When magazine covers attack

at 02:28 PM ET, 12/15/2011

For those who have yet to see it, the conservative National Review magazine is out Thursday with a damning, multi-article takedown of Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign.

Perhaps more importantly, though, it is paired with an equally damning cover of the former House speaker.
(National Review)

The National Review’s illustration of Gingrich as Marvin the Martian, like so many memorable political magazine covers before it, crystallizes what’s already on everyone’s mind with the assistance of no — or relatively few — words to accompany it. The words say one thing — “Newt’s World” — but the message is essentially this: This guy is out there.

Remember Mitt Romney’s attack at Saturday’s debate criticizing Gingrich for wanting to mine the moon for minerals? Remember when Romney called Gingrich “zany” on Wednesday? The National Review essentially caricatures that very argument.

And the fact that this review is coming from a conservative publication makes it even more damning in a GOP presidential primary.

All of this combines to make the Gingrich cover one of the more memorable magazine covers of the 2012 election, and potentially one that could actually affect the race.

So what are some examples of other magazine covers that have defined politicians, and what do they have in common?

Gingrich, of course, has been fodder for this kind of thing before. In fact this isn’t even the first time he has been portrayed as a popular evil fictional character. Time magazine once drew him as Uncle Scrooge, which Newsweek matched by turning him into the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Those marked the early years of a speakership that eventually turned bad in part because of Gingrich’s abrasive leadership style.

The Marvin the Martian caricature is very much along the same lines. By drawing Gingrich as any of these characters, he is being de-humanized and held up as somewhat of a bumbling, unsavory character. Which is pretty close to how his enemies see him.

The same ability to make a picture worth a thousand words is also a big reason why Newsweek’s cover picture of Rep. Michele Bachmann earlier this year was such a big deal. The magazine drew criticism for using a photo of a wide-eyed (crazy-looking?) Bachmann and labeling her the “Queen of Rage.” A week later, she won the Iowa straw poll, and ever since then, her campaign has fallen off a cliff.


Barack and Michelle Obama on the cover of the New Yorker, 2008, Michele Bachmann on the cover of Newsweek, 2011, and Sarah Palin on the cover of Newsweek, 2009. (Reuters/AP/Newsweek)

Similarly, before the 2008 election, The New York Times Magazine ran a cover photo of now-Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) that many thought made the former governor look deliberately … well … ugly. Warner was thought to be a presidential contender at that point, but wound up seeking a Senate seat.

A sampling of some other memorable covers:

* Time labeling President George H.W. Bush the “Incredible Shrinking President” in 1992 after his approval rating plummeted fast.

* A 2000 Esquire cover photo of Bill Clinton taken at crotch level with the outgoing president beaming down, which to many evoked the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

* Time’s “Man of the Year” photo of a two-faced George H.W. Bush, suggesting the duality of the president.

* The New Yorker’s cartoon of President Obama in Muslim garb and his wife with a rifle strapped to her back as both do the so-called “terrorist fist jab.” This poked fun at the increasingly ridiculous rumors floating around about the Obamas in a way that seemed to mitigate their effect.

* Newsweek’s cover of Sarah Palin in her running gear seemed to trivialize her as not a serious politician — a portrait of her that has stuck to this day.

* The Nation ran a cover photo of George W. Bush as Mad magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman during the 2000 recount, with a button on his jacket that said “Worry” rather than Neuman’s usual “What, me worry?” The caricature seemed to stick over the next eight-plus years, with Bush often being caricatured as a buffoonish character.

All of these magazines captured the moment — or at least a suspicion held by many — in a very succinct way, which is precisely why the National Review’s cover of Gingrich’s works.

Did we miss any other good examples? Take to the comments section below…

 
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