Lipstick Jungle

You know that John McCain’s campaign might be succeeding in their attempts to keep the campaign away from the issues when they manage to make lipstick the top story of the day. It started, according to Marc Ambinder, when McCain’s Orwellian named “truth squad” called the press with their first lie. They complained about this incident at an Obama rally:

Obama poked fun of McCain and Palin’s new “change” mantra.
“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.”

The McCain Lie Squad claimed that Obama was calling Sarah Palin a pig since Palin had read a joke about lipstick in her acceptance speech. (As you will recall, Sarah Palin only reads prepared statements. Apparently, while she is not a pig, she is too uninformed on the issues to speak without prepared text.)

The McCain Lie Squad had hoped to fool the media into believing that Sarah Palin now holds the copyright on the word lipstick and any reference to it must only apply to her, meaning that Obama was also calling her a pig. It didn’t work. It turns out that Obama has frequently used this expression, such as here in 2007:

‘I think that both General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker are capable people who have been given an impossible assignment,’ Sen. Barack Obama said yesterday in a telephone interview. ‘George Bush has given a mission to General Petraeus, and he has done his best to try to figure out how to put lipstick on a pig.

McCain has said this too:

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 plan, he said it was “eerily reminiscent” of the failed plan she offered as first lady in the 1990s.

“I think they put some lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig,” he said of her proposal.

Meghan McCain stated on Fox News that she has also heard her father use the phrase.

MarK Halperin, who all too frequently repeats Republican talking points fed to him by Matt Drudge, has had enough of this. On Anderson Cooper he said:

MARK HALPERIN, “TIME” MAGAZINE: Stop the madness. I think, with all due respect to the program’s focus on, listen to David just said. I think this is the press just absolutely playing into the McCain campaign’s crocodile tears.

COOPER: Crocodile tears


COOPER: They knew exactly what it is.

HALPERIN: They knew exactly what he was saying. It’s an expression. And this is a victory for the McCain campaign in the sense that every day they can make this a pig fight in the mud. It’s good for them because it’s reducing Barack Obama’s message even more. But I think this is a low point in the day and one of the low days of our collective coverage of this campaign. To spend even a minute on this expression, I think, is amazing and outrageous.

Obama has had enough of these lies and swift boat politics:

“Enough!” Mr. Obama said, interrupting a speech on education to address the latest controversy in the heated presidential campaign. “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.”

Obama has taped an appearance on Letterman and has again responded to this matter:

OBAMA: The answer would be no. But I think it might be fun to try …. This is sorta silly season in politics. Not that there’s a non silly season but it gets sillier . It’s a common expression in at least illinois. I don’t know about in New York City. I don’t know what you put lipstick on here. (Silly cringe from Letterman. Laughter from audience) In Illinois, The expression connotes the idea that if you have a bad idea — in this case I was talking about McCain’s economic plans — calling them ‘change,’ calling them something different doesn’t make them better. Hence lipstick on a pig is still a pig.

LETTERMAN: Let me ask you a question here, have you ever actually put lipstick on pig?

He then added that Palin represented the lipstick in the picture, with McCain’s policies as the pig.

Letterman asked what Obama and the campaign thought of Palin when she was picked: “We didn’t know much about her. Honestly, she’s a skilled politician.”

“There’s no doubt that she has been a phenomenon,” Obama continued. “I mean, as somebody who used to be on the cover of Time and Newsweek — those were the days, I had a recent offer with Popular Mechanics, centerfold with a wrench,” he said to laughter. “Look, she’s on wild ride and there’s no doubt that she has energized the base. “

Update: Transcript of Barack Obama’s appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman

Matt Damon Smears Disney

Long time readers probably realize I’m a big Disney fan. That brainwashing comes from having taken more trips to Walt Disney World than I have time to count right now, and spending them in total Disney immersion at their resorts.  You cannot spend weeks at The Grand Floridian, Boardwalk, Yacht, and Beach Club without becoming a die hard Disney fan.

In talking about the choice of Sarah Palin, Matt Damon saysIt’s like a really bad Disney movie.” That is an unfair smear against Disney. Nothing this terrible happens in a Disney movie. Even Lindsay Lohan is good (and keeps her clothes on) when in a Disney movie.

