As the presidential campaign heats up, Anna Wintour's politics are under scrutiny — both her personal politics and her direction of Vogue magazine's political coverage.
According to The New Republic, even though Wintour is a top-tier Obama "bundler" who has hosted fundraisers that have raised well more than $500,000 for the campaign, and even though she personally has donated over $96,000 to Democratic candidates since 2004, she still faces "eat a sammich" jokes from low-level staffers when she visits Obama H.Q.:
Earlier this year, Anna Wintour visited Obama headquarters in Chicago to talk numbers with the campaign's top fund-raising brass. As she headed into her meeting, Wintour passed a tray stacked with food for volunteers: glazed doughnuts festooned with bacon, classic campaign fare. "I trust you're not interested in that," a staffer jokingly offered. She fixed him with her cool, disdaining stare.
Oh, I'll bet she did.
This election cycle, Obama's fractured relationships with some of his top donors from the financial sector have been the topic of articles in the New York Times, the New Yorker, and elsewhere. "The White House has been too late in reaching out to their donors and making them feel appreciated," one advisor to a former top Obama donor told Mother Jones. "You can't go and ask for a million dollars from someone who can't get a White House tour for his daughter."
In the first presidential campaign since the Citizens United Supreme Court decision removed virtually all limits on private money, the fundraising race has never been more important. And with some Wall Street donors standing down, Anna Wintour's role has never been larger. She's organized glitzy $30,000-a-plate dinners with co-hosts like Sarah Jessica Parker and Michelle Obama, and Wintour's profile within the campaign is such that Republicans now see value in attacking her. Earlier this year, Glenn Beck called her "the devil." That's when you know you've made it.
TNR tries to pin down Wintour's political agenda. She has one, but it's not as simple as being left wing. Instead, she is:
...in search of something more than just a victory in November; she wants politics to take fashion seriously. Over the past half-decade or so, as her own profile has risen, so too has Vogue's political coverage. It's no longer just the occasional first-lady portrait session; now, there'll be a promising governor (Sarah Palin, pre-John McCain), a stylish staffer (Huma Abedin), a first-time senator (Kirsten Gillibrand, soon after a dramatic weight loss), or a crusading bureaucrat (Elizabeth Warren). (Though it's worth noting that Republicans have recently been less eager to appear in the magazine.)
That's not entirely true: earlier this year, Vogue ran a flattering profile of Tea Party favorite and South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, and in 2011 the magazine ran a long piece on Jon Huntsman. Vogue also profiled Jenny Sanford after her husband, South Carolina Republican governor Mark Sanford, fell into disgrace (and gave us the gift of the "hiking the Appalachian trail" euphemism). Back in February of 2008, it was also one of the first national titles to profile Sarah Palin. Anna Wintour would hardly be an effective editor if she let her personal political leanings influence her magazine's decisions about whom and whom not to cover — and as we've reported before, those decisions are largely made based on the photogenicity of the would-be subjects, not their politics. Pretty has no one party.
Interestingly, it seems Ann Romney wasn't interested in getting the Vogue treatment: "A hoped-for profile of Ann Romney fell through earlier this year, says one person with knowledge of the negotiations."
But while Anna Wintour may have increased the frequency of Vogue's "political" coverage, she has done nothing to improve its depth. Kirsten Gillibrand's profile focused mostly on her weight. Sarah Palin's was largely about her looks. Nikki Haley's made sure to point out that she "looks even younger than her age: fit and attractive, with a face free of worry lines." And then there was that tone-deaf profile of Asma Al-Assad, the wife of Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad. Vogue made sure to mention that Asma Al-Assad was "glamorous, young, and very chic — the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies" and that her husband was elected "with a startling 97 percent of the vote," but didn't point out that was because he was, you know, a dictator. If that's the kind of political coverage Anna Wintour thinks the American public wants more of, she can keep it.