I continue to be amazed at the gall of the Palin-McCain political strategists as they try to get more mileage out of Barack Obama’s remark about putting lipstick on a pig.

That expression is probably as old as lipstick itself. I used it several years ago when pointing out the seamy underside of state run gambling operations: portraying them as “education lotteries” is like putting lipstick on a pig, I said then. News reports indicate that both Obama and McCain have used the expression before either of them ever heard of Sarah Palin. The old simile is a standard cliche of political wrangling, and routinely targets proposals or programs, not people.

Sarah Palin does not own a copyright or trademark on the word “lipstick,” just because she used it in her vice-presidential acceptance speech. In fact, I thought the self-described hockey mom’s use of the term — saying the only difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull is lipstick — was highly unflattering to herself. For Palin-McCain to pretend to be shocked and dismayed at Obama’s tired remark about lipstick on a pig — and to claim it was an intentional slur against Palin — is so unrealistic that it requires no more than a pig’s intelligence to see through it.

The more interesting part of the metaphor, one that I haven’t seen explored very much — is Palin’s characterization of herself as a pit bull with lipstick. That comparison has proven to be right on target. Pit bulls, when trained to fight, can be vicious attack dogs, and that seems to be precisely how McCain is using his running-mate, who has spent her first weeks as a candidate being heavily trained and wearing a very short leash. She is sent out at campaign rallies to deliver the same old insults, then reeled back in to the kennel and kept away from the media, who might ask embarrassing questions.

Questions like, “Isn’t it true that you were in favor of the so-called ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ before it became evident that it would cost Alaska too much?” And, “Is it true that when you were mayor of Wasilla, your small town had a lobbyist in Washington lining up millions of dollars of federal money?”

The thing I’d like to ask Palin, as she continues to harp on the infamous “bridge to nowhere,” is how the residents of Ketchikan and Gravina Island — whom she is supposed to care about and represent as governor — feel about her constantly describing them as “nowhere.” There’s no question that replacing the current ferry with a too-expensive bridge was a bad idea, but to suggest that it would lead to “nowhere” is a smirking slap to the face of Palin’s own constituents.

Somehow I thought of this the other day as I looked down at my shoes, which bore dogmarks. Our dog is not a pit bull and doesn’t wear lipstick, but he is possessed by a demon, which is close enough. My black tassel loafers no longer have tassels, and one of them is missing a corner from the upper flap, as well.

I’m still wearing the shoes because I’m stubborn that way — a thrift store wouldn’t take such damaged goods but there’s still a lot of sole in them.

Maybe I can hire a lipstick-wearing lobbyist to slip an earmark into the budget to repair the dog marks on my shoes.

If that story made the paper, it wouldn’t be any more far-fetched than some of the other political news in this age of silly, rather than substantive, campaigning.

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