Jim, Phil, Quin: I agree that the web ad playing the sexism card is a bit much. But let’s not let Obama off the hook that easily.
Here is what he said: “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. It’s still gonna stink.” I’m not sure we should be so quick to dismiss the idea that Obama and his speechwriters, knowing full well that “lipstick” has become associated with Palin and “old” has become associated with McCain, picked their cliches intentionally, as coded digs at their opponents.
Here’s Jim Lindgren’s theory:
Probably, the Democratic speechwriters today were trying to do their own version of Palin’s pointed gibes (about community organizing, talking about victory, personal discovery, etc.), but got the tone wrong…
It is not just a case of plausible deniability; the speechwriters were trying to be witty. By referring to McCain and Palin’s ideas using colorful language that will cause his audience to think of the actual people Palin and McCain, Obama was almost certainly trying to come right up to the line between acceptable and unacceptable insults without actually crossing it. That Obama’s crowd understood the allusion to Palin is suggested by the enthusiastic cheers that started even before he finished the pig sentence. Without seeing the Palin connection, would they have cheered in the middle of him uttering an otherwise completely ordinary cliche?
Did Obama have female speechwriters work on his speech? If not, would he have miscalculated if he did?
Was Obama calling Palin a pig and McCain a stinky old fish? No, it would be too crude to do – and he didn’t directly do so.
But when Obama talked about a pig and a fish, was he slyly referring to them personally? Almost certainly. Very likely, this paired comparison was intended to be a Palin-style sharp, but good natured insult. It misfired because the insult was far less sly (and far more crude) than he and his speechwriters thought it was.
Is Lindgren correct? I don’t know — that’s where the plausible deniability part comes in. But it’s at least a close question.
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