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Why the Obama Reaction to The New Yorker Bothered Me

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Barack Obama just missed an excellent opportunity to get me to take one more step towards supporting him. When presented with the most recent and now famed cover of The New Yorker, all Obama needed to say was:

“I think most Americans will understand it’s satire.”

How refreshing it would have been to hear a would-be leader respecting the intelligence of Americans. After 7.5 years of the Bush Administration talking down to us, force-feeding us deceptions and generally treating us like idiots, I’d like to believe we have a chance to escape that condescending mindset with our next president. But Obama and particularly his staff and legions of his supporters have left me a little cold.

Instead of acknowledging the satire and moving on, Obama (through his sniffing silence) and his supporters (through their outraged response) demonstrated a disturbing disdain for their fellow Americans. The general argument was “well, sure, WE may know it’s meant as satire but most Americans are idiots and this will just reinforce their ignorance.”

What’s surreal about the reaction is that it’s been an outrage at an expected effect. It’s had nothing to do with the real effect (which has been the most widespread debunking of the Obama rumors/malicious lies to date). As far as I know, there have not been masses of Jim Bob Rednecks heading into the their local Barnes and Noble, seeing the cover and saying “hells, yeah, I always thought that man was a danger.”

In fact, when you think about it, without the Obama supporter outrage, this cover stays safely in the mailboxes of subscribers and hidden on the back shelves of magazine racks (seriously, it’s sometimes impossible for me to find where bookstores are hiding their copies of The New Yorker).

Maybe most Americans are idiots and maybe we do need to shelter them from sophisticated concepts like satire for fear their ignorance will cause mass and dangerous misconceptions. But I really don’t want a president who believes such things. I want a president that leads with the assumption that he’s leading a nation of intelligent citizens. If you think you’re presiding over idiots, you’ll treat people like idiots. I, for one, have had enough of that kind of leadership.

If Obama wants my vote (something that is still possible), he and his campaign will need to start showing more respect for common Americans.