New Yorker Obama Cover Art Brouhaha Distracts from Reporting in Cover Article

Ken Shepherd
July 15th, 2008 2:46 PM

In her July 15 column, "'Tasteless cover,' fascinating story," Chicago Sun-Times Washington bureau chief Lynn Sweet lamented that the fuss over the New Yorker's satirical Obama cover art sucks all the oxygen out of the political newsroom. As such, it leaves almost incombustible the otherwise potentially explosive reporting by reporter Ryan Lizza, who penned the New Yorker cover feature (emphasis mine):

WASHINGTON -- The shame of the controversy over the cover of the latest edition of the New Yorker -- portraying Barack and Michelle Obama in the Oval Office, her wielding an AK-47, him in a turban and robe outfit suggesting he is a Muslim -- is that it draws attention away from a very good story inside by Ryan Lizza about Obama's Chicago political roots.


The cover hides an in-depth story about Obama's political roots, taking us to Hyde Park, the Gold Coast and Springfield. Lizza brings us inside Obama's Chicago political world and the political culture that spawned the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Among Lizza's scoops:

  • Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th), with Obama at the launch of his political career -- when he ran for state Senate and knocked his opponents off the ballot -- is lukewarm in the article and is critical of Obama's relationship with Tony Rezko. She also sidesteps a question about whether Obama has retained his personal integrity.


• The 2000 remap of state Senate districts is a critical benchmark in the Obama history. With Democrats in control of the legislature--and the maps -- Obama in 2001 was able to create a district that stretched from Hyde Park to the Gold Coast. That let him connect with a network of wealthy donors whose support was crucial to his future success.

"In the end, Obama's North Side fund-raising base and his South Side political base were united in one district. He now represented Hyde Park operators like Lois Friedberg-Dobry as well as Gold Coast doyennes like Bettylu Saltzman, and his old South Side street operative Al Kindle as well as his future consultant David Axelrod."

It doesn't take much of a cynic to think that the Obama campaign hyped its anger at the cover to make the cover art the issue du jour, not somewhat unsavory revelations about Obama's political history that graced the pages inside.

That doesn't mean it's too late for the MSM to raise these issues from the relative obscurity of Lizza's feature to air time on broadcast and cable networks, but I'm not holding my breath.