What had been perhaps the greatest Presidential campaign in America history is quickly turning into a carnival side show. We have a pig wearing lipstick, so could “Lobster Boy” be far behind? Probably, so stayed tuned!
Two people are to blame for this, despite pledges for “change” and a more civil campaign tone. Hopefully John McCain and Barack Obama will raise the bar (and the tone of the debate, by the time we have the first debate on September 26).
First of all, Barack Obama did not call Sarah Palin a pig. No matter how you slice the bacon that was NOT was he said or implied. “That’s like putting lipstick on a pig” is a time-worn Washington cliché’ that usually refers to pork barrel legislation. It happens in the budget process every year, when a lot of well meaning amendments and projects are attached to budget bills. The budget may be “ugly” in total, but members pass it anyway, because often local projects (the lipstick) are attached to the entire budget (the pig!)
John McCain, being the prince of cutting pork in Washington, has used the phrase “putting lipstick on a pig” countless times in criticizing the federal budget over the years. There are plenty of examples on video tape from C-SPAN. So, McCain’s campaign is guilty of fanning the flames of a non-issue. Fox News Channel was pouring gasoline on the fire this morning with indignant anchors acting like Palin had been called a witch, or another word which rhymes.
But the Republicans aren’t completely to blame for this. They have accomplices in the Obama campaign, including the candidate himself. This whole journey began last Wednesday, when Palin asked the crowd in St. Paul during her acceptance speech: “What’s the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick!” The crowd roared with laughter, and it was perhaps the funniest line of both conventions.
Now I know what the “lipstick on a pig” colloquialism means, having heard it hundreds of times during Congressional debates when I lived in Washington, DC. But unless you are a C-SPAN junkie, a lot of average American’s probably don’t hear it that often.
Therein lies Obama’s problem. It’s easy for folks who heard Palin’s reference to lipstick last week, to think Obama was ridiculing her. In this era of hypersensitivity over perceived racial and gender slights, Obama must have known he was lighting a short fuse. It’s the very same fuse Obama’s campaign lit in New Hampshire and South Carolina and elsewhere, when it accused Bill Clinton for making racist remarks. (Clinton referred to Obama as a “kid” and his position on the Iraq war a “fairy tale.”) Why that made the diversity minded Clinton a racist still baffles me to this day. But people are hypersensitive these days, so the potholes in the road should be pretty obvious.
Now, Obama is falling victim to the same tactics his own campaign used against the Clintons with some degree of effectiveness. I once referred to Obama as a “naïve, political rookie” because his inexperience blinds him at times when he should see the obvious. For example: he should have picked Hillary Clinton to be his running mate; he should have known his pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright would be heavily scrutinized, and he should have easily seen that the public (and opponents) would misconstrue his “lipstick” metaphor.
So, I blame Obama and I blame McCain. And I convict the national press of “guilt by association” for fanning the hysteria of this non-story.
In the meantime, the nation’s unemployment rate stands at 6.1 percent, a 5-year high; gas prices still teeter near $ 4.00 a gallon, though they’ve dropped; and, lots of people are trying to decide whether to make the next mortgage payment, or pay the health care and grocery bills.
As Bill Clinton said so bluntly in 1992, “It’s the economy stupid!” What was true then, is true now. But you’d hardly know it by watching today’s newscasts.
I’ll be blogging more throughout the campaign, (and wearing make-up on my TV reports, but no lipstick!) Check in often at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com