Sorry Justin, I didn’t get the memo requiring mandatory postings for lipstickonapiggate. I see that you, Doug, and Alan have already weighed in, all good posts, and the view is pretty much unanimous, so let me get mine out of the way, so we can indeed move on.
I don’t actually disagree with what any of what my fellow Donklebloggers had to say. However, as I am congenitally predisposed to swimming upstream, I will use my required entry to present the contrarian view.
Yes, as Alan and Doug point out, the phrase “lipstick on a pig” is an idiom in common use. So is “pot calling the kettle black” so is “lets call a spade a spade“. Does that mean it is acceptable or smart for McCain to use those common idioms in this campaign? I don’t think so.
“…then he makes the “lipstick on a pig” comment, about which I will grant that it is possible he wasn’t referring to Palin. But since she so recently made her “lipstick” joke a national buzzline, he should have known in the moment he said it (either the moment it entered his head, or the moment the crowd started laughing and whooping) or he’s not half as smart as we’ve been led to believe. And after that, he immediately tacks on a line about an “old fish”. If he wasn’t intending those two comments, strung together, to be a reference to Palin and McCain, he could have fooled the crowd that was listening to him: they made the connections right away.
If McCain had made some offhand comment like, “Barack Obama is criticizing me for being more partisan than I want people to think I am. Well, that’s kinda like the pot calling the kettle black,” that would have sunk him immediately. Never mind that it’s a common phrase. The standard in politics (and governance) is that you don’t make comments that can very easily be taken the wrong way. If he intended it as a reference to Palin, he’s stupid and he’s being punished for it right now. If he didn’t intend it a reference to Palin, he’s still stupid and he’s still being punished for it right now.
The die was cast in this particularly “politically correct” campaign season during the Clinton Obama primary contest. Then – by general agreement of the Democratic Party at large – we learned that anyone voting against Clinton was sexist and anyone voting against Obama was racist.
Is the McCain campaign risking looking as foolish now as the Democrats did during the primary? Oh yeah. But there is a political upside that the campaign would also be foolish to overlook. When there is a question about potentially racist, sexist, or ageist comments, the tie usually goes to the affronted party. Judging from this, this, this and this – there are plenty of Democratic women (and some Democratic men) who took exception to Obama’s statement – Liberal, Democratic, feminist women. You know, the kind of Clinton supporters that Obama would like to keep in his camp and McCain would like to take away.
I agree that it was unnecessary and foolish for the McCain campaign to pile on. If your opposition is deep in a hole and still digging, don’t interrupt.