Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lame Bedfellows

So the New Yorker's latest issue has a caricature of Michelle & Barack Obama on its cover. She looks like a cross between Sister Souljah and Angela Davis, and he looks like Osama bin Laden. There's an American flag burning in the background.

Obviously--obviously!--this is a satire of all the untrue rumors about Obama that range from the (should-be) benign (Obama = Muslim) to the clearly insane (Obama = al Qaeda sleeper). It's well done and kinda funny.

Naturally, nobody involved in the major parties' campaigns admits to having a sense of humor about it.

An Obama spokesman told reporters, "The New Yorker may think... that their cover is a satirical lampoon... But most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree." John McCain weighed in on the issue himself, calling it "totally inappropriate" and adding, "I understand if Senator Obama and his supporters would find it offensive." Heck, even Michael Bloomberg said, "We all have to watch very carefully what we say — our attempts at humor, our attempts at informing people — because some of what we say can be misinterpreted and do real damage."

Isn't it bad enough that during a presidential election our candidates' debates involve no real debate and that their policy positions have about as much detail as a 4-dpi image? Are we supposed to sacrifice our senses of humor too?

Well, as far some are concerned, yes. But the really annoying thing is that I'm convinced that neither McCain nor Obama is truly offended by these cartoons. There's no way that anybody who has even the vaguest idea what the New Yorker is would legitimately believe that the cartoonist was being serious. And it's a pretty funny drawing. I'm almost positive that both candidates responded as they did solely in order to put position themselves as centrists.

By claiming to be offended, Obama gets to take a swing at a lefty publication and remind people that, indeed, he isn't a terrorist and that his wife doesn't hate whitey. And John McCain gets to present himself as a racially sensitive kinda Republican who's wiling to agree with his opponent on matters of principle when their principles overlap.

Except here the principle they share is "I really want to get elected." And, of course, to bore us silly in the process. Only it's the kind of silly that we're not allowed to laugh at, apparently.

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