It was an image meant to raise hackles, and it did: a cartoon on the cover of the New Yorker showing Barack and Michelle Obama - dressed as a Muslim and a gun-toting militant - performing what rightwing commentators have called a "terrorist fist bump", while burning the US flag in the fireplace of an Oval Office decorated with a portrait of Osama bin Laden.
The magazine hit the newsstands yesterday. But its editor, David Remnick, evidently anticipating a liberal backlash against the cover - described yesterday as incendiary and irresponsible - gave an interview to the Washington Post ahead of publication. He said the image was meant to be seen as humour, poking fun at the smear campaign against the Obamas.
"It's clearly a joke, a parody of these crazy fears and rumours and scare tactics about Obama's past and ideology," Remnick told the Post. "And if you can't tell it's a joke by the flag burning in the Oval Office, I don't know what more to say."
The accompanying cover story does not discuss the internet smear campaign which has portrayed Obama as a radical Muslim, but traces his rise through Chicago politics in the 1990s.
The satire was evidently lost on the Democratic candidate's campaign and on his opponent, the Republican, John McCain. Both condemned the cartoon. . . .
I don't like it myself. It's not good stuff to be circulating around the Internet at this time. Mind you, it'll be on the right-wing websites, and not as satire. The Right will say that even the Left find Obama suspect. Bad move on The New Yorker's part. And not funny.