Tuesday, September 09, 2008

"Lipstick On a Pig"

Just a bit ago Barack Obama was speaking in front of a crowd, working the theme that McCain-Palin was just more of the same. "You can put lipstick on a pig," he said, "It's still a pig."

Many in the blogosphere have, apparently, already decided that the comment was a personal insult directed at Sarah Palin, who famously said during her speech at the Republican convention that the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull was "lipstick."

This couldn't possibly have been intentional. Say what you will about Obama; I can't imagine for a millisecond that he's either that mean, or that stupid, or both. I am as certain as one can be about anything that if it had occurred to Barack Obama that his "lipstick" comment could (and almost certainly would) easily be interpreted as a personal slam on Governor Palin -- who is widely agreed upon not to be a "pig," by any stretch of the imagination -- he wouldn't have said it. Whether or not a person in Obama's position should have known better than to say such a thing is obvious: he should have. But what it says about Obama, if anything, is less clear. We all have our brain farts, after all.

"Lipstick on a pig" is an old turn of phrase, and a decent one (I prefer "turd in a prom dress," but, given Sarah Palin's beauty queen background, that might not have gone over particularly well either). But when the opposing ticket features a woman, you might want to do all you can to avoid any references to makeup, dresses, boobs, or anything of the sort. Especially when you've already been in some hot water to referring to a female reporter as "sweetie," which a lot of people thought was a big deal, but I didn't. Throw in his comments about how Hillary Clinton "periodically, when she's feeling down, launches attacks as a way of trying to boost her appeal," and one might be forgiven for concluding that Obama is a chauvinist.

I don't think that. I do wonder what in the world has possessed him not to be incredibly, incredibly careful when using words that might have certain gender connotations, to be sure. But the very fact that he used the phrase "lipstick on a pig" is enough to satisfy me that he wasn't calling Sarah Palin "a pig." There's no way -- no way! -- he would have said that if he'd realized what he was saying. When her big line is "lipstick," you really need to stay away from "lipstick on a pig," but I'm letting him off the hook for this one, and I think everyone else should, too. Even though he should have been, he clearly wasn't aware of how his comment would be received.

And, to prove my point ever further, here's what -- according to Politico.com -- Obama said after "you can put lipstick on a pig, it's still a pig":

"You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It's still gonna stink."

That's right: running against a ticket that includes a woman, he followed up "lipstick on a pig" with a reference to a stinky fish smell. You can't possibly make this stuff up, folks.

Senator Obama: I like you. I'm not voting for you and I hope you don't become president, but I like the cut of your jib, I don't believe for a minute that you're a sexist, and you seem like a good, well-intentioned man.

Really, though. As Marge once said to Homer: think before you say each word.

"That's right: running against a ticket that includes a woman, he followed up "lipstick on a pig" with a reference to a stinky fish smell. You can't possibly make this stuff up, folks."

I think the better point is this: running against a ticket that includes a 72-year-old man, he followed up "lipstick on a pig" with a reference to "old fish." This proves that the lipstick mention was intentional -- it was a two-for-one insult!
You're right; her selection was a genius move. By your logic, now no one can bring up Bush for the rest of the campaign. Takes a major liability off the table.
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