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Column: 'Lipstick' Controversy At Least Amusing Election Hype

This story was written by Beau Elliot, The Daily Iowan

So it's come to lipstick. And pigs.

I knew deep in my heart (or spleen or appendix or one of those strange places only surgeons know) that sooner or later, no matter what the obstacles, the presidential campaign would get down to the truly serious stuff.

Thus we have been treated to a raging debate about putting lipstick on a pig and whether Barack Obama was being sexist when he used the phrase to describe John McCain's policies.

Somehow, back in the primary season, when McCain himself used the exact same lipstick-pig phrase to describe Hillary Rodham Clinton's health-care proposal, nobody said that was sexist. Especially not the Republicans screaming sexism now.

So what gives? I mean, we don't have a double standard, do we?

I have to confess that I don't know that much about lipstick. Or pigs. The girlfriends I've had didn't use it, nor were they pigs, and the women I saw who did use lipstick seemed well, I'm not going there. (Sometimes, you come up with what you believe is a funny line, and then you realize you're stereotyping a group of people on the basis of something really not very important, in the greater scheme of things, if there is such an animal, and you further realize that your stereotyping is not all that much different from that of a clerk in a store stereotyping people as potential shoplifters simply on the basis of the color of their skin and thus following them around the store, and who wants to live there?)

NPR tried to clear up the whole lipstick-pig situation last week, but you know what? It was radio. It's one of those hard-to-come-to-grips-with facts of life: On radio, the visuals are so hard to see.

On the other hand, baseball is so much better on radio than on TV. Football, on the third hand (which is where it belongs), is better on TV -- which demonstrates one of the universe's great secrets: Baseball fans have infinitely more imagination than do football fans. It's probably some sort of infinite jest. So many things are these days. (And all the peace be with you, David Foster Wallace; you are amazing. And frustrating. And witty. And missed.)

One thing Lipstick-gate did was obscure scrutiny of the many lies the McCain campaign has been spewing like a drunken sailor on shore leave. Take that damn Bridge to Nowhere. I hate to keep bringing it up, but Sarah Palin keeps bringing it up, contending that she canceled the bridge and told Congress, "No thanks."

She uses canceling the bridge as an example that she's a maverick reformer. But Palin no more canceled the Bridge to Nowhere than the Confederacy canceled the Secession of the States. Actually, she campaigned for governor in favor of the bridge. Congress canceled the bridge. And Congress told her Alaska could keep the money ($223 million) to use on other transit projects. So, as governor, she didn't tell Congress, "No thanks." She kept the money and used it. (Alaska, according to various reports, is still building the bridge-access road to the beach on the island where the bridge would have been built. So I guess Palin has given us the access road to nowhere.)

Yeah, that's a maverick reformer for you.

Or take the McCain campaign canard that Obama, as a member of the Illinois Legislature, voted for sex education for kindergartners. What sort of wild and crazy guy would do that?

Apparently not Obama. What he did support, as an Illinois lawmaker, was a bill providing "appropriate" (accordingto the St. Petersburg Times) sex education to older students and "age appropriate" (again, according to the St. Pete Times) education to younger students such as kindergartners so they could learn to avoid sexual predators.

Not, you have to admit, exactly the same as putting sex education in kindergarten.

Maybe we were better off with lipstick and pigs after all.

At least we could laugh.

Infinitely.