Like Obama, Bill Clinton Also Idolized on Time Covers, But Not GOP Presidents
So how unusual is it for a new President to be featured seven times on Time's cover, as Barack Obama has been
(with First Lady Michelle Obama snagging her own solo appearance)? A
look back at Time's covers finds Bill Clinton matched Obama's celebrity
in 1993 - seven covers for himself, one for Hillary. But the last three
Republican Presidents - Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W.
Bush - were given relatively short shrift. (Larger images below.)
Indeed, looking at the covers from when those three Republicans won the presidency through early August of their first year in office, Reagan and the two Bushes combined were only featured seven times - and it would have been only six if Reagan hadn't been shot by an attempted assassin (April 13, 1981 cover story).
Incoming First Lady Barbara Bush ("The Silver Fox") also made the cover in January 1989, but neither Nancy Reagan nor Laura Bush were featured.
The difference between the Republicans and Obama and Clinton are cover stories aimed at promoting the new Democratic Presidents' top agenda items. Neither Bush got a cover story touting their top policy proposals in the first six months of their presidencies; Reagan's economic program was featured on the March 2, 1981 cover but with the headline "The Ax Falls," illustrated by a giant ax with the presidential seal chopping through a budget graph.
Unlike Obama, however, the seventh Clinton cover following his election heralded a negative piece, "The Incredible Shrinking President." (June 7, 1993) The inside tease for the cover story suggests the tone: "Does He Have What It Takes? With a White House shake-up under way and the lowest four-month approval ratings of any postwar President, many Americans are starting to wonder." The table of contents page also shows a picture of Clinton as photographed through an Oval Office window, with the caption: "Cover Story: 'His management style just doesn't work....'"
None of that is online, but the cover story itself is, here.
Reagan, Clinton and Obama were all featured on covers when they won the White House and again in the magazine's annual "Man of the Year" issue. The first President Bush, however, was skipped over in favor of Earth as "Planet of the Year" in 1989; as for George W. Bush, while he shared a number of covers with Al Gore during the long recount, his victory in the 2000 election was not official until he appeared on Time's December 25/January 1 "Man of the Year" issue.
The only other George W. Bush cover during that period was the June 4, 2001 cover "Bushwhacked," about the headaches Bush would face after Jim Jeffords announced he was leaving the GOP and putting Democrats in control of the Senate - not exactly "Paging Dr. Obama."
-Rich Noyes is Research Director at the Media Research Center.