Why McCain’s ‘Lipstick on a Pig’ Sexism Claims Hold No Water

The McCain campaign is lashing out at Barack Obama’s use of the common phrase “You can’t put lipstick on a pig” at a campaign top yesterday, saying he was alluding to VP hopeful Sarah Palin.

Here’s the clip:

Said Obama: “Let’s just list this for a second. John McCain says he’s about change, too. Except — and so I guess his whole angle is, ‘Watch out, George Bush, except for economic policy, health-care policy, tax policy, education policy, foreign policy, and Karl Rove-style politics. We’re really gonna shake things up in Washington.’ That’s not change. That’s just calling some — the same thing, something different. But you know, you can — you know, you can put lipstick on a pig; it’s still a pig.”

The crowd immediately cheered, and if some were referencing Palin, they did so because of the “lipstick pitbull” line in her RNC speech.

The McCain camp is now charging sexism and has released another despicable ad:

UPDATE: CBS had the above video taken off of YouTube, and told MediaBistro: “CBS News does not endorse any candidate in the presidential race. Any use of CBS personnel in political advertising that suggests the contrary is misleading.”

However, McCain has used the phrase before as well, in reference to Hillary Clinton and her health plan:

“McCain criticized Democratic contenders for offering what he called costly universal health care proposals that require too much government regulation. While he said he had not studied Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s health-care plan, he said it was ‘eerily reminiscent’ of the failed plan she offered as first lady in the early 1990s. ‘I think they put some lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig,’ he said of her proposal.”

The Obama camp has responded: “Enough is enough. 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. This phony lecture on gender sensitivity is the height of cynicism and lays bare the increasingly dishonorable campaign John McCain has chosen to run.”


  1. says

    I’ve always loved that expression. It really makes the point. Just like calling a spade a spade and the pot calling the kettle black, these are earthy, common-sense colloquialisms with ZERO history of being sexist or racist, respectively. They could be used in sexist or racist ways with some adroit verbiage, but in context, it’s a huge DUH that he was in no way referencing Sarah Palin (who, in point of fact, kinda is a pig…). Then McCain’s posse of Republican womyn jumped into the fray and demanded an apology. Look, if histrionics about gender bias is going to work for Republicans, why didn’t it work for Democrats? Rightly so, Obama immediately pushed back and said it was ridiculous. I don’t think he planned this, but THIS would be an excellent moment—tonight on Letterman?—to say what he has needed to say for a while: “This race is not about race, it’s not about gender, it’s not about age and it’s not about religion. It’s about the issues. Vote the issues. The McCain camp needs to raise the level of debate, but they won’t because they can’t win on the issues.” He needs to control this news cycle by continuing to deny Palin was the target of his comment and he needs to turn it around and poke fun at their fake sensitivity. It also wouldn’t hurt to say that the Democrats are the party of feminism and equal pay for equal work and wasn’t it the Republicans who defeated the ERA, etc.? I hope he takes the opportunity by the, er, balls.

    Even Mike Huckabee is on Obama’s side on this!

  2. says

    He should have used a similar saying that’s common back home… “you can put kittens in the oven, that don’t make ’em biscuits”.

    Typical Republican bullshit, exploiting the lowest common denominator of our society.

  3. Rad says

    The silence from the Democratic base is deafening. What happened to all the speakers at the Democratic convention who vowed to get out there and fight for Barack? I can understand Hillary not wanting to fight McCain because if he loses, she still has to work with him in the Senate, but Bill? Come on, where’s Bubba when the black guy is being thrashed? All I’ve seen since the GOP convention is Sarah going after Barack, and GOP smear ads, followed by Barack, ALONE, having to refute and condemn them.

    The poor guy, I feel like he’s been deserted and left to the vultures.