Beyond this point, I agree with everything else Damon days about Palin:

“It’s like a really bad Disney movie. The hockey mom… and she’s president and facing down [Russian president] Vladimir Putin,” Damon said. “It’s absurd. It’s totally absurd and I don’t understand why more people aren’t talking about it.”

Damon also suggested McCain’s selection of Palin wasn’t based on her political qualifications.

“I know she was the mayor of a really small town. She’s the Governor of Alaska for less than two years. I just don’t understand it. I think the pick was made for political purposes, but in terms of governance, it’s a disaster,” he added. “I need to know if she really thinks that dinosaurs were really here 4,000 years ago. I want to know that. Because she’s going to have the nuclear codes. I want to know that and I want to know if she tried to ban books. We can’t have that.” Accuses McCain of Lying About has had numerous articles criticizing John McCain’s dishonest ads, and has also defended McCain and Palin at times. Today we have the strange situation where they have issued a new post criticizing McCain for running a dishonest ad which distorts findings from

This center around a recent post which debunks some of the claims about Sarah Palin being circulated by email which go well beyond the actual criticism of Palin from legitimate sources. They call this “less than honest.”

With its latest ad, released Sept. 10, the McCain-Palin campaign has altered our message in a fashion we consider less than honest. The ad strives to convey the message that said “completely false” attacks on Gov. Sarah Palin had come from Sen. Barack Obama. We said no such thing. We have yet to dispute any claim from the Obama campaign about Palin.

They call the ad “Fact Check.” It says “the attacks on Gov. Palin have been called ‘completely false’ … ‘misleading.’ ” On screen is a still photo of a grim-faced Obama. Our words are accurately quoted, but they had nothing to do with Obama.

Our article, posted two days earlier, debunked a number of false or misleading claims that have circulated in chain e-mails and Internet postings regarding Palin. There is no evidence that the Obama campaign is behind any of the wild accusations that we critiqued. There is no more basis for attributing these viral attacks to the Obama campaign than there is for blaming the McCain campaign for chain e-mail attacks falsely claiming that Obama is a Muslim, or a “racist,” or that he is proposing to tax water. The anti-Palin messages, like the anti-Obama messages, have every appearance of being home-grown.

The McCain campaign had an opportunity in which they could have been honest by citing the Factcheck article to debunk some of the untrue claims about Palin. Instead they overplayed their hand, and displayed their dishonesty, in misrepresenting what Factcheck said and attempting to turn it into an attack on Obama. The article also debunks additional false claims from the McCain campaign made in the ad.

New Tie Found Between Palin And Far Right Extremism

During her acceptance speech Sarah Palin quoted an unnamed writer who write, “”We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty and sincerity and dignity.” Thomas Frank has tracked down the quote and found it was from far right-wing columnist Westbrook Pegler. Pegler is on record for having regretted FDR was not assassinated and was known for his anti-Semitism. Even the John Birch Society wound up dissociating themselves from Pegler’s views.

This certainly does not mean that Palin shares Pegler’s views but is yet one more disturbing link between Palin and the extreme right wing, raising legitimate questions regarding the influences on her views. These questions become more important due to Palin’s refusal to say anything this week which has not been scripted, and her only scheduled interview is with Charles Gibson whose ties to McCain raise fears he will not risk his access by asking any hard questions.

The issue of small town America wound up becoming part of the campaign when Palin distorted the criticism of her. The actual criticism had nothing to do with those living in small town America but was whether the experience of being mayor of a town with a population of around six thousand provided any meaningful experience to deal with national and international issues. The manner in which Palin has been kept away from having to answer any questions seems to provide an answer to this question.

I’ve lived in both big and small towns and have my doubts that the people of either are inherently better or worse than the other. Both have their good people and their bad people. Wasilla certainly has its share of people who do not live up to Palin’s words as it is considered the methamphetamine capital of Alaska by Alaska State Troopers. The National Enquirer alleges that Wasilla’s drug problem extends to Palin’s own family with Track having been addicted to OxyContin. (Perhaps that is why Rush Limbaugh has been such a huge fan of Sarah Palin.)

If true this might not by itself be a good reason to vote against Sarah Palin but there is some justice in this. During the culture wars conservatives have often claimed a moral superiority to liberals, when often it is liberals who have the more traditional life styles. I would certainly hope my daughter grows up to be more like the daughters of John Kerry or Al Gore than the daughters of George Bush or Sarah Palin (and fortunately she is well on her way to doing so).

