The New Yorker has given both Senators Obama and McCain something to agree on: their latest cover showing a turban-clad Obama and his wife brandishing an AK-47 is simply tasteless.
The cover is supposed to be a reflection on the supposed “right-wing smear machine” that the left loves to invent, but ends up being a case of friendly fire from the left wing. Its crude stereotype of both Obama and those with legitimate questions about his choice of associations manages to be offensive on a bipartisan level.
It is ironic that the ones that have been using the “fear tactics” that The New Yorker decries are not from the right. Sen. McCain treats Sen. Obama as He Who Must Not Be Middle-Named lest anyone accuse him of racism. The money spent by GOP-leaning 527 groups is a pittance compared to what is spent by groups like MoveOn.org, and the truly harsh attacks against Obama tended to come not from the “vast right-wing conspiracy” but from the paranoid mind of Sen. Clinton—who ironically enough invented the idea. Sen. Obama constantly lashes out against a “smear machine” which exists largely in the minds of the Senator and his supporters.
If Obama were smart, he would embrace his heritage and defuse the “Muslim” issue. The more he runs, the more he looks like he has something to hide. It seems unlikely that people who won’t vote for a candidate with a Muslim middle name are numerous enough to matter or sufficiently likely to vote for Sen. Obama to be bothered with. Obama should run on who he is—someone who is multicultural and can reach out to the rest of the world. The political costs of such a move are unlikely to hurt him, and the potential benefits are substantial. Why not proudly announce that he is Barack Hussein Obama, the son of a Kenyan Muslim who is a committed Christian and American, just as many Americans of foreign descent are? To hear him boldly proclaim his heritage defuses the issue and lets the political debate refocus on what matters—not false issues of patriotism, but substantive questions of judgement, integrity, and experience.