Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Lipstick comments colour US presidential campaign

A spat over gender politics erupted on the United States presidential campaign on Wednesday with John McCain accusing Democrat Barack Obama of a sexist attack on Sarah Palin, and Obama denouncing Republicans for ”lies and phoney outrage”.

With the race tightening in a struggle for women voters, McCain put out a web advertisement saying Obama was talking about Palin on Tuesday when he likened Republican plans for government reform to putting ”lipstick on a pig”.

Palin, a little-known Alaska governor before she became McCain’s running mate, had told the Republican nominating convention this month that she was a ”hockey mom” and joked that the only difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull was lipstick.

McCain’s advertisement juxtaposes the lipstick remarks by Obama and Palin, then cuts to footage of CBS News anchor Katie Couric observing that one lesson of the campaign was he ”continued and accepted role of sexism in American life”.

”Ready to lead? No,” McCain’s ad says in letters across the TV screen. ”Ready to smear? Yes.”

Obama tackled the controversy head-on during an appearance in Norfolk.

”What their campaign has done this morning [Wednesday] is the same game that has made people sick and tired of politics in this country,” he said. ”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 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 phoney outrage and Swift-boat politics. Enough is enough,” Obama added. He was referring to attack ads that helped sink the 2004 presidential campaign of Democrat John Kerry, a former Swift-boat captain in the Vietnam War.

Obama campaign spokesperson Linda Douglass said it was clear from the context of his remarks on Tuesday that the Democratic presidential candidate was not referring to Palin in his comments and was not calling her a pig.

McCain is ”running a relentlessly dishonest, disruptive and cynical campaign in hopes of distracting voters” from the issues, she said.

McCain ad pulled
CBS News said video-sharing website YouTube had agreed at CBS’s request to pull the ad on grounds that the Couric clip — taken without permission from a three-month-old online commentary about Democrat Hillary Clinton’s primary campaign — was a copyright infringement.

A McCain spokesperson disputed the copyright violation claim and said the ad would remain on the campaign’s website.

Opinion polls since the Republican and Democratic conventions show McCain closing the gap and drawing even with Obama ahead of the November 4 election.

A Washington Post/ABC News survey found most of McCain’s surge was due to a big shift in support among white women voters.

McCain’s campaign has drawn bigger crowds since Palin joined his ticket 12 days ago. About 23 000 attended a McCain-Palin rally in Fairfax, Virginia, on Wednesday.

Undeterred by accusations of sexism, Obama’s campaign launched an ”Alaska Mythbusters” effort to discredit some of the statements the McCain-Palin ticket is making about her reformist credentials.

Alaska Democrats, including former Governor Tony Knowles and Ketchikan Mayor Bob Weinstein, raised doubts about her having opposed a controversial bridge project and questions about her firing of a state police official.

Obama, a senator from Illinois, made his ”lipstick on a pig” remark during a speech in Lebanon, Virginia, on Tuesday while ridiculing McCain’s assertion since the Republican nominating convention that McCain and Palin would be ”agents of change” in Washington.

”You can put lipstick on a pig. It’s still a pig,” Obama said as the crowd cheered. ”You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It’s still going to stink.”

McCain himself had used the ”lipstick on a pig” line in referring to Clinton’s healthcare plan.

The line has been used by politicians from both parties. Torie Clarke, a long-time McCain adviser and former Pentagon press secretary, wrote a book entitled Lipstick on a Pig: Winning in the No-Spin Era by Someone Who Knows the Game. — Reuters

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them.

Related stories


Subscribers only

GDP, recession, JSE, rallying rand … these terms mean very...

The economy is not producing work, with many young adults working outside their fields of study or considering leaving the country as a result

More top stories

Learners moving to other provinces puts education departments under pressure

Gauteng and the Western Cape struggle to put children in class, but Limpopo and the Eastern Cape are closing schools as enrolment plummets

New membership system encounters problems in ANC branches

The Lower South Coast region has complained of a plot by some branch secretaries to manipulate the system

Police analyst implicated in R600k fraud scheme

But the forensic analyst has also claimed to be a victim of identity fraud

Economy’s signs of life mean little for the poor

GDP growth may be encouraging but it doesn’t mean much for SA’s millions of unemployed

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…