An Election Over John McCain’s Character

As I wrote earlier, the dishonest shown by John McCain should become a major issue of the campaign as people who campaign dishonestly are likely to govern dishonestly. Such views are coming from many sources beyond those I quoted previously. Andrew Sullivan, who at one time liked McCain and had hopes of an honest debate on the issues, now questions McCain’s integrity:

So far, he has let us all down. My guess is he will continue to do so. And that decision, for my part, ends whatever respect I once had for him. On core moral issues, where this man knew what the right thing was, and had to pick between good and evil, he chose evil. When he knew that George W. Bush’s war in Iraq was a fiasco and catastrophe, and before Donald Rumsfeld quit, McCain endorsed George W. Bush against his fellow Vietnam vet, John Kerry in 2004. By that decision, McCain lost any credibility that he can ever put country first. He put party first and his own career first ahead of what he knew was best for the country.

And when the Senate and House voted overwhelmingly to condemn and end the torture regime of Bush and Cheney in 2006, McCain again had a clear choice between good and evil, and chose evil.

He capitulated and enshrined torture as the policy of the United States, by allowing the CIA to use techniques as bad as and worse than the torture inflicted on him in Vietnam…

And when he had the chance to engage in a real and substantive debate against the most talented politician of the next generation in a fall campaign where vital issues are at stake, what did McCain do? He began his general campaign with a series of grotesque, trivial and absurd MTV-style attacks on Obama’s virtues and implied disgusting things about his opponent’s patriotism…

Yes, McCain made a decision that revealed many appalling things about him. In the end, his final concern is not national security. No one who cares about national security would pick as vice-president someone who knows nothing about it as his replacement. No one who cares about this country’s safety would gamble the security of the world on a total unknown because she polled well with the Christianist base. No person who truly believed that the surge was integral to this country’s national security would pick as his veep candidate a woman who, so far as we can tell anything, opposed it at the time.

McCain has demonstrated in the last two months that he does not have the character to be president of the United States. And that is why it is more important than ever to ensure that Barack Obama is the next president. The alternative is now unthinkable. And McCain – no one else – has proved it.

The manner in which McCain has conducted himself in this campaign has come as a shock to many as even his opponents expect far better from him. In the one rare case where he really has embraced the views of those opposing him he has hired the same Rove operatives who smeared him in 2000 to do the same to his opponent this year. Unfortunately his record on working with others in recent years is not so good on matters of policy.

Realizing that he was behind, McCain decided to do anything necessary to attempt to win, regardless of how dishonest. Josh Marshall writes:

All politicians stretch the truth, massage it into the best fit with their message. But, let’s face it, John McCain is running a campaign almost entirely based on straight up lies. Not just exaggerations or half truths but the sort of straight up, up-is-down mind-blowers we’ve become so accustomed to from the current occupants of the White House. And today McCain comes out with this rancid, race-baiting ad based on another lie. Willie Horton looks mild by comparison. (And remember, President George H.W. Bush never ran the Willie Horton ad himself. It was an outside group. He wasn’t willing to degrade himself that far.) As TPM Reader JM said below, at least Horton actually was released on a furlough. This is ugly stuff. And this is an ugly person. There’s clearly no level of sleaze this guy won’t stoop to to win this election.

And let’s be frank. He might win it. This is clearly a testing time for Obama supporters. But I want to return to a point I made a few years ago during the Social Security battle with President Bush. Winning and losing is never fully in one’s control — not in politics or in life. What is always within our control is how we fight and bear up under pressure. It’s easy to get twisted up in your head about strategy and message and optics. But what is already apparent is that John McCain is running the sleaziest, most dishonest and race-baiting campaign of our lifetimes. So let’s stopped being shocked and awed by every new example of it. It is undignified. What can we do? We’ve got a dangerously reckless contender for the presidency and a vice presidential candidate who distinguished her self by abuse of office even on the comparatively small political stage of Alaska. They’ve both embraced a level of dishonesty that disqualifies them for high office. Democrats owe it to the country to make clear who these people are. No apologies or excuses. If Democrats can say at the end of this campaign that they made clear exactly how and why these two are unfit for high office they can be satisfied they served their country.

It was originally the McCain campaign which decided the campaign would not be about issues. While Democrats should not forget the issues, as they have the facts on their side in any such debate, this is a case where we should give the Republicans what they want. Let this race be about John McCain’s character, as he has provided plenty of evidence that he is not fit to be president. He cannot excuse every unethical act and every lie forever on having once been a POW.

