Other Magazines

Michelle, My Belle

New York on the softening of Michelle Obama’s image.

New York, Aug. 18
In the cover package on Barack Obama’s race and the presidential election, a piece on his wife, Michelle, finds that she “has morphed into a repository of emotion, an Oprah-esque icon of inspirational womanhood who promises the same feel-good message with an even softer delivery.” The candidate’s wife “came off as sassy and sarcastic” initially, but now she’s “been increasingly forced to curtail her personality during the campaign, lest she attract rumors of uttering a verboten, anachronistic word like ‘whitey’ or find herself labeled a ‘baby mama.’ “ A column asks why, with “two anti-Establishment candidates running in this era of Jon Stewart, Keith Olbermann, Maureen Dowd, ubiquitous blogospheric irreverence, and Al Franken as a U.S. Senate candidate,” the campaign season hasn’t been more humorous: “[A]ttempts at humor by the candidates and their campaigns have been bungled, or deliberately and/or stupidly misconstrued. And negative campaign gambits that have every appearance of being jokes are being posited seriously as ‘issues.’ “

New Republic, Aug. 27 The cover story examines how Darfur, the most “thoroughly documented” genocide in history, is testing the assumption “that knowledge will beget action” and notes that “the results, now conclusive, give grounds for a measure of despair.” No information in the “avalanche” of grisly images and first-hand accounts of atrocities there has “roused anybody with the power to stop this tragedy actually to stop it.” A piece sets straight John McCain’s murky position on abortion. Because his “meandering” public statements on the issue “have been anything but straight,” voters on both the right and left often think the Arizona senator holds a moderate position on reproductive rights. But make no mistake: “McCain is not, and never was, a moderate.” An article considers the “end of days” for commercial flight. Though “abandoning the age of mass aviation would be a hugely disorienting change,” in the face of high oil prices and global warming, it may be one that the world will have to make.

Newsweek, Aug. 25 In the cover story, Fareed Zakaria points out that despite the president’s current low approval rating, most of the Bush administration policies “that aroused the greatest anger and opposition,” like his strong-arm approach to Iran and Afghanistan, were enacted during the president’s first term. Now “many of these policies have been modified, abandoned or reversed” for “more sensible, moderate and mainstream” approaches that his successor would do well to follow. An article reveals that differences in DNA may dictate how children respond to parenting methods and explain why even when parents do “everything ‘right,’ their child is not as kind, or intelligent, or self-confident, or well adjusted as the recipes promised.” A journalist gives an account of his contact in 2006 with John Edwards’ former paramour Rielle Hunter, who was “on a cramped commuter flight and … flirting with a candidate for president of the United States.”

National Geographic, August 2008 The cover story investigates the ancient heritage of Iran, rooted in the Persian Empire, and wonders, “Are vestiges of the life-loving Persian nature (wine, love, poetry, song) woven into the fabric of abstinence, prayer and fatalism often associated with Islam?” Under the tutelage of Emperor Cyrus the Great, “a brave and humble good guy,” Persia became “the world’s first religiously and culturally tolerant empire.” In present day Iran, though some Muslim hard-liners within the country want to ignore its Persian past, “the loss of the empire still [weighs] heavily on the national consciousness.” An article details the biological diversity on pristine Bioko Island. Off the west coast of Africa, the forests, woodlands, and grasslands of Bioko “remain much as they were when the first Portuguese explorers stepped ashore in the 15th century.” But that’s quickly changing: Oil companies are exploring energy reserves in surrounding waters, and a mounting appetite for monkey meat fuels the overhunting of its endangered species.

American Prospect, July/August 2008 In the cover package on women and politics, a piece surveys their progress and argues that despite the “remarkable individual women who have risen to the highest ranks of our political system … the glass ceiling won’t truly be shattered until women have achieved a critical mass in government.” A second piece looks at the number of women in state public office to determine “neither old time politics nor old school religion generates a favorable climate” for female politicians. The theory explains why female elected officials lag in seemingly more “liberal and egalitarian” states like Massachusetts and New York, “where political careers for well over a century were made and broken by party bosses.” After Hillary Clinton’s exit from the presidential campaign, a chart identifies seven Democratic women “who will no doubt have a hand in shaping the party in the coming decade.” Among them are Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and California Rep. Hilda Solis.