What's All This Then?

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I heard about the New Yorker front cover before I actually saw it and when I did see it, I didn’t think it was particularly funny but it certainly scored as political satire, though I thought maybe it would have had more impact and not stirred up a lot of controversy if, instead of being on the front cover, it had been embedded in the story that it was drawn to enhance. Except there was no story. There was nothing between the covers of the magazine that tied into the cartoon. It was all by itself on the front cover and we were supposed to understand that it was satire - exposing the ridiculous nonsense that has been circulated about the Obamas.

There was a 15 page article about Obama in the Magazine, but it had nothing to do with the front cover. It was about Obama’s political history in Chicago - and if I had to describe it in a single word, I would call it unflattering. And the New Yorker is supposed to be a "liberal" publication.

The cartoon could have worked as political satire if it hadn’t been offered as a stand alone statement on the front cover. Unfortunately, though it is meant to expose the stupidity of some of the attacks launched by the far right against the Obama family, without some print context the cartoon is nothing nore than a visual collection of falsehoods - and if there is a cardinal rule about what qualifies as a subject for political satire in a cartoon, it should be that there needs be some truth, however slight, depicted in the drawing. About the only "truth" in the New Yorker cartoon is that Obama and his wife have indeed been seen fist bumping each other.

Examples of what I’m talking about can be found almost any day on the editorial pages of major newspapers. For example, this one from the July 11 Chicago Tribune lampooning Obama’s alleged "flip flops."

You may not agree that he’s "flip flopped" one all of the topics listed - but there is a sufficient element of truth in the story that the cartoon depicts to render it a perfectly acceptable political cartoon.

Instead of achieving the result they were aiming for, the New Yorker added fuel to the fire that has been smoldering ever since Obama announced his candidacy. Of course regular readers of the magazine "got it" as soon as they saw the cartoon. But New Yorker editor David Remnik should have known what was going to happen - that the cartoon would have a life way beyond his sophisticated readers and would show up in newspapers across the country and all over the Internet. Lots of publicity for the New Yorker - but fodder for the spreaders of hateful falsehoods about the Obamas It’ll just add height - however small - to the mountain of ignorance that the Democratic nominee has to surmount on his way to the presidency.

On a totally different yet related subject - recent polls indicate that an even more formidable task faces Obama in trying to dispel the notion that- by a huge margin - potential voters seem to think that McCain is to be more trusted in handling matters of national security. That large numbers of people think this sends shivers up my spine. McCain’s whole adult life prior to his election to the senate was in the military. His father and grandfather were admirals. He looks at the world through a military prism. He believes in military solutions to international problems. He has said that there will be more wars. He has said that we will be in Iraq for many years. He has Joe Lieberman whispering in his ear that we need to attack Iran "before it’s too late." The man has an uncontrollable temper and an aggressive view about what our role in the world should be. After the debacle of Iraq, the mishandling of Afghanistan and the adoption of torture as an instrument of American foreign policy, we need a more thoughtful approach to dealing with the world’s problems than "Bomb, Bomb Iran."

There is nothing wrong with having a president whose background is that of military service. We have had such a president . His name was Dwight D Eisenhower and on January 17, 1961, after eight years in office, he gave a farewell speech to the nation that anyone thinking of voting for McCain because they believe he would be "stronger" on defense should read. If they do, I think they will agree with me that - to paraphrase the words of the late Lloyd Bentsen - "Senator, you’re no Dwight Eisenhower."