What were the _New Yorker_ editors thinking?
The Hard Right and conservative talk radio have been working on overdrive to instill the single way that a Republican could win this national election: by depicting Barack Obama as foreign, Islamic, and anti-American. They have so far failed to gain ground except outside their perfidious echo chamber. Witness, for example, e-mail chain letters claiming, erronously and lyingly, that Obama is a Muslim.
Within that context, any imagery depicting Obama in this way forwards the Hard Right's purpose. These "visual memes" work below the conscious level like the single piece of film that made people really want a Coca-Cola at the theater. Showing the "French" John Kerry windsurfing and Michael Dukakis in a helmet on a tank worked the same way.
Why carry the Right's water? One blogger claims the New Yorker is seeking publicity, but their core audience is "liberal elite" types that still read literary short stories (like me) who will bristle at seeing Barack and Michelle Obama depicted as the Right's caricatures.
Further, the cable-news reporting will perpetuate the visual meme far and wide with a lot of news-cycle "legs." This killed John Kerry when a handful of "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" TV ads were reported on nearly every news program across the country -- it didn't matter if the newspeople pointed out the falsity of the TV ad; the damage was done.
Incidentally, John Kerry, in refusing to acknowledge the Swift Boaters, allowed them to do their dirty work, proving himself passive and weak (which was the sole purpose for their mendacious claims). Dukakis, again, refused to acknowledge a whisper campaign claiming he had mental-health problems. Yes, the damage was done (that's how Bush 41 won in 1988). With this history, I'm happy to see Obama reacting with emotion to the cover.
But nonetheless, expect Fox News and gang to report, "Look, even liberals at the New Yorker can tell that Michelle and Barack Obama are dangerous, foreign, closet anti-Americans." Prepare for the nasty deluge, while Americans die in Iraq and Afghanistan, with brutal carnage for civilians, with no end in sight -- not to mention a sputtering economy and rising energy and health care costs.