After railing about without specifics about various McCain-Palin proposals, Barack Obama made the now infamous “you can put lipstick on a pig” remark. But he said more, Victor Davis Hanson pointed out. And it’s what he said afterwards that is important for context and to understand that the jabs were precisely what he meant to say.
Senator Obama said, “That’s just calling something the same thing, something different. But you know you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.” But he went on to add as the crowd laughed and cheered, “You can you can, wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change, it’s still going to stink after 8 years. We’ve had enough of the same old thing.”
I first heard this, in full context, over the radio. And just as I was wondering about the lipstick-pig reference, Senator Obama sealed the deal when he made the effort to talk over the crowd’s noise to make the old fish “still stinks after 8 years” clincher. He knew exactly what he was saying and who he was referring to. The implication is that even if John McCain served two terms, there would be no change. Any attempt at ambiguity in the aftermath is an assault on one’s intelligence.
Yet, while most are making their hay over the pig reference to Sarah Palin, they are omitting this context, allowing the Obama campaign to dismiss any perceived reference as “ridiculous.”
But as Ben Smith notes at Politico:
Though on a day when Obama’s surrogates were joking that Palin’s record can’t be concealed with lipstick, it was hard for those following the campaign not to hear the echo.
“Lipstick,” just like “Change” and “They just don’t get it” has become part of the campaign’s own calculated and measured lexicon.
But that hasn’t stopped the campaign from spinning away. The issued denial is comical, calling the response itself an “attack.”
Enough is enough. The McCain campaign’s attack tonight is a pathetic attempt to play the gender card about the use of a common analogy – the same analogy that Senator McCain himself used about Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s health care plan just last year. This phony lecture on gender sensitivity is the height of cynicism and lays bare the increasingly dishonorable campaign John McCain has chosen to run.
Gender card? Those who focus solely on the lipstick-pig reference afford such a disingenuous response. Such as the ill-advised tack taken by former Massachusetts governor Jane Swift.
Former Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift, interpreted Obama’s remarks to mean that he called Palin a “pig” and McCain an “old fish.”
When pressed on why she assumed that Obama was comparing Palin to a pig, Swift referred to Palin’s “pit bull in lipstick” joke at the convention. She added, “as far as I know she is the only candidate that wears lipstick” and this “seems like a very gendered remark.”
Gendered remark? Why drag gender into it? Who in the campaign, if anyone, advised this stupid tack? Palin used the lipstick metaphor herself, so that’s a non-sequitor. A candidate for president referenced his opponent as an “old fish,” and did so after a similar reference to “lipstick on a pig,” calling his running mate to mind in all conscious listeners.
Trying to wrap gender into the mix allows them to obfuscate the whole by rightly dismissing a part: Gender. It’s not about gender. It’s about pigs, lipstick and stinky old fish.
It’s not the end of the world, but it is a classless jab at both. Trying to make more of it than what it is is just plain dumb, because it allows The One just enough wiggle room to sow doubt in the minds of observers that he might not have meant it after all.
UPDATE: *A few commenters have rightly made note – as I should have in my post – that Obama was referring to the McCain-Palin proposals as the ‘lipstick on a pig’ and ‘old fish.’ Yes, he was. It’s called double entendre.
**Another complained that characterizing Obama’s usage as “now infamous” is silly because it’s an old saying. Sure it is, but it’s Obama’s usage that is infamous, at least for a few days, not the saying itself.
***For the rest, if you’re going to make an argument in defense of the usage, just try not to be such a typical jackass. (Sigh…I’m sorry, that was another double entendre.)
UPDATE II: Roger Kimball gets it pretty right.
I really wish that former Gov. Jane Swift hadn’t called on Obama to “apologize” for the be-lipsticked pig is still a pig line.
Now, was this politic? Maybe not. Was it smart, given everything we know about racial-sexual-“differently abled”-age-and-health-and-talent-related sensitivities? I’m afraid not. [ . . . ]
I think it is bad form for Republicans to play this silly game [of demanding apologies]. I do not know Sarah Palin. But from what I know of her, I would guess that if she even noticed Obama’s desperate little performance her first, and probably her last, reaction was to laugh. Certainly (I feel sure) she would countenance no whining. Because some jerk as much as called you a pig? Get a life.
Note it. Call it what it is (and not what it’s not) and, dare I say it, MoveOn. Let them keep performing their own Dean Martin Roast on national television. It’s only been a week, folks, and Obama and Biden are clearly on a roll. I say, Roll Tide, Roll!