McCain Camp Pounces on Lipstick Remarks With Time-Honored Tactics

McCain campaign pounced on Obama's "pig" remark, using time-honored tactics.

ByABC News
September 10, 2008, 4:53 PM

Sept. 10, 2008— -- It was just after 6 p.m. Tuesday, at a campaign event in a Lebanon, Va., high school gymnasium, when Barack Obama uttered remarks that would become famous within hours.

"That's not change," the Illinois senator said. "That's just calling something the same thing, something different. But you know you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig."

About 364 miles away, in Arlington, Va., McCain campaign staffers were watching Obama on a satellite feed into the "war room" at the campaign's national headquarters. Within minutes, they rushed into a meeting to decide how to respond to what they saw as a huge opening. In less than an hour, they called a conference call with reporters. The McCain staff swung into offensive mode.

It was a classic case of a candidate providing an opening -- a slip of the tongue, a careless comment or just a remark open to interpretation, or distortion. The opposing candidate's team pounced on the slip, unleashing a rapid and furious counterattack that quickly dominated the news cycle. In this age of 24-hour news and Internet blogging, no attack goes unanswered for long. No comment uncommented on.

The response was delegated to the so-called "Truth Squad," headed by former Massachusetts Gov. Jane Swift, which was formed Tuesday.

"Sen. Obama … uttered what I can only deem to be disgraceful comments comparing our vice presidential nominee, Gov. Palin, to a pig," Swift said. "Sen. Obama owes Gov. Palin an apology."

An Obama campaign spokeswoman fired back. The McCain campaign, she said, was engaging in "a pathetic attempt to play the gender card."

Early this morning, the McCain campaign posted a Web video called "Lipstick" that all but labeled Obama a sexist.

Obama fired back, insisting he was not referring to Palin or her joke at the convention that "the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull" is lipstick.

"What their campaign has done this morning is the same game that makes people sick and tired about politics in this country," Obama said, addressing a crowd today in Norfolk, Va.