The New Yorker cover on the Obamas reverberates today. The New York Times mulls the difficulty comedians have had in lampooning Obama. (Partly because their liberal audiences don't like it.)
A writer for Salon has a good assessment of the left-wing outrage at the effort at satire. He refers to a mindset that we've often seen on this blog relative to Obama.
In a certain way, the left's reaction is reminiscent of mainstream Democrats' refusal to challenge Bush on Iraq. They, too, were instrumentalists and amateur semioticians, worrying that the GOP would "frame" them, to use linguist George Lakoff's concept, as weaklings and wimps. But they were wrong, just as those who advise the liberal media to deal with the right-wing smear campaign against Obama by refusing to acknowledge it are wrong. In any case, once journalists and artists start censoring themselves because they're afraid their work will play into political attacks or have other unwanted political consequences, they've started down a dark road, one that ends up with party hacks celebrating the latest Fearless Leader. What's the point of electing a progressive president if you lose your soul in the process?
See, if Obama is treated as a candidate on a pedestal -- above not only standard criticism but also Saturday Night Live or Daily Show or editorial cartoon humor -- it contributes to an impression of superiority and haughtiness. That's the last thing voters want in a candidate. The stomp-down on criticism and the search for racism in every opposing remark worked for Obama among uber-sensitive and uber-tolerant Democratic Primary voters. The general election is not a Democratic primary. The candidate who can make fun of him/herself -- and whose supporters get the joke, too -- is a stronger candidate.