On the long, hard road to the White House, a candidate can hardly be blamed if they use every tool, trick, and hired thug at their disposal to aid them in their ascent. After all, hired thugs is what this nation was built on, and by God, there aren't any finer to be had anywhere in the world outside of Italy and some of the rougher parts of New Zealand.
And although scare tactics, thuggery and mudslinging are widely considered dishonorable conduct in a campaign, they have a hallowed history in politics, from the famed " Barry Goldwater nukes a little girl
" TV spot to the lesser-known "Thomas E. Dewey is Hitler in disguise" evidence plant. Even the term "mudslinging" dates back to ancient Rome, when politicians would literally fling mud at one another, thereby deciding who would be Caesar that week.
But the potential mudslinger has always faced a potential problem: mud ricochet. After all, one of the public’s favorite things to hear a politician accused of (besides soliciting prostitution; that’s old hat) is being too accusatory. To hear the politicians tell it, every single one of them is “refusing to play dirty” and is “deeply disappointed by the conduct of their esteemed opponent.” And certainly, none of them have ever “taken the low road,” or “accused their gym teacher of molestation to get out of basketball drills.” High and mighty pricks.
So when Senator Obama recently spun some down-home charm into a schoolyard insult by tacitly calling Sarah Palin a pig
, he not only displayed the insight of an eighth-grade bully, he also demonstrated the nimble skill of a master of the political art. Ever wily, Obama has mastered the art of insulting his opponent, without seeming to. Like a Judo master or a man farting next to a dog, he is adept at shifting the blame, feigning innocence, and undercutting the hate of his words without removing the stinger.
A simple example will illustrate the point. Imagine, if you will, Senator Obama making the following statements:
“Sarah Palin is a fat, greasy pig.”
“If you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.”
Of the two ways he could have presented his argument, he chose the one that, while still conveying the necessary information (ie, Sarah Palin’s love of rolling in mud and feces to compensate for her lack of sweat glands), doesn’t directly accuse his opponent.
He also gets bonus points for “riffing” off of her oft-repeated statement that she, in fact, is a trained pit bull that was slathered with lipstick. Why this is an improvement over a pig is debatable, but the point stands.
In fact, the only suggestion I would have made to Senator Obama is that he could have gone a little less subtle, and still gotten away with it. To my mind, the ideal statement would have been:
“If you put lipstick on a pig that happens to be named Sarah, it’s still a Palin…I mean pig.” Followed by a broad wink and some minor snorting noises.
You’ve got to remember Senator: you’re addressing the American public. If they can’t pick up the subtext in