It may be satirical, but the Obama campaign is not amused.
The July 21, 2008 New Yorker cover
The cover for the July 21 issue shows a turban-clad Barack Obama fistbumping with an Afro-bedecked, machine-gun toting Michelle Obama. Not much left to the imagination here: Obama the very foreign would-be American president, in a conspiratorial, exotic clasp. Above the burning hearth -- fueled by an American flag -- is a partial portrait on the wall that appears to portray Osama, not Obama.
Obama, asked about it Sunday on the campaign trail, gave an annoyed shrug and said he had no comment.
But his spokesman, Bill Burton, said in a statement:
“The New Yorker may think, as one of their staff explained to us, that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Senator Obama's right-wing critics have tried to create. But most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree."
McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds added via email: “We completely agree with the Obama campaign, it’s tasteless and offensive.”
The magazine says the artist, Barry Blitt, is satirizing the "the use of scare tactics and misinformation in the presidential election to derail Barack Obama's campaign."
In a statement today quoted by the Associated Press, the magazine says the cover "combines a number of fantastical images about the Obamas and shows them for the obvious distortions they are."
"The burning flag, the nationalist-radical and Islamic outfits, the fist-bump, the portrait on the wall? All of them echo one attack or another. Satire is part of what we do, and it is meant to bring things out into the open, to hold up a mirror to prejudice, the hateful, and the absurd. And that's the spirit of this cover," the New Yorker statement said.
UPDATE: David Remnick, the magazine's editor, said this afternoon that he believes the satiric intent will be clear to most Americans.
"The idea is to attack lies and misconceptions and distortions about the Obamas, and their background and their politics. We've heard all of this nonsense about how they're supposedly insufficiently patriotic, or soft on terrorism," he told CNN. "That somehow the fist bump is something that it's not. And we try to put all of these images in one cover, and to satirize and shine a really harsh light on something that could be incredibly damaging."
Remnick added: "I think you underestimate the intelligence of the American people, to be quite honest. Yes, there will be some people who will misunderstand it, not get it at first. But here we are on television, discussing something that's been a kind of subterranean theme in American politics, which is disgusting — these lies about Barack Obama, about Michelle Obama. And so in fact we're not even satirizing the Obamas, we're satirizing these rumors, the lies that have fed into the politics of fear."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.