Let's get this out of the way. Yes, John McCain has used some variant of the now-forbidden phrase, "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig" on two or three occasions, one being February 1, 2007 when he dismissed efforts to make an Iraqi troop withdrawal plan more palatable.
CBS News adds that McCain also deployed the reference to mock Hillary Clinton's health plan.
Indeed, a review of that CBS story, along with a check of Lexis Nexis, reveals how popular that pithy saying is among leaders of both parties. With the lipstick line, we see a well-worn attempt to appeal to the Just Folks crowd.
That being said, Obama still managed to bungle it. His recent use of the line has stirred up a firestorm, one he should have anticipated. Whether it's fair or not, Sarah Palin owns all references to lipstick for a while, thanks to her recent deployment of the "Hockey Moms wear lipstick" line.
The GOP's appropriation of all-things-lipstick is little more than a group of picnickers putting up a fence around a public park, but there we are. Anything goes in this crazy political season.
They got you, Obama, suckered you into mud-wrestling with a vice presidential candidate that hardly anyone could recognize two weeks ago. Your predicament is cheap and tawdry, and it's a shame. Now you can only hope against experience that voters await serious debate about issues in a dangerous time. Talk about plans. Talk about records. Talk about vision.
Just don't talk about lipstick.