Sunday, March 8, 2009

Lipstick on a Pig

Back when the election was getting hot and heavy, a political cartoon by Glenn McCoy depicting Barack Obama as a mental asylum inmate appeared in my local newspaper. Restrained in a straitjacket, Obama has clearly been writing the word "Sarah" with his foot all over the walls of his padded white room ... in lipstick. The clearly simian bend of McCoy's portrayal (the monkey-like face is overshadowed by the clenched ape foot clutching the tube of lipstick) is obviously a not-so-subtle jab at Obama's race.

So where’s the outcry? I mean, the chorus of dissent over Obama's use of a popular political phrase reached the rafters, but why are cheap shots about the fact that Obama is an African-American allowed to pass without comment? I'm a white female, and my increasing awareness of the double-standard allowing everything that might possibly be seen as anti-woman being blown out of proportion while blatant jabs at African-Americans are evidently fair game is starting to really make me angry.

If anyone hasn't heard about it, Senator Obama said, in reference to McCain's economic policy, "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig." For some reason, this was taken as somehow referring to Sarah Palin and, faster than you can say hypocrisy, the word was out that Obama had made an anti-woman crack.

The phrase, "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig" is clearly another way of saying that, no matter what short-term appearance fixer you put on something ugly, it's still going to be ugly. In other words, you can't change what something is by playing with its outward appearance. A similar phrase involves the inability to make chicken salad out of chicken shit, but I digress.

The fact that John McCain said of Hillary Clinton's health care plan, "I think they put some lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig" in Iowa last October (that's less than a year ago) is for some reason not getting the same press. There was no feminist outcry last October, and there is very little mention of this in response to the public skewering Obama is currently taking.

A longtime part of used-car dealership jargon, the phrase was, according to Time magazine, first exposed to the public in 1985 when a news station said using its financial surplus to renovate Candlestick Park would be like "putting lipstick on a pig." Since then, the phrase has been used by (in no particular order) Elizabeth Edwards, Dick Cheney, Torie Clark (former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs under Rumsfeld, former communications chief for the Pentagon for a portion of Bush's presidency, and former McCain press secretary), John Edwards, and House Minority Leader John Boehner as well as by John McCain and Barack Obama.

The overblown criticism Obama has taken for his use of a saying that has been used by a variety of people from differing walks of life is just adding to the surreality of this campaign. That direct cracks directed at Obama (a la McCoy's political cartoon) are somehow fair game only add to the bitterness that is starting to really bog me down and look at my country with a cynical eye.

Has anyone else noticed this, or am I just overly sensitive, cynical, or out-and-out wrong?

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