Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lipstick, Pigs and Politics

Politics makes me sick. And I don't generally blog about it. But, blog about it today I must. You will find below a 47 second clip of Obama's "you can put lipstick on a pig; but, it's still a pig" line. How anyone could possibly hear that as directed at Sarah Palin is baffling. That McCain allowed his campaign to pick up on it and use it in their own campaign ads to misrepresent Obama as sexist is shameful. It's clear by what immediately precedes Obama's remark that he's talking about McCain and the policies he's pushing under the banner of "change." You can call them by whatever names you want, but it's the same bill of goods we've been sold the past eight years. That is clearly Obama's point. And he's right, at least about the philosophical point. For as Lincoln taught so long ago, calling a horse's tail a leg does not make a horse to have five legs. Calling the same old policies by different names does not make them different policies.

If there's anything worth discussing it's whether there are substantive differences between McCain's proposed policies and Bush's. But this business about sexism and Palin bashing by Obama is just plain politics. And it's ugly. About as ugly as I suspect lipstick on a pig would be.

Would to God that most Americans will be able to see this for what it is.Alright. 'nuff said. Here's the clip:


Matt Roberts said...

I actually find this whole issue, both sides, horribly depressing. For me, it's symptomatic of the kind of hope I had about these two candidates, which has largely disappeared.

I'm disappointed that McCain, the McCain camp, or both are latching onto this incredibly minor point and attempting to turn it into some defining moment. In a race that had so much potential to be about real issues, this captures perfectly how far we are from where we should be.

"Putting lipstick on a pig" is certainly just a common American idiom. Our friends in the blogosphere have already shown us that McCain himself has used the analogy during the Spring, to describe H. Clinton's policies, I believe.

I'm also disappointed about Obama, though. It would be ludicrous to believe that the Obama camp does NOT have a dozen staffers voraciously consuming every word that either Palin or McCain has said. Given the fact that Palin has been using the "difference between a hockey mom and pitbull is lipstick" schtick, the discourse about and between the two candidates is such that a reference to lipstick, even if idiomatic, is somewhat different than it would be in any other setting.

There is the additional question of whether idiomatic references that are explicitly gendered can really be seen as neutral in a setting where the gender of one of the candidates is part of the debate itself. It might not be quite as colloquial, but Obama could have made the same point by talking about "dressing up a pig in a suit and tie" or "teaching a pig to dance."

What does this all mean? Do I think Obama made a slightly-veiled sexist comment dismissing the legitimacy of Palin as a running-mate? Absolutely not. Is this an indication that Obama (as some have mentioned in the past) is not as polished in ad hoc comments as in prepared speeches? Perhaps.

I am, however, disappointed in both sides. Someone in the McCain camp should be smacked for spending precious airtime on repeating a verbal gaff, rather than trying to communication something substantive for voters. I also think Obama is guilty of either speaking without thinking or failing to really consider the implications of what he has said. I would hope that Obama supporters would be just as concerned if McCain went on the stump and made some comment about Obama and "the pot calling the kettle black."

Kenneth said...

I don't think Obama, and probably all the other candidates are getting enough sleep.

Anonymous said...

I wish the candidates would get a bit more sleep. Maybe they'd talk less and we could all get a break.
If we're not careful, enough people might start thinking enough to realize there aren't any good options in this election.

William J

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