McCain ad: "Lipstick"; Flashback: Obama flips the bird at Hillary; Update: Sexist Memory Lane

It didn’t take Team McCain long to develop a new television spot from Barack Obama’s “lipstick on a pig” comment.  They have rolled out this 30-second spot hammering Obama for his sexism, using a Katie Couric quote to remind viewers of Obama’s allegedly sexist campaign against Hillary Clinton.  They also note that while Obama isn’t ready to lead, he seems ready to smear:


I’d say the gloves are off. No need to post a transcript with this ad; it doesn’t take many words to get to the point.

Did Obama really mean to call Sarah Palin a pig, or at least refer to her in that sentence? In order to answer that question, people have to look at the full context of his statement here. He also said this:

“You can put lipstick on a pig,” he said as the crowd cheered. “It’s still a pig.”

“You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It’s still gonna stink.”

“We’ve had enough of the same old thing.”

Given that Palin had very publicly made the lipstick/pit bull joke during her widely-seen acceptance speech, it certainly seems that Obama intended to reference both Palin and McCain respectively in this sequence, with Palin being the pig and McCain the “old fish” wrapped in change.  The crowd certainly understood what Obama meant, and roared appreciatively.

Now Obama and his team want to pretend that this sequence had no meaning whatsoever.  It’s always difficult to gauge intent, but one would have to think Obama an idiot for not seeing the subtext of his own statement, especially since the crowd understood it all too well.  Obama himself has cried about the supposed racist attacks of Republicans and the McCain campaign all summer long, without ever once giving any evidence of it, and certainly not a data point like this.


If Obama wants to argue subliminal racism, he has no defense against overt sexism now.  This is his game, and he just proved himself incompetent at it.

The question is whether this is worth the trouble of making an ad, and of doing an ad buy — which are two separate questions.  I’d bet that this never sees air time, or if it does, only in precisely selected target markets.  Even with the 30-second run time, this is better suited for a web ad.  The end is a little too harsh; I wouldn’t call this a smear anyway.  It’s a disrespectful insult, which is different, and not the most outrageous Palin attack we’ve seen from Team Obama in any case.

Update: I’m getting several requests for this video, in which Obama apparently flips Hillary Clinton the bird during a speech in April:

What’s interesting about this is the timing. Obama had just torpedoed himself with his Crackerquiddick comments in San Francisco about small-town Americans (like Palin!) bitterly clinging to guns and God. Hillary had just cleaned Obama’s clock in a Philadelphia debate two days earlier. He responded to the pressure with a crude gesture — not exactly the kind of intelligent response one would expect from the former editor of the Harvard Law Review.

Update II: A few more data points for those wondering about Obama’s insensitivity on sexist imagery:

  • “She’s got the kitchen sink flying, and the china flying, and the, you know, the buffet is coming at me.” — April 20
  • “You challenge the status quo and suddenly the claws come out.” — February, Tulane University
  • “I understand that Senator Clinton, periodically when she’s feeling down, launches attacks as a way of trying to boost her appeal.” — February

Again, this is Obama’s turf.  He started this line of thinking by accusing John McCain and Republicans on four separate occasions this summer of conducting racist attacks by coded subtext.  If he wants to play that game, the McCain campaign just let him know that they can play it better.

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