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The New Yorker's Obama-cover addiction--updated!



As you may have heard, the front of the April 27 New Yorker stars Bo, the new White House dog. 

When this fact was brought to my attention, my first thought was: Damn, the New Yorker loves their Obama covers! And so they do. In the span of fourteen months, we've had Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in bed together, reaching for the red phone (March 17 '08); Barack and Michelle Obama giving each other the terrorist fist jab (July 21 '08); Barack and Joe Biden brawling with John McCain and Sarah Palin (October 27 '08); the post-election "O" over the Lincoln Memorial (November 17 '08); Barack as George Washington (January 26 '09); a solitary Obama walking toward the White House between (symbolically represented) Red and Blue America (January 19 '09) and Michelle as the star of fashion week (March 16 '09). Including Bo's star turn, that's a whopping eight* covers.

My mistake. The number's actually nine. I forgot to include the December 8 '08 cover, which depicts--wait for it--Barack Obama interviewing possible presidential dogs.

That's right. This is the second cover in five months dealing with the White House pet.

Listen, a case can be made for most of these, at least in isolation. The tandem of "O"-plus-Barack-as-George initially struck me as overkill--but Obama's election was a big deal, and so was his inauguration. With the exception of Michelle-as-fashion icon, the rest of the covers dealt with something that was A) in the news and B) reasonably significant. And the fist-bump image was a masterpiece of political satire.

That said, we're now reaching the point where it'll be a surprise when the New Yorker doesn't feature an Obama-related image on its cover--and the problem actually seems to be intensifying. Two Obama-pooch covers in short succession? What were they thinking?!?

Here's what:

[Chatham artist Bob Staake's forthcoming book, The First Pup: The Unofficial Story Of How Sasha and Malia’s Dad Got the Presidency — And How They Got a Dog] has yet to find a publisher, but the lucky readers of this magazine get a glimpse of his Bo rendition on this week’s cover. When it first arrived at the art department, it elicited oohs and ahhs from the editorial staff. None of us was immune to the spell of its cuteness.

“You put any dog on the cover and everyone goes crazy,” Staake said. “This cover is good at being cute, but it also works as a metaphor for Obama. The best New Yorker covers are the ones where the reader looks and brings their own interpretation, which brings the image to a new dimension.”

Huh? What's the metaphor for Obama here? That he's mostly black, but a little bit white? That he's fluffily unthreatening?

Here's another possible interpretation: Staake's image shows us that David Remnick & Co. need to step back, take a deep breath, and acknowledge that their Obama fixation is a bit out of control.

*NOTE: This paragraph contains two corrections. I originally wrote that the Nov. 19 '09 cover depicted the White House rather than the Lincoln Memorial; thanks to my colleague Greg Cook for catching this error. Also, I initially omitted the Jan. 19 '09 inaugural cover.

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  • orlandonan said:

    the New Yorker fixation on Obama, esp. Henrick Hertzberg (sp.??) columns is too much. I did not renew. they are punch drunk with puppy love. no perspective, no insight, just beaming excitement and it wears thin. some of us like Hillary and don't recall any excitement for her. it's a Boyz Klub.

    April 21, 2009 9:39 PM
  • Carly Carioli said:

    Can we get back to talking about how the New Yorker is really mostly about Boston and Massachusetts?

    April 22, 2009 12:14 AM
  • viewfinder said:

    The Jan. 19 cover of the New Yorker, the Inauguration issue, had Obama walking between vanishing red-blue symbols toward the White House, so wouldn't that make the number nine?

    April 23, 2009 3:54 AM
  • Adam Reilly said:

    VF, you're absolutely right. I'll update accordingly.

    April 23, 2009 11:33 AM
  • djon said:

    New Yorker speaks directly to me in the boondocks of the Great Southwest. How? Because NYC is the capital of my country.

    There was no excitement in New Yorker for Hillary because she was not an exciting candidate to anyone who reads extensively.

    We knew from the beginning about Obama's reading list, knew nothing about Hillary's. We knew more about Sarah P's reading list (John Birch Society lit, very specifically) than we did about Hillary's.

    Reading list=personal merit.  

    April 23, 2009 2:02 PM

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