For some masochistic reason, I chose to pick up the July 21st edition of NEWSWEEK while waiting for my allergy shot on Thursday. Who could miss it? A huge close-up picture of Obama, apparently deep in solemn prayer, with a “Faith and Politics” teaser alongside. The website also says “What He Believes:The Truth About Obama’s Faith.”
A few minutes later, I happened across the July 21st edition of TIME (scroll down for the link to the story). On its cover was a big closeup of Nelson Mandela, with the teaser, “Mandela at 90: The Secrets of Leadership.”
My curiosity was now piqued. First, I wondered about the Newsweek issue. OK, you might say, “How odd, Newsweek isn’t talking about THE TRIP, it chose to focus on religion.” But, with Obama’s mega-publicity foreign tour starting just about the time this issue appeared, I wondered (although I didn’t have to work very hard at it) if it was planned bolster Obama’s image here while he was overseas. My conclusions later…
Like many others in a waiting room, I didn’t have the time to read the entire piece then (not to mention those who would lose interest and moved on to “People”). But I did notice the very serious highlighted sections in the magazine, starting with the opening “Top of the Week” page which featured “Obama’s Spiritual Quest” across the top.
Proceeding to page 26 to the article itself, which was entitled “Finding His Path,” I noticed that on page 25 there was a full-page portrait of Obama in profile, again looking very “spiritual” against a background of “stained glass” as he gazed forward with great solemnity.
From page 26 to page 32, the article by Lisa Miller and Richard Wolffe (Olbermann’s frequent sidekick) spews forth. On page 30, under a small heading which reads “World View,” there is the line “More a Matter of Mystery than Magic.” Jon Meacham opines in this section that “It seems that for Obama, faith is about enduring questions.” And, of course, he associates Obama’s beliefs with Abraham Lincoln’s evolving faith and humility during the Civil War!
At this point I almost burst out laughing…we’ve been hearing about Obama’s “World View” all through his trip, which is looking a lot like the “Magical Mystery Tour” as it trundles on. Did Newsweek have advance copies of Obama’s campaign objectives or did it come up with the heading “World View” and plug it in because it just had to go somewhere?
One of the “highlighted” quotations from the interview section that the reader sees reads:
“I’m a big believer not in not just words, but deeds and works.”
Coming from a guy who is mostly words with very little in the “deeds and works” department, this seems a poor choice to put into big print. (But, then again, Newsweek is owned by the Washington Post Company, and the Post isn’t exactly blazing the way on great journalism when it comes to covering Obama.) Miller and Wolffe also opine that Obama is now ” a little spiritually rootless” again since supposedly severing ties with Rev. Jeremiah Wright. OK…
If you put yourself in the shoes of the average person thumbing through the magazine, all the highlighted sections probably present a pretty glossy view of Obama and his beliefs. If a person didn’t read any further, they’d see Obama as a serious, serious man, indeed! Mission probably accomplished, at least in waiting rooms? And if the reader DOES delve into the entire article, he or she will get the same impression! Did you know, for example, that Obama was “monkish” while in New York?
After page 32 I figured I’d see a section on John McCain’s spirituality, since the cover had said that this was a an edition of Newsweek focusing on “Faith in Politics.” Well, there was no such section on McCain, I suppose since he’s was raised as a plain vanilla Episcopalian (now calls himself a Baptist) who doesn’t flaunt religion every time he opens his mouth. And, although McCain recently gained the endorsement of 100 religious leaders during a meeting in Denver, McCain has had to work at getting it since the “religious right” hasn’t been wildly enthusiastic about him. In the meantime, Obama has had his meetings with mega-pastors and Christians who are ex-officials from Bush’s Justice Department and apparently has been giving CBN’s David Brody “scoops.”
So, I guess Newsweek figured Obama was the way to go in the “let’s do religion” department. And, of course, the serious nature of the piece turns out to be a great way to remind the reader how “weighty” Obama is as he travels overseas.
And what DID Newsweek write about on McCain? “Vietnam Loves John McCain” was the story in the “International” section that followed the Obama spread. Well, I’m sure that’s very nice, but what does it have to do with “Faith and Politics”? My immediate reaction was that it further “pigeon-holed” McCain as being a relic from the past. After all, except for us aging baby-boomers, who knows anything about Vietnam? It’s just another irrelevant piece of history that McCain can be saddled with, right? Obama himself said the Vietnam war had nothing to teach anymore and that it was time to move on in that infamous Las Vegas interview before the Nevada primary. Newsweek’s choice of bringing up Vietnam seems stuck in that “OLD and from the PAST” frame re: McCain as well.
Furthermore, a great deal of the article goes back and forth on the arguments over whether the torture was or wasn’t used in the prisons where McCain and other U.S. soldiers were held. What’s the point? To cast doubt on McCain’s war experiences while Obama prances around Europe?
Now getting irritated, I turned to TIME to peruse the Mandela story. Opening to the article, guess what I found on the page facing the start of the piece? A raised, black fist in the old “black power” gesture. Wow, that brought back old times…And, that picture is NOT on the website, just in case you are wondering.
Of course, CNN just happened to air “Black in America” week on July 23 and 24 as Obama did Germany. Gee, who owns CNN and Time? (Yup, Time-Warner, the largest media company in the world.)
The Time story in the print edition, which focused on “Eight Lessons from One of History’s Icons” begins with a passage about how Mandela’s 90th birthday is coming NEXT WEEK (which would be the week of July 28th, right?). So, I figured, why wouldn’t Time actually publish this cover story NEXT WEEK, instead of the week when Obama was overseas charming the locals?
I flipped through the article, but I never found an EXACT DATE for Mandela’s birth. Now, I wondered, why is that??
So, I did some research and found, in every place I looked, that Mandela’s birthdate is apparently JULY 18th! Which means, it would have been BEFORE Obama’s trip. Wouldn’t you figure that Time would publish the Mandela cover and story in the July 14th issue–only a few days BEFORE Mandela’s birthday?
And, what’s with the statement that Mandela’s birthday was coming up, rather than being already over??
Ah, but look! On the web version of the article, the publication date is: Wednesday, July 9, 2008. BUT THERE WAS NO OBVIOUS MENTION of this in the print edition and NO EXPLANATION of why the story was published in print a week and half later to coincide with Obama’s trip and AFTER Mandela’s birthday.
I must have been subconsciously rebelling against all this (well as consciously rebelling!) , because in writing this piece, I’ve been repeatedly spelling “Newsweek” as “Newseek.”
…which is what these two rags seem to have been doing…looking for anyway possible to bolster Obama’s image as he rolls through the Middle East and Europe. Obama’s religious quest and Nelson Mandela…can’t do any better than that!
Update…Oops, Time just reported the “leak” of Obama’s “private prayer” at the Western Wall!
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Filed under: Current Politics | Tagged: "Black in America", Barack Obama, CBN, Christian Broadcasting Netword, CNN, David Brody, John McCain, Mathew 25 Network PAC, Nelson Mandela, Newsweek Magazine, Time Magazine | 9 Comments »