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September 11, 2008

Lipstick on an Elephant

The Republican camp has done an excellent job recently of being offended. It is, of course, not a genuine kind of outrage, but more the type of shocked-shocked!-I-tell-you indignity that is now a staple of this election season. McCain first broke out the outrage defense early last month when Obama warned that Republicans would try to scare voters by pointing out that he “doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.” The McCain camp was deeply disappointed that Obama had "played the race card" and "from the bottom of the deck," no less, as if the extension of that metaphor alluded to some kind of ultimate party foul on the old Oregon Trail.

In this way, McCain is not only able to circumvent the decades-old tradition of low-blow attacks Americans say they're tired of seeing, but also come out looking like the bigger man for not traipsing there first. It's a pretty good deal. So good, in fact, that he brought it out again earlier this week after Obama said, "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig." … "You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called 'change,' it's still gonna stink after eight years. We've had enough of the same old thing!" and so on and so forth.

Digested within context, it's clear to see Obama was referring to McCain's new hobby of saying the word "change" a lot. But things like context rarely get in the way of a GOP blitzkrieg, and this was nary an exception. The McCain camp claimed that Obama was referencing Palin's earlier remarks that the only difference between a pitbull and a hockey mom is lipstick.

First, you should realize that the "lipstick on a pig" phrase is an actual aphorism, unlike Palin's pitbull/hockey mom/ sound bite, which many in the media totally ate up even up even though it made little sense. No, it was obvious that Obama wasn't alluding to Palin, mainly because if he had been, he would have actually said something about her, like "you can put lipstick on a pitbull, but it's still a frighteningly unqualified candidate for Vice President."

McCain staffers demanded an apology, adding that Obama, in addition to calling Palin a pig, possibly called John McCain a fish, which would, of course, also require an apology to the entire McCain household, unionized Pacific fishmongers and Sarah Palin's Eskimo husband, who comes from a small Inuit fishing colony.

Funny, though, since the phrase is not only widely used both inside politics and out (such as this independent design firm which will undoubtedly get the most traffic it's ever seen), but also in incredible proximity to McCain himself. Last October, McCain said Hillary Clinton's health care proposal was "eerily" similar to one which was shot down in 1993. "I think they put some lipstick on a pig," he said, "but it's still a pig." Did he just forget that? What about the fact that his own former press secretary wrote a book called Lipstick on a Pig: Winning In the No-Spin Era by Someone Who Knows the Game

And do you know who the real losers are in all this? Lipstick jokes. Now no one can ever make another lipstick joke ever, for fear of being racially bigoted and a backwards, sexist philistine. Mascara jabs and asides about foundation are now iffy at best.

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