Barack Obama: Our First Gay-Female-Hispanic-Asian-Jewish President
this week declares that Barack Obama is the "First Gay President," playing
on the reader's knowledge that Obama isn't himself gay, but his support for
same-sex marriage earns him an honorary rainbow halo. The headline obviously
calls back to 1998, when Toni Morrison declared
Bill Clinton the first black president in The New Yorker, which at
the time was edited by current Newsweek editor Tina Brown. "Clinton displays
almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor,
working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald's-and-junk-food-loving boy from
Arkansas," Morrison wrote, laying out the formula for how to declare a President
has attained the identity of someone else through actions and behaviors.
Newsweek's cover has been called "controversial"
shocking," but it's merely the most recent in presidential firsts that
weren't for the country's actual first black president.
have been more specific and declared Obama the "first lesbian president' because
the magazine's already given him the honor of womanhood. During the 2008
Linski wrote, "Obama doesn't play the sax. But he is pushing against
conventional—and political party nominating convention—wisdom in five important
ways, with approaches that are usually thought of as qualities and values that
women bring to organizational life." The headline? "Obama: First Female
question mark out of the way. "Obama: Our first female president," her
headline declared. Her column made the case that his crisis management style
was more typically female.
Newsweek, New York magazine went big on their Morrison
reappropriation. Former White House counsel Abner Mikva told John Heilemann
"When this all is over, people are going to say that Barack Obama is the first
Jewish president." The magazine made it
with the headline, "Obama the first Asian-American president?" As evidence,
the article notes that in his first hundred days, "Obama appointed a record
three Asian-Americans cabinet members and quickly focused his attention across
the Pacific. He invited Japan's prime minister as his first guest and Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton went to Asia on her maiden trip."
in March 2009 about the hopes the Hispanic community had for Obama's
immigration policies, alleging "Barack Obama is the first Hispanic president the
same way Bill Clinton was the first black [one]."
received comparatively few honorifics. Writing in Foreign Policy Suhail
once write, "If Clinton was, as the author Toni Morrison once quipped,
America's first black president, Bush was, at least momentarily, the country's
first Muslim president." (Those on the far right who would give Obama that title
should take note.)
historic first as the first black president, Clinton be darned. Obama's
supporters often see what they want to see in him. Just consider how many
interpreted his "evolving" stance on gay marriage to be (as it eventually was) a
closeted support. We love to break barriers in America, but we only get the
chance every four years, so in the meantime, we work with the male Christian
president we've got.
seeking, but given this list, maybe we shouldn't have been surprised by it. Expectations
were high that editor Tina Brown would do something typically
attention-grabbing to mark this occasion, but this effort seems, well,
cliché. It wasn't going to be long before someone outed our first black, female,
Jewish, hispanic, Asian-American president as gay.
See Votes by State
News & Politics