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New Yorker, What Were You Thinking?

07/22/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Ramatuelle, France. Here in my tiny medieval village in the south of France I have to hike up the hill into the center of town to borrow some wifi. This morning, after buying some croissants and a Herald Tribune, I was passing through the town square when I saw something that stopped me in my tracks. A young, North African man was wearing a black T-shirt with an image of George Bush putting a gun to his own head.

"Kill Yourself. Save the Planet," it said in English.

Besides being illegal in the United States, the shirt turned my stomach. I'm no fan of the worst president of the United States ever, but the shirt was not only tasteless it was artless and ugly.

The current cover of my favorite magazine ever is only a little better.

I consider myself a satirist myself, bridle at any and all PC constraints, and of course coming from a venerable, legendary and reliably center-left magazine, I get the intended joke, but dressing up perhaps the next president of the United States as the new millennium equivalent of Adolf Hitler is just gross and dumb.

Imagine instead almost the same cover although in the corner some right-wing icon like Limbaugh, Cheney or O'Reilly, via some thought bubbles, imagining the Obamas like that. At least then the offensive absurdity of the point of view would be inescapable and we would all be allowed to laugh at it.

Or better yet, picture a middle-aged married couple watching the Obama's on TV and the husband imagining them as the terrorists so depicted, while the wife seeing them as the reincarnation of JFK and Jackie O. That would, I think, nicely illustrate the point of the cover, the extreme visions many in this nation have around the probable future first couple.

Anything would have been better than what they did.