Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Putting lipstick on a pig

John McCain has his undies all in a twist over this expression, which he used himself to describe the Clinton health proposal. Why all the fuss? I can only guess. Putting Lipstick on a Pig is the title of a book written by McCain's former press secretary Torie Clarke. It should be required reading for all PR students. In the book's introduction, Clarke reveals how she helped clean up McCain's own mess in the Keating 5 savings & loan scandal.


Here’s another great example of PLOAP

The other day I ran a post about then-Mayor Palin’s attempt to ban books in Wasilla, Alaska’s library. I pointed out that after librarian Mary Ellen (Baker) Emmons responded negatively to Palin’s book-banning efforts, Palin pushed to fire her. I can’t take credit for the stories about Palin’s fascist tendencies. They’ve been all over the local papers in Alaska, the Daily Kos and Time Magazine.

Well, here’s where the lipstick comes in. Wing-nuts at National Review have been scrambling since the story broke, trying to give Palin a political makeover. Ben Boychuk who writes the RedBlue America column for NR Online launches a counter-attack against those of us “far-left bloggers and interest groups, abetted by Palin’s political rivals in Alaska and the press” (wow, this sounds like a potentially great coalition) who, he claims, have conspired to manufacture the book-banning story.

“What could possibly inspire such vitriol?” asks Boychuk, feigning naivete. He claims that librarian Emmons made the whole story up.

But then, the wing-nut shoots holes in his own cover-up. He writes:

A twelve-year-old controversy, in which Palin, the newly elected mayor of Wasilla, asked city librarian Mary Ellen Emmons at least three times how she would feel if asked to remove objectionable books from library shelves. Naturally, Emmons said she would refuse. A few months later, Palin asked for Emmons’ resignation. The new mayor said she felt Emmons, who had been appointed by Palin’s predecessor and political rival, didn’t fully support her agenda and should step aside.

So Palin only wants librarians who “support her agenda.” Is that right, Boychuk? Hmmm, what agenda might that be, over there in the library, I wonder?

“But Palin made no mention of book banning in her demand for the librarian’s resignation,” he says. Well duh! Did she really have to?

Boychuk concludes:

“The worst one could infer is that Palin raised the censorship issue in an ill-advised effort to appease some constituents, met resistance and let the matter drop to pursue more mundane city business.”

Aha! The wing-nut confesses. He admits Palin “raised the censorship issue” on behalf of her “constituents” (who could they be?) and then “let the matter drop.”

But that doesn’t sound like the Sarah Palin we’ve all come to know and love. She’s a pit bull. Remember, Ben? She doesn’t just let matters drop.



So, Boychuck must admit, he was only trying to put lipstick on a pig. And hell, if you can gloss up a vicious, child-biting pit bull, why not a pig?


  1. Thanks for touting my NRO piece, Mike. I'm grateful to anyone who takes the time to comment, even in disagreement. For an author and educator, however, you seem to have difficulty with certain words, such as "infer." You also impute motives, such as "cover-up," where there are none. But, believe me, you aren't alone.

    I notice you never address the key point of the piece, which is that Palin banned nothing. For someone with Palin's "fascist tendencies," she didn't seem particularly passionate about banning anything. But, hey, don't take my wing-nut word for it. Snopes,, and now USA Today have all dispensed with this book ban story, too.

  2. Ben,

    Sorry about that "wing=nut" thing. But since you started it by calling us all "far-left bloggers..." well, I had to have some kind of comeback. Ain't this fun?

    But seriously (and it's awfully hard to get serious about lipstick on a pig, isn't it?) I actually do know what "infer" and "cover-up" mean and I truly did get your key point.

    I get it that Palin didn't actually succeed in forcing the librarian to ban books after threatening her on behalf of unnamed "constituents."

    But I hope you got my point as well. In my world, an unsuccessful attempt at book banning is just the sign of an incompetent fascist. It says little about her passion for the job and more about her skill sets.

    How do we know that with practice and the power of the vice-president's office behind her, she won't succeed next time? After all, she is a pit bull.

    You must admit, your defense of Palin's actions at the library, was pretty feeble. I mean, do you really think it's no big deal when a powerful public official politicizes the job of librarian and threatens the the livelihood of public servants who don't knuckle under? With Palin, it seems like a pattern. Isn't she already under investigation for similar acts of retribution.

    And your feigning surprise at the "vitriol" that followed--well what can I say about that without hurting your feelings?

    So again Ben, thanks for writing. I will continue to follow your NR blog and see if next time, I can find something nice to say about it--without any name calling.

  3. Mike,
    Good point about pit bulls. See James Wimberly's post at:

  4. Hey Ben. I read the account you mentioned in your defense Palin's alleged bent towards censorship. Here's what they say:

    "It’s true that Palin did raise the issue with Mary Ellen Emmons, Wasilla’s librarian, on at least two occasions, three in some versions. Emmons flatly stated her opposition each time. But, as the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman (Wasilla’s local paper) reported at the time, Palin asked general questions about what Emmons would say if Palin requested that a book be banned. According to Emmons, Palin "was asking me how I would deal with her saying a book can't be in the library." Emmons reported that Palin pressed the issue, asking whether Emmons' position would change if residents were picketing the library. Wasilla resident Anne Kilkenny, who was at the meeting, corroborates Emmons' story, telling the Chicago Tribune that "Sarah said to Mary Ellen, 'What would your response be if I asked you to remove some books from the collection?' "

    Please try again to justify Palin's actions and tell us why someone like this should become our next VP. Can't wait.



Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.