WASHINGTON--Campaigning in Virginia on Wednesday, Barack Obama said the flap over his using the cliche putting "lipstick on a pig" was a "made up controversy" as John McCain's team said it was a smear against Sarah Palin in a web ad. Obama said the lipstick wars was "catnip" for the news media.
The McCain camp was successful in seizing the storyline of the day as the Obama campaign put up a stream of female surrogates and spokesmen--Linda Douglass, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Jennifer Palmieri and Stephanie Cutter to say the whole discussion was a silly distraction. Schakowsky pivoted to the main point in her MSNBC interview-- McCain has a poor record on many issues of interest to women.
I take Douglass at her word that Obama was not referring to Palin when he made the remark on Tuesday. Obama was indeed talking about McCain and how McCain was trying to portray himself as the change candidate; still his political radar was turned off when it should have been on.
What Obama knew or should have known (as lawyers say) was that even using the word "lipstick" could be taken as a reference about Palin since she just used the word last week at the GOP convention to define herself.
In her keynote speech last Wednesday Palin asked, what's the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull. "Lipstick," she said.
Obama himself spoke about the controversy--manufactured or otherwise--while in Virginia.
"Before we begin today, I want to say a few words about the latest made-up controversy by the John McCain campaign. What their campaign has done this morning is the same game that has made people sick and tired of politics in this country. They seize on an innocent remark, try to take it out of context, throw up an outrageous ad because they know that it's catnip for the news media.
"I'm assuming you guys heard this watching the news. All right. I'm talking about John McCain's economic policies. I say, this is more of the same. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig. And suddenly, they say, oh, you must be talking about the governor of Alaska! See, it would be funny except, of course, the news media decided that that was the lead story yesterday. They'd much rather have the story -- this is the McCain campaign -- would much rather have the story about phony and foolish diversions than about the future."
"....Enough! Enough! I don't care what they say about me. But I love this country too much to let them take over another election with lies and phony outrage and Swift-boat politics. Enough is enough!
"These are serious times, and they call for a serious debate about where we need to take the nation. We can't take another four years that are like the last eight where family incomes are going down at the same time as costs of everything are on the rise, where we keep on spending $10 billion a month in Iraq at a time when our own infrastructure here at home is crumbling and the Iraqis have a $79 billion surplus that they're not spending. We can't take another four years of the same trickle-down, on-your-own, special-interest-purse approach to economics that is killing the middle class in this country."