September 10, 2008

The pig that got away

lipstickpigmccain.jpg For months, Barack Obama told us he was prepared for below-the-belt attacks and that he wouldn't let himself be Swift Boated. Well now the attacks have started, and how did Obama respond? He raised his voice and declared, I will not let myself be Swift Boated!

Seriously, dude?

Look, I have four-year-old twins. Periodically they get into that thing where one of them starts repeating everything the other one says. Inevitably the victim gets fed up with it and shouts, "Stop doing that!"

What they don't get yet, because they're only four years old, is that once you say, "Stop doing that," you've already lost. It's a statement that the tormenting is getting to you and an invitation for the tormenter to repeat, "Stop doing that" right back at you. What you have to say instead, as any eight-year-old can tell you, is, "I'm a poopy-head." Now you've trapped the bully. He either has to say "I'm a poopy-head" about himself (ha!), or he has to stop the attack.

The problem with Obama's "this is a made up controversy" response is that, in addition to keeping him on the defensive, it doesn't help him even if it works. At the very best it stops the debate about whether Obama is sexist and initiates a debate about whether the stupid distraction is nothing more than a stupid distraction. What still doesn't get debated is whether John McCain is putting lipstick on a fucking pig — and that's where Obama wants the focus to be.

This morning I proposed a version of the poopy-head maneuver for Obama. Josh Marshall added a nice little visual. At the urging of dozens of HuffPo readers I passed the idea on to a friend with connections to Obama's communication team. It would have been great if Obama had used it today instead of making clumsy attempts to explain, rather than amplify, his attacks. But it's probably not too late for him to use it tomorrow. Except, uh oh, tomorrow is Official Non-Partisan Day. And by Friday, Obama can't bring it up again without looking like he's the bad guy, not to mention slow on the uptake.

So instead, watch for Obama to never use that line again, even though it perfectly conveys his message and already has media traction.

Obama can still go on the attack over other things. Numerous people have pointed out a way in which he could essentially accuse McCain of siding with pedophiles over parents. But while that might throw McCain off his stride, it's as silly and phony as anything McCain himself is doing, and won't focus attention on issues that work in Obama's favor. No, lipstick on a pig was his big opening, and he blew it. Let's hope it doesn't happen again.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Another response for Obama whenever he's asked for a phony "apology":

Why not demand an apology for a laundry list of the greatest hits of the past 8 years:

- Leading us into a phony war
- Failing to catch bin Laden
- Destroying the constitution
- Losing America's moral leadership in the world through Abu Ghraib, etc
- Destroying the US economy
- Favoring oil companies over consumers and driving up gas prices
- Presiding over the worst economic/financial/housing crisis since the Geeat Depression
- 8 years of inaction on global warming
- Ignoring the genocide in Darfur

etc. etc.


What you have to say instead, as any eight-year-old can tell you, is, "I'm a poopy-head."

Maybe I was just bad at this game, but I always thought this meant you lost, because you were desperate enough to admit you were a poopy-head. My tactic was to just not say anything at all, which might be what Obama's trying to do--just talk directly to the American people instead of responding to things that are clearly beneath his dignity. You're right, though, he messed up this time.

In this case the Republican dirty tricksters chose the lesser of two evils. While Obama did say “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig ..." he went on to murmur "You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called ‘change,’ it’s still going to stink."

You KNOW Karl Rove was giggling with the thought of this manufactured headline: "Obama Calls Palin Stinky Old Fish," but decided it was too over the top even for him.

Oh, J.D. nothing is too over the top for the Rovians.

Oh. My. Fucking. Christ.

I think Obama could still get some mileage out of this tomorrow by doing a speech where he talks about whining and calls the GOPs complaints about his metaphors "old whine in new whineskins."

After pausing, he then explains he had to call it that "because I'm apparently not allowed to use fish or pigs in my speeches."

Come to think of it, that "old whine" wordplay would go over all the more boffo if it took off from him correcting somebody's punctuation. That's always a crowd-pleaser.

How dare you say "old," Vance. That kind of blackhearted comment shows how niggardly about fair play the Obama campaign has becoon.

What seems strange to me is that the Republicans CAN say "Stop doing that!" and it evidently works, at least with their base and maybe with independents. When Move.On put the stupid title "General Petraeus or General Betray Us" on their ad, the Republicans were outraged at the insult to an American military officer. When liberals complained about the Republicans showing Osama bin Laden's face in the ad against Max Cleland, we were just seen as whining. (Admittedly, Cleland was a political candidate and Petraeus was not. But still.)

Bill Frist has even said "The death tax is unfair." But imagine if any Democrat used the word "unfair" in ANY context. We'd be called whiners.

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