September 10, 2008

When life gives you pigs with lipstick, make sexy bacon

Glenn Greenwald is understandably apoplectic that the chattering classes are wasting any of our precious time talking about whether Obama was making a sexist remark about Sarah Palin when he used a phrase no one has ever heard before, "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig."

Greenwald writes: "The only actual story here is how brazenly deceitful and cynical the McCain campaign is, and what helpful and easily manipulated allies the establishment media is in all of that. The efforts of a few isolated reporters to debunk the story won't end up mattering much because, once injected into the Freak Show stew with the help of Jake Tapper, AP and MSNBC, it festers."

Mmmm! Festering stew! Greenwald is right up to a point. But he's missing something that I sincerely hope the Obama camp does not, which is that Obama can make this idiotic non-story work for him by repeating the line over and over again. As Mickey Kaus muses, in the extremely unlikely possibility that Obama intended people to think of Sarah Palin, the quip is deviously "brilliant" in "memorably undermining three of her central virtues at once... 1) Attractive 2) Anti-pork 3) Non-Bush anti-Washington reformer." And I'll add a more important 4) this may be the best opportunity Obama has to get the media talking about which candidate really does offer a change.

Think about it. All Obama needs to say is, "Recently I compared John McCain's ideas about changing Washington to putting lipstick on a pig. John got all upset by this. Apparently he thinks putting lipstick on a pig is enough. I've tried to look at it from his perspective, but I'm sorry, all I'm still seeing is a pig. Now, if he wants to argue that you can put lipstick on a pig and make it not a pig, that's a debate I'm happy to have."

The folksy, self-parodying language is important, because it communicates to voters that Obama thinks this is a big joke, and he's having fun with it, while still making a real point. If McCain and Palin respond to that by whining again about sexism, they're going to look like thin-skinned, humorless, and cynical. Obama's surrogates could hammer that home: "The idea that this has anything to do with women is ridiculous. Hillary Clinton is a tough leader. When John McCain used the exact same phrase about her, she didn't throw a tantrum."

Sensing that they're losing traction, the McCain camp will have to shut up and move on. But Obama won't let them. He'll use the line every opportunity he gets, forcing the media to make "he's still saying it" part of the story. And since the sexist angle will already have played out, maybe they'll start arguing about whether McCain really is putting metaphorical lipstick on a metaphorical pig. Regardless of what they conclude, the fact that it's been repeated over and over again on the news will trigger an automatic response in voters minds: When John McCain says "change" think "lipstick on a pig."

Update: Argh! Obama plays right into their hands. If an outrage is phony then don't get outraged about it. Come on, people, get your head in the game.

Posted by Daniel Radosh



"...the difference between a hockey mom and a Pit Bull? Lipstick."
-- Sarah Palin
"You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig."
-- Barack Obama

If you can let the sleeping Pit Bull lie,
And avoid the donkey and its hooving,
Then here's a rule for pigs you should apply:
They're only lying when their lipstick's moving.

Light verse, ripped from the headlines

I hope the Obama/Biden campaign takes your advice and runs with it... too perfect.

Ditto. I shouldn't, but I continue to be amazed that the level of inanity in this campaign and its coverage can out-stupid the previous day's, yet it keeps doing so.

I'm thinking Kevin Bacon might be pro-Obama. Maybe he could make a few cleverly written TV spots?

Is Arnold Ziffel still around?

Ned Beatty is going to break his silence and announce his endorsement.

Just heard on the radio:

"What's the difference between Sarah Palin and a pig? Pigs don't like pork."

JMM endorses Radosh strategy. And it was only in reading this post that it occurred to me that when you look at it in an "A is to B as C is to D" format, Obama wasn't calling Palin a pig - he was calling her lipstick. Touche! They should embrace that, too.

Palin/McCain: The Lipstick and the Dipstick

Hey Vance, Obama said the same on Letterman last night.

Fritz- Yeah, now all Obama needs to do is go around correcting everybody's punctuation and he'll have this thing sewn up.

OK, now with Obama's other comment about stinky old fish wrapped in paper called change, I guess Sarah Palin is the new paper wrapping, and John McCain is the dirty old vaginal odor? Somebody please explain as all this complicated biology 'bout to make my silly li'l head explode.

now all Obama needs to do is go around correcting everybody's punctuation

Just call me Cornelius, my friends.

Great idea! Now supposing your idea got through to his communications team, or maybe they thought of something similar themselves...any idea why they didn't go that route?

I'm pretty sure the idea got to them. Maybe it got to them too late. Or maybe it conflicted with some broader strategy we don't know about. I do wish they'd used it...

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