Hillary Clinton has been compared to the sex-starved Glenn Close character in "Fatal Attraction." George Bush's verbal gaffes are endlessly panned by late-night comics and Comedy Central. But Barack gets the special-ed treatment. Our first affirmative action candidate.
The New Yorker made a "damn-fool decision," said George Lockwood, a lecturer on journalistic ethics.
David West of Brookings wailed to USA Today of the cartoon: "It's the mass media at its worst. It perpetuates false information, and it's highly inflammatory. ... It gives credibility to what's been circulating for months, and that's what makes it dangerous."
But dangerous to whom? Again, it is only a cartoon.
Barack called the cartoon "an insult against Muslim Americans." His campaign called it "tasteless and offensive." That they are miffed is understandable. After all, 12 percent of Americans think Barack took his oath on the Koran, 26 percent think he was raised a Muslim, and 39 percent think he went to a madrassa.
Yet, the reaction of our cultural elites is the more interesting and instructive.
For it suggests that Obama is an untouchable to be protected. As an African-American, he is not to be treated the same as other politicians. Remnick and Hertzberg obviously felt intense moral pressure to remove any suspicion that they had satirized the Obamas. No problem, however, if they were mocking the American right.
Bottom line: If you wish to stay in the good graces of the cultural elite, don't mess with Michelle and Barack.
On display here is not only the sensitivity of the Obama folks to portrayals of him as a radical, but the sensitivity -- the naked fear -- of an elite magazine that it might be perceived as lending aid and comfort to any who would dare question the nobility and patriotic ardor of the Obamas.
If conservatives allow such a media to determine the weapons they may use and to limit the terrain upon which they are to be permitted to fight, they will lose this election. They have to peel the bark off Barack.
As for the New Yorker, it emerges from the episode as not just unheroic, but just another magazine desperate not to offend its readership or the people whose approbation it seeks as the measure of its moral worth.