Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Obama's Pig Comment Causes Confusion

In trying to survey the reaction to Obama's pig comment one thing is clear: nothing is clear.

People are fairly evenly split as to whether or not he meant to intentionally insult Palin with the comment--and I don't mean split along party lines. Some say that it is a common, well-known expression and that the link to Sarah Palin was unintentional. Other people insist he is too skilled a public speaker to accidentally make this mistake.

Instapundit is running a poll and the results aren't 50-50, but they aren't as one-sided as his polls normally are, either. The poll is also interesting because one of the choices is "A deliberate and sexist smear". I believe it was deliberate but I don't believe it was sexist. In terms of sexism, the symbol of the pig is actually attributed to the perpetrator not that target--as in "what a sexist pig". So I don't think Obama was being sexist. I do think he was using imagery like "pig" and "old fish" and "stink" to describe McCain and Palin.

In response to the comment, the McCain camp has already come out with an ad that hammers Obama for it. I think this is overkill. As many others have suggested the best way to have handled it would have been not to make a big deal about it; it was a wonderful opportunity to take the high road. Make it appear that you are talking about real issues and your opponent is talking about pigs and stinky fish. By directly responding to it you are lowering yourself to that level of (or lack of) sophistication in the debate.

What I find more interesting that many of the people who are convinced that it was deliberate also don't think tha ad was necessary or appropriate. On the other hand, people such as Ann Althouse think it was an unfortunate but honest mistake:
Now, I didn't blog this yesterday, because frankly, I considered it absolutely nothing. "Lipstick on a pig" is an extremely common expression, and it doesn't become taboo because somebody else made a wisecrack about lipstick on another animal or because that somebody else happens to wear lipstick.
yet she thinks the ad is interesting and well-done:
The ad is essentially saying: Here's the evidence. Make up your own mind.
My final comment on the video is this. Whether or not the comment was an insult or an honest gaffe is not the issue. Watch Obama as he delivers the line. He stutters. He hesitates. This is not the smooth and likeable Obama that has drawn so much support during his campaign. Althouse agrees:
His delivery feels off. He stammers before he says "You can put lipstick on a pig," as if he lacks full confidence in what he's about to say. Then he scratches his forehead while he pauses, and the audience laughs. Only then does he go on to say "it's still a pig," after which he puts his hand in his pocket. I can see how that pause cues to the audience that this is where you're supposed to laugh, and they do laugh.
I will repeat the advice to Obama's campaign advisors that I offered several posts ago. Get Obama out of small, town-hall like venues. Get him in front of large crowd and have him give a motivational speech filled with imagery. Don't worry about criticisms about celebrity--run a campaign that plays to your candidate's strength. Sure, polls now show a 50%-46% lead for McCain when before that lead was for Obama. That still means about half the country is on your side. Don't panic. Right now Obama appears shaken and people aren't attracted to indecisive people when looking for leaders.

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