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Published: Thursday, 7/17/2008

Too clever by half

THE cover of the latest issue of The New Yorker magazine has caused consternation among liberals and political progressives, but their distress is probably unwarranted.

Staff artist Barry Blitt portrayed Barack and Michelle Obama as revolutionaries whose true nature will reveal itself only after they are fist-bumping in the Oval Office at the White House under a portrait of Osama bin Laden.

The magazine's editor defended the cover as a satire on the rumors spread on the Internet by the right-wing that Mr. Obama is a Muslim and his wife hates America. The rumors are demonstrably untrue, but a minority of inattentive Americans apparently believe otherwise.

It is feared, especially in Democratic circles, that The New Yorker cover pours accelerant on biases that are already burning. Those who are most outraged fear that the humor will be lost on too many readers who don't understand satire. That's selling the American public short.

It's true that some will misunderstand the magazine's intent, which seems to fall under the category not of malice but of trying to be a little too clever. Nevertheless, the controversy accomplishes a very good thing for the Obama campaign - it gives these absurd rumors a thorough airing.

If a minority of voters still choose to believe the rumors, then they are little more than willfully stupid. And they wouldn't vote for Senator Obama anyway.

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