Putting Lipstick on A Pig

Lipstick On A PigThere are so many reasons I could never vote for John McCain. I could have in 2000, when he was a different man and might have done some good in this world. If John McCain had received the Republican nomination in 2000 instead of George W. Bush, I would have voted for him over Al Gore. But back in 2000, John McCain really was the man his campaign is trying to con us into believing he is today; the maverick who shot from the hip and pushed back against the extremists in his own party.

Today John McCain has become the very thing he used to fight against. He talks about taking the fight to the Washington establishment when he’s part of the Washington establishment. He talks about bringing change to Washington when he’s said himself that he’s supported George W. Bush over 90% of the time. And no one has explained how the Republicans are supposed to be fighting against the political elite in Washington when their man has been in the White House for the past eight years and they controlled Congress for over five of those years.

What we have today in the campaign of John McCain is even more Karl Rove. McCain believes he can say whatever he wants to say, because there is a vast political media machine stocked full of talking heads who are willing to trot out and repeat whatever mantra has been handed down for the day by their political masters. These people will faithfully repeat whatever bizarre sound bites come out of the campaign without question.

I lost what little respect I still had for John McCain when I realized he was using the Karl Rove playbook. When I learned, during Barack Obama’s tour of the Middle East, that the McCain campaign not only had a plan ready about how to attack Barack Obama if he talked to the troops (message: he’s using them for political gain), but also had a plan ready about how to attack Barack Obama if he didn’t talk to the troops (message: he doesn’t respect the troops). In short, no matter what Barack Obama actually did, they had a plan to attack him for it. That tactic has been put to good use in the McCain campaign, and it’s a tactic they’re still using today. I was reminded of this when I turned on the computer this morning and came across the non-story of Barack Obama’s comment about putting “lipstick on a pig”.

Here’s what happened. Last night, Barack Obama was talking about John McCain painting himself as an agent of change, and said;

“John McCain says he’s about change too,” Obama told a crowd in Lebanon, Virginia. “So I guess his whole angle is: Watch out, George Bush — except for economic policy, healthcare policy, tax policy, education policy, foreign policy and Karl Rove-style politics, we’re really going to shake things up in Washington. That’s not change. That’s just calling the same thing something different. But you can put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig. You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change, and it’s still going to stink after eight years.”

Needless to say, the McCain campaign attacked. They called Obama’s comments “disgraceful” and demanded an apology. The campaign added that Obama, in addition to calling Palin a pig, might have also been calling John McCain a fish, which, of course, would also require an apology. I would laugh at this if it wasn’t so frighteningly real. It’s like something out of a Monty Python skit. “Did you just call me a fish? I demand an apology!”

It’s further evidence of the McCain campaign using Karl Rove’s tactics. It doesn’t matter what your opponent says or does. Cite it as further example of how they’re what you’re fighting against. Don’t worry about the specifics. Attack, attack, attack! It’s the slash-and-burn, scorched-Earth tactics that Karl Rove pioneered on W’s campaigns, which have proven so effective for getting the lemmings to fall in line, strap on the jackboots, and march.

The first lemming outside of the McCain campaign to start repeating the latest attack line was Massachusetts Acting Gov. Jane Swift.

“The formation of the Palin truth squad couldn’t have happened too soon, as we saw when Senator Obama in Lebanon, Virginia this evening uttered what I can only deem to be disgraceful comments comparing our Vice-Presidential nominee Governor Palin to a pig. It’s clear to me as I am sure it will be to fair-minded Republicans, Democrats, and Independents across the country that Senator Obama owes Governor Palin an apology.” She went on to say, “Ultimately, I think the American people will realize that calling a very prominent female governor of one of our states a pig is not exactly what we want to see when we supposedly are going to have this great debate that is the politics of hope.”

That kind of takes your breath away, doesn’t it? The spin is so swift and so completely out of left field that it boggles the mind. Barack Obama made a comment about putting lipstick on a pig, and, well, we all know that Sarah Palin wears lipstick … so … he’s calling Sarah Palin a pig! Damned Democrats!

