"You can put lipstick on a pig…."

“You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.”

This comment has generated more controversy over the last few days than anything else I’ve seen. Just for context, here’s what Obama said in a speech a few days ago (courtesy of an article on Foxnews.com, with some commentary thrown in):

“”How do they have the nerve to say it?” Obama asked a suburban Detroit audience Monday. “When you’ve been supporting this current president, your party has been in power, and you’re not offering anything new, how is it that you’re serious about change? You’re not. It’s empty words. You’re just saying it because you realize, ‘Obama has been talking about change. That seems to be working. Maybe we should try to say it too.'”

He appears invigorated by the turn of events, his voice full of spunk. While Obama can tend toward the professorial in his speaking, his recent appearances have had the feel of a revival or a political comedy show as he mocks the GOP ticket.

“You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig,” he said to an outburst of laughter and applause from his audience in Lebanon, Va., Tuesday. “You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change, but it’s still going to stink after eight years.” “

From the laughter in the crowd, it appeared that more than a few people thought the lipstick on a pig comment was a slam on VP candidate Sarah Palin, but I don’t believe Obama really meant it that way. From the context of the speech, it appears to me that he’s referring to the McCain claim of change. The press frenzy over this comment is quite an overreaction. However, this underscores something important about this particular campaign: saying anything remotely negative about either race or gender is going to get someone in hot water. I know Obama was just using a fairly common saying, but I think it was an unwise decision in that it just gave more ammo to the Republicans. When I heard that, all I could do was cringe inside and think, “Oh, geez, he shouldn’t have said _that_….”

Does it deserve the reaction it got? No. If anyone expects perfection out of these 4 people running for President and VP, they are going to be sadly mistaken, and we should cut these people some slack for being just plain human sometimes.

Obama’s team, if it wants to win, needs to get the focus off Gov. Palin and back on to the Democratic message. Palin’s not the one running for President. Bill Clinton won the Presidency in ’92, against the odds, by constantly reminding himself, ‘It’s the economy, stupid’ and hammering that message home repeatedly (minus the stupid part) to the rest of us voters. Obama needs to write a little note to himself, too: “It’s not only the economy, but it’s also healthcare, education, and taxes, stupid.” He has less than 2 months to bring the message to America that he’s the one who could best handle those issues. Focusing on anything but that only takes precious time away from the important issues.