The McCain campaign has attacked Barack Obama for his use of the old phrase about lipstick on a pig. They claim it’s a sexist attack on GOP VP candidate Sarah Palin, whose signature line involves lipstick. The McCain folks are over-acting here, but Obama’s poor choice of words in choosing this hackneyed phrase reveals things considerably more relevant. While it’s immensely enjoyable to watch a lefty get caught in the ever-changing world of what is politically correct, that’s not the real lesson.

Nobody really believes Obama is a sexist, anymore than anyone who knew the late Evan Mecham thought he was a racist. One of the many insensitive remarks attributed to Governor Mecham was his belief that “pickaninny” was a term of endearment. Massive cluelessness, yes — racism, no. Republicans also had a Georgia Congressman use the term “uppity” last week.

On a first draft, I almost did something similar when I started to refer to Obama as a “waterboy” for the Chicago Machine. I immediately caught it and used another simile. I can imagine other old analogies with an otherwise innocent background that could backfire. McCain folks should probably not accuse Obama of failing to call a spade a spade. There’s many more — check the classic Saturday Night Live exchange between Chevy Chase and Richard Pryor.

Obama’s “lipstick” remark indicates other and larger problems. Clearly he has a rather anemic sense of humor. Did he really think the “pig” line was funny in the context he thought he was using? More like his brain told him “say something funny - hah hah.” He’s not very amusing. In fact, he’s rather dour.

He’s also surprisingly insensitive. He clearly caught the reaction of the crowd when he began the pig cliche — one wonders if he thought he was really being funny or if he ever wondered that he might be stepping in it. Both of those are minor flaws compared to another revelation that this is a man almost completely unable to say “Ooops, I made a mistake, sorry.” Frighteningly, that combination of cluelessness, insensitivity, weak sense of humor and a stubborn failure to ever admit error is reminiscent of a former president — Richard Nixon.

Tom Danehy loves to ask folks to pick the best and worst presidents of their life. My best was Harry Truman. He dropped the Big One, integrated the military, opposed the Soviets in Greece and Turkey, went into Korea, and recognized Israel. He had so little experience that he didn’t even know there was a bomb until he took the office. Biggest strengths — he could not only make a decision, but he generally made the right one.

My worst was Richard Nixon. The ultimate liberal Republican, he was so wrapped in his own inadequacies that he cared little about his country or his party. Nixon’s biggest sin was he had the opportunity to do much and he squandered it on trivia. What could have been an early version of the Reagan Revolution was instead a debacle. He had no agenda. Note this rightwinger picks a Democrat as his best and a Republican as his worst.

Whether Obama is as big a narcissist as Nixon only time will tell, but it’s becoming obvious that he shares Nixon’s ability to blithely use and discard both people and ideas. Obama may promote and actually implement much leftist dogma, as Nixon sometimes gave lip service to certain conservative principles, but Obama appears dedicated to a cause greater than any set of political guidelines. Like Nixon, his most highly valued political commodity is himself.

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