  4. QoS says

    The **real ** twilight zone is that people still buy into CBS, Obidenmama, etc. Even MSNBC got rid of their news anchors ADMITTING they were too biased since it had become so blatant it had even become an embarrassment to Tom Brokaw, not exactly an objective observer himself…. They aren’t fooling anyone, it was obvious what Barack “fish lips” Obama was trying to do and Biden also made a “lipstick” comment the same day (which is not surprising, since he is sycophant and has shown a complete inability to think for himself). Coincidence? Trying to be homey and quaint? Getting in touch with middle America? I think not!

  5. QoS says

    The **real ** twilight zone is that people still buy into CBS, Obidenmama, etc. Even MSNBC got rid of their news anchors ADMITTING they were too biased since it had become so blatant it had even become an embarrassment to Tom Brokaw, not exactly an objective observer himself…. They aren’t fooling anyone, it was obvious what Barack “fish lips” Obama was trying to do and Biden also made a “lipstick” comment the same day (which is not surprising, since he is sycophant and has shown a complete inability to think for himself). Coincidence? Trying to be homey and quaint? Getting in touch with middle America? I think not!

  6. dc-20008 says


    It’s the E-C-O-N-O-M-Y!!!!!!!!!!

    Economy Economy Economy.

    Fannie and Freddie have been taken over by the Feds. This is the worst economic news since 1929!!

    Say it after me, ECONOMY!!!!!!!!

  7. where's Biden says

    Where’s Biden, isn’t he suppose to attack Palin? Obama shouldn’t be the one attacking. has biden gone missing or is he staying out of the spotlight because of his son.

  8. says

    It’s no big surprise, either that Drudge is doing what he can to fuel this non-controversy.

    McCain has NOTHING. Maybe the people will be fooled, but I have to believe that after the debates and a few gaffes by Palin, even the lipstick will be off the McCain campaign’s pig.

  9. says

    and Rade….don’t expect the Clinton’s to get involved here. They are not going to actively hurt the Obama campaign, but they also aren’t out there trying to help either.

    Their speeches at the DNC were mandatory for maintaining any semblance of credibility in the Democratic party for future elections.

    But if you think for a second they actually want Obama to win…think again.

  10. David says

    Simply one of the most idiotic things Obama could have possibly said. Between that and Biden’s swipe on children with special needs, the Democrats are quite effectively ruining any sense of integrity they emergedw ith from the primary and the conventions. Forget McCain torpedoing their campaign, they’re doing it themselves.

    Barack and Joe, stop focusing on Palin. Watch what you say. Take a deep breath before you say it and make sure that what you’re saying isn’t going to further drive a stake into your stomach. Palin is not Hillary Clinton; the old rules no longer apply.

    Sigh. This election is frustrating. The Dems need to pull it together and fast, because the Republican train is really picking up speed with every misstep they take.

  11. hill_w says

    I am not a Republican, nor am I a “troll,” but Obama’s remark was ill-considered. Yes, “lipstick on a pig” is a common expression, and yes, McCain used it before. But ever since Palin’s (you gotta admit) memorable RNC speech, the very use of the word “lipstick” has become somewhat loaded. And Obama knew what he was doing. He should have been well above that.

    Now, as for McCain’s egregious “response” ad, that was just as uncalled for. I would even go so far as to bet that Couric’s remark was totally taken out of context. They’re low, those Republican’s, sure, but we’re supposed to be above that kind of cheap crap. Like DC-2008 says above, back to the point already!

  12. John says

    This is a trap folks! And each day Obama/Biden fall in a little deeper. Everyday that Obama has to spend explaining what he meant is a day off-message. I pray he takes that line out of his stump speech. If this gets more traction, it’ll dominate the conversation for the rest of the week. Not good. The election will be determined by the middle, not the base.

  13. says

    Obama should take back his comments because they are true in regards to McCain and Sarah Palin.

    Sarah Palin is a fucking pig, a PORK BARREL PIG that has 300 million dollars of taxpayer money that she lobbied for that bridge. Only and only after rejecting the bridge, she kept the money and has been rolling around in it like a fucking pig in mud.

