By now I'm sure you've all heard about the flap regarding the cover of this week's New Yorker magazine. It features a satirical (take note of the word, satirical) image of Senator Obama, and his charming wife, Michelle, in the oval office dressed in Muslim gear and as a para-military assassin, respectively. To their right, in the fireplace, burns an American flag. They are smiling at each other while doing the infamous fist bump.
To my eyes, this satirical cover is no more, or less, offensive them the one, a few months ago, of Obama and Clinton (in bed together) both reaching for the phone as it rings at 3am. The New Yorker has always had a penchant for poking fun at the hypocrisy of politics and the media and, in this case, did a remarkably good job of it.
Since Obama became the presumptive Democratic party nominee the right wing of the Republican party and their media partners (FOX News, The New York Post, talk radio, et al) have moved very quickly to create a sense of unease amongst the working class about Senator Obama and his wife. Everything from relentlessly parsing Mrs. Obama's comment that for the first time in her adult life she is really proud of her country to using the Senator's full name - Barrack Hussein Obama - whenever possible, to FOX News commentators discussing whether or not the fist bump is a terrorist signal - I am not making this up.
The fact that anyone takes the rantings of the uber conservative talking heads seriously is absurd to me, but such is the state of American politics that there is a small, but rabid, faction of the population that takes it very, very seriously. It is the very absurdity of the right wing that prompted this cover.
What I find truly insane is that the Obama camp have reacted with pompous political outrage. First off, if they hadn't led such credence to the "offensive" cover it would have simply disappeared - instead they chose to fan the flames. This "controversy" offered Senator Obama the perfect opportunity to address the cover, and the ridiculous rumors which prompted it. Why his campaign manager chose to go on the offensive while Senator Obama himself, refused to comment at all seems rather odd to me.
Following a week in which Obama allowed his children to be interviewed by Access Hollywood, and then made the rounds of the morning talk shows to lament the decision and assure the media that they would have no further access to his children - as though the original interview hadn't been orchestrated by his campaign, with his blessing, makes me wonder who is actually steering this ship.
As this campaign advances there is a greater sense that the Illinois Senator is remarkable thin-skinned, especially as he takes every opportunity lately to respond to any slight - large or small - real or imagined - levied against him. There is a real danger, if he does not pick and choose his battles, that he will continue to be pulled into these media inventions masquerading as "controversies" and the right wing will have gotten exactly what they want - the opportunity to set the tone of the campaign and the very real possibility of painting Barrack Obama as an angry black man.
My advice to Senator Obama and his campaign generals would be to pick their battles carefully, and consider every possible outcome. Fighting a war on too many fronts is a losing proposition - just ask Geroge W. Bush.