GET POLITICAL with VIC LIVINGSTON (Opinion): Did Hillary Contributors at The New Yorker Mag Okay Mean-Spirited Obama Cartoon?
NEW YORKER EDITOR HAD "NO PROBLEM" WITH STAFF POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONS, BECAUSE "THEIR OPINIONS ARE OUT THERE." SO WHAT ROLE DID HILLARY BACKERS PLAY IN APPROVING THAT CONTROVERSIAL FIST-BUMP CARICATURE?
Satire only sticks when it strikes a chord; and the biting New Yorker cartoon commentary, whatever the intent, plays a foreboding symphony. It's more reactionary than clever; it reminds one of those scary, slanderous Nazi-era caricatures. And that's why it's generated such a furor. The cartoon evokes fierce emotions because it comes off as agitprop. There's nothing that's sardonic about it, nor is it particularly creative. But as a hate-mongering tool, it does the job, efficiently conveying mean-spirited stereotypes.
And who's to say that the same brilliant political minds who may have engineered the Jackson castration bit didn't plant the seeds for the New Yorker cover? The New Yorker... Hillary... hmmmm.
A year ago, New Yorker Editor David Remnick told a reporter doing a story about journalists and their personal politics that he's got no problem with staff contributing to political campaigns, as long as they strive to be fair and "respond to editing and counter-arguments with an open mind." But he also said that he saw no need for staff to publicly disclose political contributions, to readers or to their bosses.
"Our writers are citizens and they're free to do what they want to do," Remnick told MSNBC.com's Bill Dedman. The editor said that ten of his employees had been political donors.
If that's the case, Dedman persisted, then why not disclose the staff donation list so that readers can judge for themselves whether political allegiances have affected the editorial content?
Remnick answered MSNBC's Redman with a question: "Should every newspaper reporter divulge who they vote for?"
Not all New Yorker editorial hands agreed with the boss's assessment, according to Dedman's report.
"Probably there should be a rule against it," said writer Mark Singer, author of the New Yorker's profile of Howard Dean during the 2004 campaign. Singer volunteered to Dedman that as he was working on the article, he donated $250 to an organization campaigning to defeat George W. Bush.
But in Remnick's view, New Yorker writers don't do "straight reporting."
"Their opinions are out there," Remnick was quoted as saying. "There's nothing hidden."
And how about top editors and management? Was Remnick himself a contributor to political campaigns, and to whom? Apparently that question was left unasked. But it's a question sure to be put to the him now, as a second-day story: Will the New Yorker disclose to readers who gave how much to what presidential candidates?
And if it comes out that Hillary backers had a hand in approving the cartoon, could that have an effect on whether superdelegates would turn to her if Obama continues to weaken?
In the wake of the cartoon uproar, political observers also will be monitoring the black community to see if Obama's recent troubles affect his appeal to that key part of his base. Jesse Jackson apologized for his "cut his nuts off" tirade and reaffirmed his support for Obama. But considering his words, the endorsement now rings hollow.
"Cartoon-gate" could arouse new sympathy for the candidate among people who know what it's like to be stereotyped. But the controversy also may underscore Obama's problems with the broader electorate, casting new doubts on whether he can overcome the smear campaigns that the cartoon supposedly was intended to satirize.
If Hillary was thinking of mounting an eleventh-hour challenge to Obama's quest for the White House, the New Yorker cartoon contretemps could complicate the matter, especially if public election contribution disclosures reveal that Hillary donors at the New Yorker -- editorial staff and management -- were among those who approved the over-the-top cover art.
And the likelihood of that? All but certain.