After the New Yorker ran its controversial Barack Obama cover satirically mocking smears against the candidate, the presumptive Democratic nominee acted like it really didn't bother him all that much. "It's a cartoon," he told CNN. That seemed very reasonable! But it sounds like Obama was more angry than he let on. The New Yorker was shut out of much-coveted plane tickets for the senator's trip to the Middle East and Europe next week. Neither Washington correspondent Ryan Lizza nor, Politico's Mike Allen confirms via email, anyone else from the magazine is among the 40 journalists blessed with seats. Granted, some 200 people applied for tickets. But given the New Yorker's circulation, influence and often heroic coverage of not only politics but also the war in Iraq (George Packer), U.S. intelligence and covert military operations (Seymour Hersh, Steve Coll), American torture (Jane Mayer) and the inner workings of the Bush administration, it's hard to see the snub as anything other than payback.
Of course the Obama campaign will say the decision was made strictly for space reasons — it already has — but given the publicity surrounding the New Yorker cover and around Lizza's story on Obama's early poltical career, his people had to know what signal it would send to exclude the magazine so soon after the cover flap: That the candidate of change is not above trying to manipulate the press like any other politician.
Which, as the New Yorker's luck would have it, not only reinforces the central message of its cover story (that Obama is a politician much like any other) but also smoothes its potentially awkward transition from self-described "extremely favorable" coverage of candidate Obama to the inevitably more critical coverage of nominee and president Obama. Sometimes it's worthwhile to buy your own damn plane ticket!
For Obama, there is at least some risk of blowback from the decision. As Daily Show host Jon Stewart pointed out on his show last week, getting upset about magazine illustrations is not the best way to swat down rumors one is an intolerant extremist: