From an interview with New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff:
Matt: Another type, not really in The New Yorker, is the political cartoon. Maybe we should say something about political cartoons and what you can accept in The New Yorker and what you can’t use.
Bob: I think The New Yorker’s cartoons aren’t very political because the people who do the cartoons aren’t awfully political people, and they aren’t paid to be political. I think editorial cartoonists are. That’s what they do. They probably have a great natural interest in politics, and then they are paid to do it, so they sort of have to hunt out these ideas. I admire editorial cartoons, but I’m also sort of happy that I don’t do them because I’d hate to have to label things and I’d especially hate, more than anything, to label something Dennis Hastert or Mark Foley, you know? It’s just the idea that you have to write something in the drawing to label things is antithetical to The New Yorker type of cartoon. When we do a cartoon, even though it’s political, it’s ambiguous. Like the Michael Shaw cartoon where people are looking at the television and they’re saying, “Gays and lesbians getting married? Haven’t they suffered enough?” That doesn’t really say where he is.
Matt: It’s about the issue, but it doesn’t…
Bob: It’s about the issue, but it’s not on any side of the issue.
Bob: And I don’t think that’s false. I think that’s the natural way that most people feel about issues other than the ranters or crazies on the radio.
You see, only ranters or crazies on the radio have opinions about issues.
I had two phases as a contributor to the New Yorker. First, working with Mankoff, which, you will not be surprised to learn, didn’t work out very well or last very long. Then, awhile after that, when art director Francoise Mouly convinced me to give it another go. Francoise was good to work with, but then 9/11 came along, and changed everything, if by “everything” you mean “my working relationship with the New Yorker.” Basically it became exponentially more difficult to get anything political past the editors there. And yes, the New Yorker did eventually find its spine again and has printed a lot of really important political writing in the intervening years — but in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 the last thing they were interested in was political satire, and after awhile I got tired of banging my head against the wall and stopped submitting stuff. And now that ship seems to have sailed.