Perfectly innocent, I’m sure, just like Michelle’s bon mot last week about the importance of choosing a running mate who’s smart was perfectly innocent. Even though in that case, as in this one, reporters on the scene were so struck by the audience’s laughter they went out of their way to mention it.

Just your right-wing media exaggerating things as usual.

“That’s not change,” Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said of what Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is offering.

“You know, you can put lipstick on a pig,” Obama said, “but it’s still a pig.”

The crowd rose and applauded, some of them no doubt thinking he may have been alluding to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s ad lib during her vice presidential nomination acceptance speech last week, “What’s the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick.”

That’s Jake Tapper and a co-author, themselves “no doubt thinking” that Obama was kinda sorta calling Palin a pig. Otherwise they wouldn’t have wasted a post on what was otherwise a throwaway line at a random town hall.

And they’re not the only ones who took it that way.

Exit question: I defended him when he took heat from women for the “likeable enough” comment and his Annie Oakley goof on Hillary, but then came “sweetie” and now this. How come The One keeps running into these funny little misunderstandings with comments aimed at women politicians?

Update: Bear in mind as the inevitable nutroots naysaying about this gets going how insistent and ingenious they were in spinning secret offensive subtexts out of McCain’s ads. They’ll drill through six feet of bedrock to find “code” in something a conservative says, but they won’t dust off the topsoil of Obama’s comments.

Update:

Update: Here’s the video; the McCain camp is already coming after him for it. He doesn’t overemphasize the line, as you might think he would if he really wanted to hammer the point, but then if he hammered the point he wouldn’t have plausible deniability. Having watched it, I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt — more so than Kaus is, apparently — just because I hate when the left pulls this with innocent statements made by conservatives. But again, the point isn’t what he actually meant, which we can’t know; the point is how different those secret liberal racial/gender decoder rings seem to work when it’s one of their guys in the hot seat. David Bellavia, a war hero, got smeared with accusations of unconscious racism on MSNBC for making an innocent remark about Tiger Woods. Fortunately, the Messiah is above such unconscious impulses.

Update: And right on cue, here’s the governor of New York drilling through six feet of bedrock.

Update: Here’s Gov. Jane Swift laying into Obama on Team Maverick’s conference call this afternoon.

Update: The campaign that played the race card so skillfully against the Clintons suddenly locates its scruples.

“Enough is enough,” Obama senior adviser Anita Dunn said in a statement e-mailed to reporters

“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,” she continued. “This phony lecture on gender sensitivity is the height of cynicism and lays bare the increasingly dishonorable campaign John McCain has chosen to run.”

Here’s a story of McCain using it last year. Hillary, of course, hadn’t made any lipstick references to herself before then so there was no context for McCain to play off of.