Lipstick on a Pig: Rightbloggers Defend Their Palin, Right or Wrong
[Our weekly feature on conservative blogs' recent offenses to reason; archive here.]
When the conventions had ended and McCain had pulled even with Obama, there was much rejoicing among rightbloggers, especially given the key role of Sarah Palin in lifting the GOP ticket, and most especially since "the left has been telling us for 10 days how insulted women are by Maverick’s very cynical pick of our token yokel with two X chromosomes," gloated Allahpundit. The Wall Street Journal's Political Diary saw the lift as a victory for Palin over the media: "Mrs. Palin, it seems, was on firm political footing when she thumbed her nose at 'all those reporters and commentators.'" Inevitably Roger Kimball posited a "Sarah Palin Derangement Syndrome."
But the first blush of Palinmania was bound to fade, so the deep thinkers among them sought to extend it by explaining that her appeal was not some short-lived gender- or resentment-based boost, but a righteously right-wing groundswell. At National Review Rich Lowry said that as Palin had "a job where she can bring her infant," her dual role as mother and Governor did not contradict the conservative belief that "young children need their mothers and institutional day care isn't great for kids." Anyway, Lowry added, "most women have given up the cliched feminist dream of 'having it all.'"
Last week would bring more opportunities to rise to Palin's defense as her handlers, who had been reluctant to expose her to the media, loosened their grip.
Take their reaction when reporters noticed Palin's suggestion that the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage companies had been "too expensive to the taxpayers" prior to their recent government bailout. Ed Morrissey retorted, "They have never been a completely private enterprise. John McCain made this point two months ago when responding to the initial crisis that threatened to bankrupt the two lending giants" -- and that their bailout proved him right. Wizbang added that for Fannie and Freddie, "the US government is the ultimate safety net." By this logic, we must suppose Lehman Brothers was also a government body.
When this didn't seem to be going over, Instapundit said, "when Sarah Palin misspeaks on something," readers should remember that Obama had said "My Muslim faith" and "57 states." (Those of a cynical turn of mind might answer that Obama doesn't actually believe he is a Muslim or that there are 57 states.)
The rightbloggers needed a retreat from defending Plain on policy, and they got it when Obama derided the McCain change message by saying "You can put lipstick on a pig, 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."
Because Palin had made her own joke (or someone else's) about lipstick on a pitbull, the word was spread that Obama had called Palin a pig. "Barry, ever hear the phrase ‘men are pigs’?" asked AJ Strata. "You are the kind of male that makes that phrase ring true..." "Deeply offensive and disrespectful," sniffed Commentary's Jennifer Rubin, "treating his opponent’s running mate as a sexualized object and a mere mother..." (She amplied elsewhere, "Palin’s popularity has melted the facade of professional competence and personal stability which cloaked her opponents’ weaknesses.")
Even the lofty classicist Victor Davis Hanson climbed aboard: Obama's "recent attacks against an 'old fish' and 'lipsticked pig', and those of his supporters, come off as ageist and sexist," wrote the former opponent of identity politics.
Hanson at least split the alleged smear between the GOP candidates: Ann Althouse suggested that both metaphors maligned Palin, as "the reference to a fish also has it stinking, which is exactly the aspect of fish that is used when fish are invoked to insult women."
The insanity of the attack reached its zenith when Michelle Malkin said to Obama, "Lipstick on a pit bull, genius. Pit bull. Not 'pig.'" Yes, she actually attacked Obama for not saying what her colleagues were saying he meant -- and linked to a source who said he hadn't said it.
When Obama went on Letterman to defuse the situation, Gateway Pundit roared, "Barack Obama dragged his elderly white grandmother out from under the bus to attack Senator McCain on his age," and other non-sequiturs, a clear sign that the meme had outlived whatever usefulness it may have had.
To make matters worse, Palin did a two-part interview with Charlie Gibson on ABC. As you might imagine, it wasn't terribly hard-hitting, and Palin was clearly prepped. But as it was neither as novel nor as completely stage-managed by the GOP as her big convention speech, it didn't provide rightbloggers the kind of orgasmic high they had quickly come to expect. "It will play better in the Heartland than in the Beltway and with the DC elites," managed the Astute Bloggers. "She doesn't have all the foreign policy jargon down yet -- but most Americans don't either." "She looks good and speaks well, and appears very sincere," said Robert Stacy McCain. The highest accolade most could summon was that her opponents would disappove, e.g. Wake Up America: "If the reaction from the left is anything to go by, Sarah did good..."
But if the interview itself didn't juice the rightbloggers, it did appear on a Main Stream Media station, and you know what that means: Routine 1, the Media Bias accusation. "Charlies Gibson has destroyed his reputation," wrote Right Angles. How? By being tougher on Palin than he had been on Obama. He's talking about the same Charlie Gibson who had previously asked Obama if his European tour weren't "just a series of photo ops," pressed him on Hamas' participation in Israeli peace negotiations and on his statement on an "undivided" Jerusalem (suggesting it was a "rookie mistake"), said Israeli supporters were "worried about" Obama, etc.
Didn't matter; never does. "I would like to thank Charlie Gibson, by the way," said RedState. "Seldom do we get such an obvious tell as this." "Hatchet job... condescending and overbearing... elitist snob," said Macsmind.
And did you know the Palin interviews were edited? Newbusters published the extended dance mix which -- putting all possible considerations of available air time to one side -- adds mostly self-serving filibuster material from Palin, which is of course the rightblogger idea of fair and balanced journalism. Despite the ready availability of these anodyne special bonus clips, Instapundit wonders "why politicians like Palin don't take a pda with video of their alleged controversial comments" and make a "recording of the entire interview."
Does it seem strange, reader, that a rightblogger known for bragging about the power of blogs would talk as if a blog transcript of Palin's full interview were insufficient -- even as he links to that transcript? What you may see as a contradiction, rightbloggers see as having it all. They can eternally be the media's victim, and its master too. The same approach applies to Palin: when she is effective, it is all her, and their, glory; when she is less effective, it's media bias. But soft, the news cycle spins, and already they're crying about unflattering photos of John McCain. In their world, the surest path to victory is over the heads of the people they claim are oppressing them.