More Lipstick

It’s morning in America and I’m feeling perhaps a little more charitable, so I’ll revise and extend my remarks about yesterday’s “lipstick” furor.

I don’t know if Sen. Obama’s use of the phrase “lipstick on a pig” (LOAP) was deliberate. But it’s the more charitable explanation. The less-generous alternative was that it was a mistake, a “gaffe,” a “miscue,” or even a misspokement. That is because Gov. Palin used the word “lipstick” in a memorable way during the speech in which she introducing herself to the electorate. She has staked out the word “lipstick” and any halfway intelligent person would realize that. Mondale did the same with “where’s the beef” and Gary Hart would have been a fool to try to say something clever about beef. (Unless he was clever enough to do some kind of judo-flip that made it his own. But if he tried to seize it and flopped, it would have proved him a fool.)

But (you object) Obama has staked out “hope” and “change,” while McCain-Palin continue to try to seize that hill as if it weren’t his. True. But (a) “hope” and “change” aren’t trademarks, they’re generics, like “progress” and, in elections, “mom,” “apple pie,” and “the flag.” (b) the Obama campaign hasn’t used them in a memorable way. Contrast with the video “Yes We Can,” which did make a memorable refrain out of a generic theme.

Besides which (c) they haven’t used the words hope and change by themselves. They’ve used words like “real change” or “hope in something other than failed big-government blah-blah-blah.” It would have been stupid to simply steal the words by themselves.

Therefore, the charitable explanation was that LOAP was a casual insult about the pseudo-change offered by the poseurs, with lipstick as red-meat thrown to the loyalists we see cheering in the video. There’s nothing nice about that, but “politics ain’t beanbag.” (Of course, politics-as-usual is hardly hope and change, but that’s politics for you.)

So I stick to my theory. This was an insult directed at the policies of McCain-Palin. However, it was not wise, inasmuch as it offered such a great opportunity for the GOP to put the Democrats on defense. Again.

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