Obama's "Joker" Poster: Who Has the Last Laugh?

Obama's biggest headaches may be coming from the left as much as they are from the right

By Robert A. George
|  Wednesday, Aug 19, 2009  |  Updated 8:30 AM EDT
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The Obama Presidency in Photos

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It's not exactly fair to stereotype, but perhaps the overly creative nature of the design -- initially a rather ornate Photoshop melding of a Time magazine cover of Obama with a made-up Heath Ledger -- should have been a strong clue to its ideological origins.

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Increasingly, it's looking like President Obama's biggest headaches may be coming from the left as much as they are from the right.  That's clearly seen in the revolt among progressives in the House over the White House's apparent dumping of the public option in health care. 

It's now somewhat obvious in the revelation of who was behind the now-famous Obama-as-Heath Ledger/Joker poster caricature that has swept the Internet in recent weeks. The charge has been put forward -- most strongly in a lengthy Washington Post article -- that the image is essentially racist. 

Of course, it's not just the design that has gotten many people upset. It's the marriage of the design with the stark "SOCIALISM" word below the picture. But the designer, Firas Alktaheeb, is actually a Chicagoan -- yep, the president's own homeboy -- whose criticisms of Obama are hardly hard-core right-wing:

"After Obama was elected, you had all of these people who basically saw him as the second coming of Christ," Alkhateeb said. "From my perspective, there wasn't much substance to him."

"I abstained from voting in November," he wrote in an e-mail. "Living in Illinois, my vote means close to nothing as there was no chance Obama would not win the state." If he had to choose a politician to support, Alkhateeb said, it would be Ohio Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

That would be the same Kucinich who was a founding member of the House Out of Iraq Caucus and who ran an ill-fated presidential campaign as the farthest left candidate in the race. Actually, the only area where Alkhateeb gives Obama high marks is in his handling of foreign policy. 

It's not exactly fair to stereotype, but perhaps the overly creative nature of the design -- initially a rather ornate Photoshop melding of a Time magazine cover of Obama with a made-up Heath Ledger -- should have been a strong clue to its ideological origins. It's not to say that conservatives don't indulge in electronic graffiti of this nature. Some do. But this type of strike against the dominant cultural theme usually comes from the left -- regardless of who is in power. 

After all, "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?" was not a chant crafted by conservative middle-class kids in the heartland. 

Once again, for another Democratic president, if he doesn't take care to keep an eye on his left, the joke will be on him.

 New  York writer Robert A. George blogs at Ragged Thots. Follow him on Twitter.

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