Christine M. Flowers: A cartoonish view of leadership

Posted: July 18, 2008

ABOUT that magazine cover, Sen. Obama . . .

We got it. There are a lot of us, actually, even the bitter ones, clinging to our guns, married to our siblings, glued to our Bibles.

You don't need a Harvard pedigree or a subscription to The New Yorker to understand what satire means.

So please tell your staff and supporters to stop whining about how a group of liberal literary types depicted you as a Muslim and your wife as Angela Davis. (And you thought Republicans would be the first to play the race card.)

Stop telling the world that this will just put the nail in your coffin with those unsophisticated voters who don't do nuance and have limited vocabularies.

Even those of us who don't travel in your high-toned circles caught the joke.

We're used to it, after all. Some of us cut our teeth on the same type of satire when it was aimed at Pope Benedict, turning him into a Nazi/pedophile. Others had a front-row seat when they turned Mohammed into a punch line (by the way, bravo to the Democratic National Committee for not rioting). Still others have spent the last eight years getting tummy aches laughing about Bush as Torquemada, as Dumbo, as Osama's best bud.

But it's all satire, right? No reason to get your turban in a twist.

True, the cover was "in-your-face." Yes, it probably hurt your feelings. No doubt it made your wife gnash her teeth (although few women would look that good wrapped in an AK-47).

But deal with it. This is politics, not a play date.

And please, once and for all, stop assuming that there is a whole swath of humanity out there so stupid and steeped in prejudice that it will automatically believe any lie about your origins, your patriotism and your plans. Because you might have noticed it doesn't work (Ohio), irritates people (Pennsylvania) or gets you nowhere (West Virginia).

Maybe you disagree with this comment from a professor at Syracuse who said, "If you are a subscriber to The New Yorker . . . you are going to read this cartoon the way it was intended. However, when you yank this cover out of the context of the [magazine] . . . you're going to get people who don't read that picture as satire."

Maybe you cringed when you read this gem from Rachel Sklar at the Huffington Post:

"This is so clearly a send-up and I understood that when I saw the image, but what I also understood was that it so perfectly encapsulated all the most vitriolic smears about the Obamas, that it could well be used as genuine irony-free propaganda."

Professors get it. Pretentious bloggers get it. But the hicks, including urban ones, are too dumb to get the joke. They'll think the cover was a snapshot from the Obama family album.

The campaign's statement said "most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive." (That included the oh-so-polite John McCain who is doing so much tiptoeing these days he should try out for the lead "Swan Lake.") Of course, "most" is not "all," and I'm sure David Axelrod and crew are doing their best to paint the exceptions as racist rubes.

But I'm grateful The New Yorker printed the cover. It highlights yet again just how much your campaign exists in a bubble of its own preciousness, convinced that those who support you are smart and so many of those who don't are naïve, prejudiced and not up to your and your supporters' educational standards.

The fact is, even intelligent people can differ on national security, tax policy, judges, energy, abortion - and every other hot-button issue that distinguishes you from John McCain. To think otherwise is tantamount to saying that those who disagree with McCain aren't patriots because they oppose a war hero.

And yet, you (or at least your supporters) persist in drawing a line between the educated elite "in the know" and the rest of us who are so susceptible to negative propaganda (and good artwork).

I thought you'd learned your lesson after those comments you made about the hicks in the sticks got you into hot water. It sure looked it, with your flip-flops on the Second Amendment, the death penalty for child rapists and, surprisingly, partial-birth abortion.

But you really should tell Team Obama to stop whining about the inconvenience of having to deal with dumb voters who aren't as perceptive as educated, literate liberals. They're not helping your cause.

Because while satire might be subtle, snobbery is as plain as the upturned nose on your face. *

Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer.

E-mail cflowers1961@yahoo.com.

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