When Smart People are Dumb: Jonathan Chait
That Jonathan Chait is such a good political commentator makes his rationalization of the cartoon above even more shocking:
I don’t think the joke hinges upon black people liking watermelon. I think the joke is about the Secret Service’s security failures. Obama himself is not even the subject of the joke---his perspective is that of, or close to, the reader’s. The point of the joke is that White House security is so lax that a random person could wander into the president’s living quarters undetected and take a bath, and regard this as so casual he could chat about a commonplace topic as toothpaste.
Black people liking watermelon is certainly not the main comic premise of the cartoon and was probably not intended as a secondary premise, either. The joke works just as well with some other flavor. Indeed, a version of the cartoon changed the flavor to raspberry, and the joke worked equally well, or not well, depending on your taste in cartooning.
Of course the premise of the cartoon is White House security, but the choice of watermelon as a flavor is unacceptable, whether it was a "slip-up" by the cartoonist or not.
How did it get by editors at the Boston Herald?
Below is another "slip-up" that got by editors at the New York Post in 2009: