September 10, 2008
Lipschtick and Pigs
By Mary Lyon
Amazing what a difference a week makes.
Something has changed since Sarah Palin burst into the Republican Convention and started living it up by the stiletto. It still stings to look back over her mean-spirited, scornful, barb-laden speech. Whoever once said sticks and stones might hurt but names would not, has obviously never met the new Republican Annie Oakley wannabe. But it's not just the nastiness anymore. Now it's the wall-to-wall lies. Evidently she hasn't yet bothered to visit the now-fabled "Straight Talk Express."
I've noticed an interesting new yeast beginning to leaven the Sarah Palin story. Her acid tongue has pierced through a wall that seemed unassailable for years. The near-adoration of her by a ridiculously fawning media a few days ago now has some strings attached. For a nauseatingly long time, Republicans in general and the Bush administration in particular have enjoyed a singular freedom from vetting by the media. The most we've ever had when one of these people bore false witness was a lipstick-on-pig vocabulary of delicate wordings and phrasings such as "misleading," "misstating," "misspeaking," "misrepresenting," "stretching the truth," "exaggerating," "prevaricating," and other verbal tidy-wipes.
Sarah Palin's statements have apparently pushed this tolerance threshold just a bit too far. Seems someone has finally noticed - and doesn't mind saying so - that the lady has trouble telling the truth. For the first time, I've actually heard some mainstream media people using that other "L-word" - lie - in all its derivations, when discussing her. That attests to the power of the blogosphere that decided not to wait for the mainstreamers to fact-check her claims. I guess their due diligence dug up so much pay dirt so quickly that the conventional media couldn't afford to remain so willfully blind or deferentially on their knees any longer. Previously, there never would have been heard a discouraging word - after all, we are talking about a Republican here.
I think it might be a case of "it's the magnitude, stupid." It would be one thing if the issue were a single boo-boo, or one teeny tiny tall tale that gets a nice laugh and then fades. But with Palin, it keeps coming and coming and coming, over and over and over again. Not just one inadvertent omission or exaggeration. Multiple statements she made in her speech, and repeated on campaign stops, have not passed the smell test. At such a high level of regularity, it shouldn't be surprising that somebody somewhere started to notice. That heightened awareness has bloomed from such blogs as Talking Points Memo, DailyKos, and ThinkProgress to Newsweek, the Associated Press, the Wall Street Journal, ABC News, MSNBC, NBC's Nightly News, CBS, the Washington Post, even Chris Wallace on Fox Noise, and CNN's Wolf Blitzer wondering aloud "is she telling the whole truth?" We're finally seeing the media at least attempting to be completely impartial and start questioning again, rather than dutifully funneling whatever any GOP celebrity said, directly from tongue to TV screen and news print without regard to whether that tongue might be forked.
Now there's a growing awareness of the need to correct both Palin's and John McCain's statements repeatedly, because these two have provided so much material to work with. In her case, it's about the Bridge to Nowhere, earmarks, pork-barrel spending, the executive jet that may or may not have been sold on EBAY (maybe for a profit and maybe not), how innocent and occasional was her questioning of the employment of her ex-brother-in-law, and what she personally pocketed in travel expenses while living at home. For McCain, there's the whole side show regarding who said "lipstick on a pig" about what or whom, complete with multiple video clips of his own (pardon the pun) liberal use of that phrase.
Is it time, yet, to declare that the McCain/Palin bloom fading from the rose? Has the blanket free pass finally been revoked? Richard Wolffe went so far on MSNBC's "Countdown" to say that the McCain/Palin campaign may well have "jumped the pig." I've watched over several days as the coverage of the campaign has changed ever so slightly in timbre. It looks as though they're not just swallowing Republican talking points whole, or mindlessly anymore. As much time seems to be spent, now, dissecting the content of a stump speech or a campaign commercial to examine what's misleading or flat-out false, misquoted, or taken out of context. Nobody ever seemed that interested in such meticulous autopsies before. Perhaps the news media has decided, at least partially, that lapdog time is old news, and watchdog time is back on the clock.
Which brings us to the lip service about "lipstick." Is "lipstick" the exclusive property of the GOP? Both Sarah Palin and John McCain would have you believe it is. Why else would McCain relish using the "lipstick on a pig" phrase about Hillary Clinton's health care plan during the primaries, and peppering his public comments with it on any number of occasions, only to take great umbrage when Barack Obama uses the same phrase to describe McCain's policies?
Palin attempted to assert claims of exclusive ownership of the word "lipstick" in her convention speech. Sarah, dear, let me help you here at the cosmetics counter. You do not own that word. You never did. No one woman unilaterally does. Nor do Rudy Giuliani, Kiss, or RuPaul. Tammy Faye Bakker certainly didn't - and she might actually have had a reasonable claim. Connie Francis didn't, even while singing "Lipstick on your collar told a tale on you" in 1959. Nor did Margaux Hemingway in the film "Lipstick" ten years later, or more recently Alesha Dixon in her "Lipstick" video, or Brooke Shields on TV's "Lipstick Jungle." Max Factor doesn't even own that word. No one ever issued Palin a trademark for it.
What's next? Might we soon see Palin suing for copyright violation if Obama or another Democrat uses the word "lipstick" in a sentence from here until Election Day? And if so, shouldn't it be John McCain who might take such legal action? After all, the video clip of Obama using the words "lipstick" and "pig" in the same sentence featured him mentioning only one name: McCain's. Not Palin's. Maybe we're getting a little touchy?
There's one other point to make here. At the convention, Palin herself declared that she was ready for a good fight. She proved that she can throw a punch, and she seems eager to keep doing so. Anybody who struts around a stage boldly likening herself to a "pitbull in lipstick" is spoiling for some sort of dust-up, or at least talking like it. Those are fightin' words. If you adopt such a belligerent posture, you lose your right to object when and if some of the punches coming at you start landing a little too hard. For the McCain/Palin campaign to start whining and yelling "No Fair!" now, when they were the ones who started waving their lipstick at America is tantamount to smearing that lipstick directly into the Looking Glass. Besides, it's the P.O.W. griping on behalf of a running mate who's presently M.I.A., which makes him look small and rather pathetic. She's more than capable of defending herself. After all, this lady painted her own face with war paint, in the first place. Nobody forced her hand.
What's encouraging is that the mainstream media is now no longer pulling its own punches. It's MORE than fair to ask questions, and challenge phony and off-base claims, especially when you have a record AND the video tape to underscore the validity of that challenge. Let the full media vetting surge ahead. As voters we have the absolute right to know whether McCain and Palin, who would govern our land and our lives, are lying and fudging the facts when they make their case for our support. It's long past time when only Democrats should be subject to a political proctoscope while Republicans get a mere skin-deep overview. It's good, finally, to see that press people aren't willing to take much at face value from either party any longer - with or without lipstick.