Newsweek's provocative new cover (see it below) features President Obama with a rainbow halo above his head and the words "The First Gay President" underneath. Most commentators see it as a cynical rebuttal to rival newsweekly TIME's breast-feeding head-turner last week. (Newsweek editor Tina Brown reportedly responded to TIME's cover by saying, "Let the games begin.") But Andrew Sullivan, the openly gay writer who penned the cover story, means it seriously — in a figurative way — much like what Toni Morrison meant when she called Bill Clinton the "first black president" in 1998: He just gets it. Thanks to Obama's fraught relationship with his mixed race, Sullivan writes, "he intuitively understands gays and our predicament — because it so mirrors his own." Still, first gay president? Is this the kind of thing that kept Obama from fully "evolving" on gay marriage for so long?
Obama can't be happy about this one: It's sad that the once-mighty newsweeklies are stooping to "stunt covers" like this to sell magazines, says Ed Driscoll at Pajamas Media. But give "Tina Brown credit for one thing — albeit not necessarily intentionally." Newsweek and TIME have been running near-"messianic" covers of Obama almost nonstop since 2008, and now "at least Tina has put up a cover that will give Obama plenty of derision in flyover country."
"'Our First Gay President' and other goofy recent newsweekly covers"
In 2012, this barely registers as shocking: Even a few years ago, Newsweek proclaiming Obama "the first gay president" would have been "a rainbow-wrapped gift" for any Republican challenger, says Rick Klein at ABC News. But "for once Democrats aren't worried about the image [the cover] projects." Obama and Mitt Romney both know that, demographically if not politically, Democrats are winning the culture wars. And if nothing else, this cover promises another week "where the Obama economy was not front and center."
"Obama restarts culture wars on offense"
Gay marriage won't change anyone's vote: Actually, like Romney, "Obama no doubt wishes the same-sex marriage question would fade into the background, so that issues more important to most Americans — say, the economy — could become the focus of campaign 2012," says Brad Knickerbocker at The Christian Science Monitor. People have already made up their minds on gay marriage, and Obama isn't winning over those who oppose it. But people's views of the economy matter a lot, and on that front he has a lot of persuading to do. Bottom line: "Whether or not Obama is 'the first gay president' may make little difference come November."
"Is Obama the 'first gay president' as Newsweek proclaims?"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Syrian women know how to defeat ISIS
- Will Kobani be ISIS's Waterloo?
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- The U.S. Marines are developing laser weapons. Here's why.
- The one thing the New Atheists get right about religion
- 5 baffling foreign-language versions of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- How 1,000-year lifespans could remake the economy
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- 3 horrific inaccuracies in Homeland's depiction of Islamabad
Subscribe to the Week