This month's Washingtonian features a four-month old paparazzi photograph of our president in a bathing suit. This is apparently an occasion for outrage, or concern, or an excuse to run a picture of Obama shirtless.
The photo was taken—and widely circulated—last December, while the Obamas were on vacation in Hawaii. The Washingtonian's decision to put it on the cover was unadulterated outrage-bait, and the gambit has succeeded.
ABC News' Karen Travers and Jake "The Octogon" Tapper wondered last night whether a nation "in the throes of an economic crisis and two wars...want[s] more headlines about a 'Pec-tacular' 'Buff Bam'." The horribly named FishbowlNY asks, "Are we the only ones worrying this is sort of inappropriate?" The even more horribly named WoWoWow asks its readers, "Is it innocent? Fun? Disrespectful? Degrading?"
These questions are false. There is nothing wrong with running a shirtless picture of Obama, especially four months after everyone in the world already ran the picture. And no one who's asking these questions actually cares about the answer. (Though, no doubt, they would be happy to jump right into a cab if you'd like to book them on your cable show to discuss this pressing issue.) When they saw the Washingtonian cover, various editors and writers thought, "Cool! I'd like to run that photo, too, because people will be interested in it since it's interesting that we have a potentially sexually attractive president." But they think too highly of themselves to simply say, "Hey, look at Barack Obama's chest again, just like in December." So—voila!—it's an ethical issue to present to their discriminating readers.
FIshbowlNY presents its fauxtrage in gender terms: "Now imagine someone deciding to run a similar cover of Michelle." Trust us, we've been imagining it. Too bad it will never happen because Michelle Obama has female breasts.
But we certainly could imagine someone running similar pictures of Ronald Reagan! In fact, here, for your edification, is a photo illustration of almost every post-war president shirtless, made out of real photos taken by the awful media.
What we have more trouble imagining is someone changing the color of the president of the United States' clothes in Photoshop, as the Washingtonian did—his swimming trunks were black in the original photo and maroon on the magazine's cover—so it would fit their design scheme better. But no one seems to care about that.
The consensus, Washingtonian, you savvy marketers you, is that you are stretching at the limits of appropriate journalism and ought to get back to the real news that people care about. You've put your reputation at risk with this prurient prank. We hope you've learned your lesson.