Commentaries - September 2008
"Lipstick on a Pig" is the title of a book about "winning in the no-spin era by someone who knows the game" (i.e., its author, Torie Clarke). (The jacket photo of Ms. Clarke depicts her wearing no lipstick. She should consider running for office.)
If you type in "lipstick on a pig" in Google this morning, the link to Clarke's book is the only entry you will find, for pages and pages, that doesn't directly relate to the fainting-couch response to Obama's recent use of the old phrase and the Obama-ite response to the false outrage. As I write this entry, I'm clicking on pages of Google entries generated by my use of the phrase in the search box. On page 35 (yes, the 35th screen of links) I'm sent to a blog called "Tennesse Guerilla Women". "For someone who is famous for having a way with words, Barack Obama sure drops more than his share of sexist gaffes" etc.
Finally, halfway down the 35th page of links, I get to one Ken Conner attacking Planned Parenthood on OrthodoxyToday.org. His entry is called "Trying to Put Lipstick on a Pig" and here is his opening paragraph: Planned Parenthood is in search of a makeover. For years, the organization has been the biggest abortionist in the business, but as abortion is losing its cachet, Planned Parenthood is trying to reinvent itself. It seems that killing children for cash is just not as fashionable as it used to be.
Finally a real ideological instance: critics of the Blackberry consider the model 9000 to be "lipstick on a pig."
The whole debate about this middle-American idiom becomes, at least for me, more rather than less edifying as I scroll further down and away from the "direct" responses to the "issue." I understand American culture and language more from its use on OrthodoxyToday.org and by the "I Like My Old Blackberry" crazies than from Chris Matthews whose Hardball last night was based on this absolute paradox: We are going to spend the whole show tonight talking about a false response to a non-issue that should not be an issue on our show.
What if a lipsticked pig grunted in a forest and nobody came?
Rich has been saying that “I’m sure Johnny Cash would have been a John McCain supporter if he was still around."
But now daughter of the late Johnny, Rosanne Cash (about whom I've written here before), has stepped in to remind Rich and us that it's not such a good idea to recruit dead people to work for one political campaign or another. Here's what Rosanne said:
“It is appalling to me that people still want to invoke my father’s name, five years after his death, to ascribe beliefs, ideals, values and loyalties to him that cannot possibly be determined and to try to further their own agendas by doing so. Even I would not presume to say publicly what I ‘know’ he thought or felt. This is especially dangerous in the case of political affiliation. It is unfair and presumptuous to use him to bolster any platform.”
At a McCain rally, Rich had said: "Somebody’s got to walk the line in the country. They’ve got to walk it unapologetically."
For several years people affiliated with the Kelly Writers House here have been gathering under the clever series title "Word.Doc" (word dot doc) to talk about narrative medicine and "to discuss and experience the ways in which medicine, narrative, literature and art inform one another in creative and useful ways." A now somewhat dated web site was created by these folks.
One year they made a Word.Doc t-shirt - images from its front and back are below.
This series is one of many that KWH hosts. Have a look at the complete list.
Lied about what? About her political past? No, not really. She "lied" in describing the daily situation of suburban women in 1950s America by implying that she herself fully lived that experience herself. True, she hadn't fully lived it (she had a maid, and was so politically busy that she wasn't the primary tender of her and her husband Carl's home) but when the conservative attack on her, in Betty Friedan and the Making of the Feminine Mystique, was published, the term "lie" was used all over the place but when you actually read the book you realize it's based on an interpretation (an arguable one, to be sure) of her book's thesis.
There's probably not an attack on civil-rights liberalism much more powerful than anti-feminist anticommunism.
Here are the opening paragraphs of David Horowitz' 1999 review of the book about Friedan by Daniel Horowitz (no relation):
Why has this feminist icon continued to cover up her years as a party activist? What is it with progressives? Why do they feel the need to lie so relentlessly about who they are? Recently Rigoberta Mench's autobiography was exposed as a complete hoax. Now it's Betty Friedan's turn to be revealed as a feminist fibber.
In a new book, "Betty Friedan and the Making of the Feminine Mystique", Smith College professor Daniel Horowitz (no relation) establishes beyond doubt that the woman who has always presented herself as a typical suburban housewife until she began work on her groundbreaking book was in fact nothing of the kind. In fact, under her maiden name, Betty Goldstein, she was a political activist and professional propagandist for the Communist left for a quarter of a century before the publication of "The Feminist Mystique" launched the modern women's movement.
And here's the rest of the review.