  14. JeffRob says

    You know what Republicans do? They start by aggressively painting their opponents as super-sensitive whiners who unfairly demand perfect PC-ness at all times, and don’t care about the real issues.

    Then, they make pathetic, transparent attempts at pandering to “minorities” to prove that they’re actually the compassionate party. Not enough to piss off the base, but just enough to show they’re not completely heartless.

    Then, when their opponents attack their obvious hypocrisy, Republicans lash out in full force in the manner they have all along been accusing their opponents of using, amplified for dramatic effect.

    GOP: It’s impossible to criticize Obama without being called a racist! We can’t talk about the issues, because if you disagree with him, you’re automatically a racist! That’s not fair!

    Obama: Let’s talk about the issues. Republicans promote policy that is antithetical to many of the struggles for women’s equality in the last 100 years.

    GOP: We love women! Look, here’s Sarah Palin!

    Obama: She’s a great mom, but on the issues, she’s identical to Bush, Cheney and McCain. You can’t put lipstick on a pig. You can’t wrap an old fish in newspaper called “Change” and sell it. It will still stink after 8 years.

    GOP: Oh my fucking god! You’re such a sexist! We can’t even hold a decent conversation because you’re blinded by your own sexism! See how sexist Obama is, ladies?

    It’s maddening.

  15. JT says

    NICK: *Seriously. My head is about to explode from all the bullshit. I can’t take much more of this.*

    I feel much the same way. I agree with DAVE as well; watch what you say, boys. Don’t give them ammunition.

    It seems each side is just waiting to characterize any statement as a “new low” – and, it seems, are not too careful about going low in the first place. Negative campaigning is effective, because no matter how untrue, people will remember and accept the negative. It makes my head want to explode, and me want to take a shower. And we have two more months of this?

  16. dc8stretch says

    RE: Rad, et al:

    “where are the Clintons, where are the Clintons?”

    Now you want them. LOL.

    On a side note, I noticed in the coverage of the DNC convention, that Obama had a 17 year old Super Delegate. WTF???? They can’t vote in the general election, but they can determine the Dems candidate?

    This is the candidate you deserve. Don’t go begging for the Clintons now.

  17. Jimmyboyo says


    As I corrected Rad

    The Clintons are already on the ground in battle ground states

    Hillary’s schedule is filled up with campaigning over the next 8 weeks for obama in battle ground states where she did very well in the primaries. She was in FL on Monday and tore into the repubs and mccain.

    She is not holding back. She is supporting Obama 100%.

    They are encouraging their big funders to help Obama, Streisand (best friends with the Clintons and a big funder of theirs) is holding a $28,500 per person fundraiser slated to bring in 9 mill for Obama. Bill is even having lunch with Obama soon. Clinton surrogates are out defending Obama in the media…..Carville!!! Baglea!!! Waserman Schultz!!! Ki Ki Meyers!!! etc Even telling Obama to be like Bill Clinton in his campaign and stay on issue and simple = Its the ECONOMY stupid!

    BUT of course if you were a real Clinton supporter, you would know such things.

    In your appearing to not know what is going on with the Clintons, you appear to not be a supporter of Hillary’s.

    I now question if you ever supported Clinton back in the primaries or are just a concern troll

    real Clinton supporters should know at least a bit about what Hillary / Bill and their team are doing = A LOT!!! to support and help Obama.

  18. paul says

    Obama was trying to get in a dig at Palin with that line. I’ve never heard it said with a big hammy vaudevillian pause between the first and second part while the crowd roars with laughter before the punchline even comes.

    He sounded nervous just saying it because he knew it was wrong. If you see it otherwise, you’re deluding yourself.

    I don’t have a problem with people getting in their zingers. Go for it. But don’t be a cowardly liar afterwards and say that it’s not what you meant.

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