McCain’s Dead Cat Bounce?

Democrats are understandably shook up over McCain’s recent lead in the polls but it appears that the post-convention bounce is leveling off. McCain’s lead remains unchanged at 5% in the Gallup daily tracking poll, with both candidates losing one point today. This is to be expected. In a close race the last major news event typically influences the polls. As Gallup pointed out yesterday, the bounce after the second convention typically lasts one month.

This means that some patience is needed until the debates and other events shake up these results. Fortunately most polls show the race as being virtually tied. Rasmussen’s daily tracking poll shows that when leaners are included Obama is recovering. Two days ago McCain led by one percent while today Obama has a one percent lead.

Either candidate can still win this race, but it is possible that McCain’s post-convention lead might turn out to be a dead cat bounce. The fundamentals still work against McCain. While the choice of Palin has helped McCain in the short run, this could turn out to be a costly mistake. By turning the race entirely to one over who will bring about change the race will be on Obama’s home turf. While voters might initially be dazzled by Palin, sooner or later they will realize that change does not mean four more years of the same. Sooner or later Palin will have to do more than read from prepared scripts and, while she might continue to energize the far right, she is also likely to cause independents to think further about this ticket.

This does not mean that there are no problems for Obama. He needs to again energize this race as he did last spring. He must talk about more than change and George Bush. He must more clearly define his policies and how they differ from those of John McCain, with the facts heavily favoring him in such a debate.

While some retooling is needed, Obama is right in not panicking. Today’s polls are not predictive of the final result. This might even be a year in which few of the polls get it right. Obama surprised Clinton by bringing in many new voters, and the polls are limited by questions of who will really turn out to vote. In 2004 there was every indication that Kerry would win if the youth vote turned out for him based upon their margin of support for him. As typically happens, the youth vote failed to turn out as hoped. This year could be different as Obama has already demonstrated an ability in the primaries to turn them out in  higher numbers than usual.

New Ad Highlights McCain Dishonesty

Yesterday I discussed an ad which represented a new low for the McCain campaign. The ad distorted the meaning of a bill supported by Obama which was intended to teach boundary lessons to children so that they would understand how to react to potential child molesters. The McCain campaign twisted the ad to claim that Obama wanted to teach children “about sex before learning to read.”

As I noted yesterday, this is twisting the truth so badly that it would be less of an incorrect statement to say that McCain supported child molesters. Neither is true, but this is another example of the type of logic McCain is using.

I bring this up again today because others are also seeing this as a new low for McCain. McClatchy fact checks this and declares it “Unsportsmanlike conduct.” After discussion of the ad they conclude, “Penalty: 15 yards for the McCain campaign’s deliberate low blow.” It is a shame that there really is not any means to penalize candidates who resort to such dishonesty without also infringing upon freedom of speech.

E.J. Dionne asks if the truth matters anymore and writes that McCain is “stooping to cheap advertising that would be condemned as trivial and misleading in a state legislative race. Boy, do I miss the old John McCain and wonder what became of him.”

Joe Klein, who has totally changed his view of McCain in recent days, writes a post entitled Apology Not Accepted:

Back in 2000, after John McCain lost his mostly honorable campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, he went about apologizing to journalists–including me–for his most obvious mis-step: his support for keeping the confederate flag on the state house.

Now he is responsible for one of the sleaziest ads I’ve ever seen in presidential politics, so sleazy that I won’t abet its spread by linking to it, but here’s the McClatchy fact check.

I just can’t wait for the moment when John McCain–contrite and suddenly honorable again in victory or defeat–talks about how things got a little out of control in the passion of the moment. Talk about putting lipstick on a pig.

This ad, the lipstick on pig nonsense (which I will write about later in case any readers have missed it, and lies which even Fox News has exposed, should put an end to McCain’s reputation as a straight talker and a maverick. Back in 2000 conservatives succeeded in portraying Al Gore as an exaggerator or a liar by distorting things he said. This actually became a major narrative of the campaign. This year we have numerous actual examples of outright dishonesty from John McCain. This should become a major issue of the campaign as people who campaign dishonestly are likely to govern dishonestly. Such “credibility gaps” have been a problem from administrations of both parties in the past, and we have especially seen the dangers of a dishonest administration over the last eight years. We cannot risk another four years of the same.