“You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig,” Barack Obama once said about John McCain’s policies, claiming they were basically the same old Republican ideas just dressed up to look new and centrist. Could he also have been hinting about the way McCain “dressed up” his campaign by choosing Sarah Palin as a running mate? It’s not necessarily wrong to think so, but does that mean that Obama was also calling Palin a pig?
When I first heard this charge, I thought that Republicans had finally gone off the deep end. It was clear to me from Obama’s words that he was speaking of McCain’s policies. To suggest otherwise seemed to me to be creating issues out of thin air to bash Democrats. Also, this is supposedly a common saying in the south and several Republicans had used it before. Then I finally saw the clip wherein Obama said these words and I heard the crowd’s reaction. Even before he was able to complete his sentence, there were whoops and hollers. It is not clear what the audience thought was meant by these words, or that Obama meant them the way they were taken, but clearly they took it as something more than I did. Were the Republicans right?
Nevertheless, I notice that this happens a lot in the political realm. We are quick to think the worst of others instead of taking their words at face value. One cannot utter the words “tax cuts” without being branded as a racist these days. The tea partiers can’t seem to get a fair shake. In fact, this very strategy is endorsed by certain strategists, as if we don’t already do this too much. In his 2007 book The Political Brain, Drew Weston suggests that “Where there’s fire, don’t wave at the smoke…Martin Luther King and Lyndon Johnson…didn’t argue about the pros and cons of literacy in a democratic electorate to make a case against literacy tests. They didn’t argue about the utility or disutility of poll taxes in a republic. They understood that this was just the smoke, and that the real issue was the fire in the belly of those who were burning the crosses…You don’t put out a fire by waving at the smoke. You put out the fire. And if someone keeps starting those fires, you put out the arsonist.” The problem with this strategy is that to Weston, even innocent phrases such as “law and order,” “welfare queens,” “states’ rights,” and “soft on crime” are all “code words” for racism.
I am not quick to pass judgment, nor am I quick to see patterns. When seeing the same charts that others use to support belief in global warming, I only see randomness. The signal-to-noise ratio is far too small to project any sort of trend into the future with any confidence. I have read that those with schizophrenia have a more difficult time discerning patterns than the population at large. Could the differences in opinion over global warming have a neurological basis? Likewise, could the difference in interpretation of the “lipstick on a pig” comment have a neurological basis?
Sometimes I wonder if other people have mild Asperger’s Syndrome. They often misunderstand me, losing track of the context, and accusing me of things I never said. At the same time, I suspect I understand both the right and left better than they understand each other.
Hmmmm…This became a bit of a ramble. Just some ideas I’ve been thinking about lately. Discuss.
Hi, I'm Dan. I like chocolate, hiking, and politics.