Editor's note: See Dana's full report tonight on AC360 at 10pm.
CNN Congressional Correspondent
I went to call a McCain aide about a new ad they put up hitting obama for advocating sex ed for kindergarten, but the aide didn’t want to talk about that.
Instead, he immediately asked if I had heard yet about what Obama had just said minutes earlier “about Palin.”
I said I hadn’t, and then he informed me that Obama had just said “you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.”
With the sounds of a manic McCain war room echoing through the phone, the aide declared this a “crystallizing moment for the depths they’ve gone to now.”
When I asked about it, and our producer traveling with Obama, Sasha Johnson, sent around the full context of the quote, it became a lot less clear, to say the least, that Obama was calling out Palin.
In a riff mocking McCain for suggesting he can change Washington, Obama said:
“YOU KNOW YOU CAN PUT LIPSTICK ON A PIG, BUT IT'S STILL A PIG. YOU KNOW YOU CAN (CHEERS) YOU CAN YOU CAN, WRAP AN OLD FISH IN A PIECE OF PAPER CALLED CHANGE, IT'S STILL GOING TO STINK AFTER 8 YEARS. WE'VE HAD ENOUGH OF THE SAME OLD THING. IT'S TIME TO BRING ABOUT REAL CHANGE TO WASHINGTON.”
But Obama was barely done saying that in Lebanon, Ohio, and the McCain campaign had already arranged a conference call with former Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift, who called Obama’s comments a “disgrace” and demanded he apologize to Palin.
Several reporters on the call, including myself, asked Swift why she is sure Obama was talking about Palin?
“Calling a very prominent female governor a pig is not what we want,” said Swift, “as far as I know, she is the only one of the four presidential candidates that wears lipstick."
And how does she explain the fact that the term “lipstick on a pig” has become a standard term in the political lexicon….used even by McCain in the GOP primary to describe Mitt Romney?
"I think there is a difference and I think ultimately the American people will realize that calling a prominent female governor a pig is not acceptable," said Swift.
Well, minutes after the call, anyone with google was finding quotes from politicians of all stripes using that term – even McCain used it against Hillary Clinton once.
If nothing else, the way the McCain campaign pounced on the comments is a classic illustration of the way they think gender politics can be played against Obama with Palin on the ticket – especially given the lingering bitterness among some Hillary Clinton supporters who think she got a raw deal because she’s a woman.
But privately, one McCain ally I talked to tonight suggested that the mostly men who run the McCain campaign have got to be careful to chose their battles in their gender wars more carefully.
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