If you’ve never heard the expression about putting lipstick on a pig, you need to get your head out of your ass. I’ve heard it all my life. Most people have. It’s used to illustrate that you can pretty up whatever you wish, but it is still what it is. It’s a common expression frequently used in political campaigns. One would think you wouldn’t have to define this.

Of course, we wouldn’t be talking about the Republicans if there wasn’t some obvious hypocrisy involved. Trying to use this against Barack Obama becomes even more cynical and hypocritical when you realize that John McCain has used this phrase himself. When Hillary Clinton released her healthcare plan last year, John McCain portrayed it as a remake of the one she proposed when her husband, Bill Clinton, was president.

“I think they put some lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig,” McCain said.

Oh, my God! John McCain called Hillary Clinton a pig! Why didn’t anyone catch this? How dare he compare a prominent Senator to a pig? Why was there no uproar? I’ll tell you why. The Democrats don’t use Karl Rove tactics. Everyone knew what McCain meant. They didn’t need to challenge his comment by using some ludicrous charge that he was calling Hillary Clinton a pig.

But McCain likes pig analogies, apparently. Responding last year to GOP rival Mitt Romney’s attacks on his immigration agenda, McCain said:

“Never get into a wrestling match with a pig. You both get dirty, and the pig likes it.”

So. Using the McCain campaign’s own logic, John McCain has already called Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney pigs. I guess it’s logical that they would be particularly sensitive to being called pigs themselves. After all, who knows more about pigs than John McCain?

I know I’m being sarcastic and mocking. I can’t help myself. I feel like I’ve stumbled onto a playground and a ten-year-old John McCain is trying to discredit his opponent for class president by saying “He eats boogers!”. Which would be sad enough in and of itself if it wasn’t not for the very real political machine that’s behind John McCain today, in the guise of Fox News and every Conservative talk show pin-head, dutifully repeating what equates to “He eats boogers!”.

I have to agree with Barack Obama’s campaign senior advisor, Anita Dunn, who said, “Enough is enough. The McCain campaign’s attack tonight is a pathetic attempt to play the gender card about the use of a common analogy – the same analogy that Senator McCain himself used about Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s health care plan just last year. This phony lecture on gender sensitivity is the height of cynicism and lays bare the increasingly dishonorable campaign John McCain has chosen to run.”

I used to respect John McCain. He was one of the few Republicans that I could point to and believe that he hadn’t become a lap-dog to the Religious Right and the Neo-Conservatives. Sure, he was a Conservative and had some amazingly intolerant ideas, but he seemed to be a good, decent man. Someone you could disagree with but still respect, because you knew that his beliefs came from his convictions, and not solely from some political playbook.

Sadly, that John McCain is long gone. He started putting that McCain to rest a few years ago, when he first decided to run for President again and started cozying up to the Religious Right (without whom he had no chance of obtaining the party nomination). It’s especially heart-breaking to me to see a man who I once respected being reduced to using the same Karl Rove tactics that were used against him in the 2000 Republican primaries, when John McCain criticized leaders of the Religious Right as “agents of intolerance” and denounced what he said were George W. Bush’s campaign tactics of “division and slander.” These agents of intolerance are the same people whose asses John McCain had to kiss to have a chance at the Republican nomination, and who he appeased by selecting Sarah Palin, whose qualifications seem to have more to do with being an Evangelical Right-Wing Christian than the year and a half she was governor of Alaska.

The more I think of it, though, the McCain campaign’s protests make sense. They have to be sensitive to what Barack Obama said. I can’t believe that someone as politically experienced as John McCain could select someone like Sarah Palin as his running mate without knowing full well that the woman is there for no other reason than the make the ticket more attractive to his Republican base, and maybe the less-informed of us among the undecided. John McCain knows full well that Barack Obama didn’t call Sarah Palin a pig. But he has to know that using Palin to pretty up the intolerant fascism of the Republican party is the living definition of the analogy of “putting lipstick on a pig”.

Personally, I’d like to think that if Barack Obama had meant to refer specifically to Sarah Palin, he would have said something more akin to “you can put a human face on a demonic succubis, it’s still a demonic succubis”. But that’s just me.

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14 years ago

Great commentary, you hit the nail on the head. WHAT are we going to do about this campaign? Obama MUST be our next president if this country is going to have any hope at all for a future!

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