would naturally make a successful governor (which I didn’t think was necessarily true). Still, okay, every candidate needs a message, a hook to get voters to listen. So in running as a businessperson, he essentially asked us to judge him on his business acumen. As it turns out, DeVos — especially in the final weeks of his campaign — abandoned any good business plan he might have had and was wildly trying to spend his way into a win. That’s called throwing money at problem, and I’ve seen it done enough to know that it’s not what a good businessperson does.
As I was considering ways to rip into Mr. DeVos two things popped to mind that made the comic complete: First, it would be published during Thanksgiving week, some humility was in order. And second, a story I heard the late, great editorial cartoonist Jeff MacNelly tell 20 years ago at the Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids:
“I was invited to the White House, and I was standing in the reception line waiting to be introduced to President Ford and King Hussein of Jordon. Now it happens that the week before this state dinner I had done a particularly nasty cartoon about the president. So when I got to the head of the line, President Ford turns to Hussein and says, ‘King, this guy’s a cartoonist and he just did a great cartoon of me last week. He did me as a gorilla hanging upside down from a tree, dropping a banana.’”
“Hussein, of course, has some problems in his country. I mean, smoking grenades tend to roll under his desk with alarming regularity. As a result, he’s a pretty security-conscious kind of guy. And while we’re shaking hands, I can almost hear him thinking: one, what is this guy doing out of jail — and two, why aren’t there some Secret Service men between him and me?”