I’m always throwing in irrelevancies in comments on other’s posts, so here is what is only a comment, but longer and off topic, to Foster’s post below.
The day I cancelled our subscription to The New Yorker was a sad day; like NPR, it had brought me immense pleasure over a long period. They defined the modern short story, they made me laugh, and if Pauline Kael’s private sex life must have been a bit odd, even her reviews that overrated sadism & violence were intelligent and backed by a lifetime of engaged viewing.
So, if I just disagreed with their politics or the writers they chose, we’d still subscribe. It was the way they were saying in so many ways what they thought of people like me, people in fly over country, people who. . . well, that’s the deal. The cover was too clever by half. This is not unlike those surveys that show that people who listen to Fox are stupid because they think that Al Qaeda was in Iraq, without considering that people who listen to NPR are generally unaware of the quantities of American flyovers that kept the Kurds free (and alive); that the Fox viewers don’t understand how much America is disliked abroad while the NPR viewers are unaware of how extensive the oil-for-food scandal was and how much it permeated those who voted at the UN.
The New Yorker did, however, put Obama in a difficult spot. If he “got” the cover and thought it funny, he was looking down his nose at people whose feelings about him he (and the New Yorker) might not consider legitimate but still, it would be nice if they voted for him and even if they didn’t, he does expect (too firmly expect it seems to me) to govern. If he doesn’t get it, well, he seems humorless and not unlike certain headscarf wearing devotees of a religion with which he doesn’t want his name associated who often seem, well, humorless – whether about dogs or pigs or cartoons.
And, of course, the cover was likely to bring a bit of discomfort because of the nearness of this joke, the number of possibilities it raised in terms of questions if the press ever bothered to ask him about old allegiances and ingrained resistance to humility. History is big and one man small – that is the lesson of our political constraints. Humility seems to be one of the first requirements for elective office in a country that expects us to revere the office but not the man. (A distinction Bush made as he joked about himself and expected a certain level of respect for the (and in the) White House.)