Time magazine’s cover for its Sept. 16 issue features a picture of contented-looking Russian president Vladimir Putin, complete with a black background and a damning caption that declares “America’s weak and waffling, Russia’s rich and resurgent.”
But Time’s editors are shielding Americans from the demoralizing picture, putting a cheerful, sky-blue photo on the covers of magazines distributed in the United States.
“It’s time to pay college athletes,” says the chirpy, non-political U.S. cover, which shows a ball-carrying football player with arm outstretched.
The cover most Americans saw at the checkout counter safely overlooked a widely perceived fumble by President Barack Obama that left Russia to carry the ball in the Syrian war.
Putin seemingly headed off a U.S. airstrike on his Syrian ally, while Obama, after extensive public agonizing, has seemingly agreed to token compliance with a weapons inspection regime.
The foreign-policy fumble prompted anger, embarrassment and amazement among professionals in the U.S. foreign policy apparatus, who slammed it as the biggest foreign-policy flub since President Jimmy Carter.
But it also prompted derision and delight among America’s enemies in the Middle East, including Iran, which is backing Syria.
The foreign covers acknowledge Putin’s triumph over Obama, telling foreigners that Putin “doesn’t care what anybody thinks of him.”
The protective covers arrive as Time’s managing editor departs for a job working for one of the architects of the Syrian debacle, Secretary of State John Kerry.
In “early summer,” editor Rick Stengel was asked by Kerry, and immediately accepted, the job of running the department’s public diplomacy mission, according to Politico.
Months later, the appointment was leaked to two media outlets.
Throughout the summer, Stengel remained editor of Time while it covered U.S. politics.
Most often, the covers of Time magazine are uniform.
Periodically, Time magazine wraps its magazine in different covers for audiences in the United States, in Asia, in the South Pacific and the large “Europe, Middle East and Africa” marketplace.
Many of the different covers are non-political.
For example, the Nov. 5, 2012 U.S. cover featured the new movie about President Abraham Lincoln. The other three covers showcased the lead actor in the movie, Daniel Day-Lewis.
Time’s July 11 2012, U.S. cover featured an article about medical expenses, while the foreign editions showcased England’s soccer league.
This is not the first time the magazine has downplayed stories that might not put Stengel’s new boss — Obama — in a good light.
On July 2, 2012, the overseas covers featured China’s fast-growing manufacturing sector, while the U.S. cover was about “The History of the American Dream.”
The Dec. 5, 2011 cover featured an alarming picture of Egyptian street protests, while the U.S. cover told increasingly worried U.S. readers that “Anxiety is Good for You.”