I think the answer is yes, to both! How do I get there? Well, anyone who seriously examines Obama's attacks on Clinton will see some fairly strong sexism there, so it is not like he has not done this sort of thing before. On the other hand, the phrase about lipstick on a pig is one that has been around for a long time and does not necessarily connote sexism.
BUT, clearly the crowd at the Obama rally took it to be an attack on Palin (given her pit bull/lipstick joke at the convention) and pretty clearly Obama knew it would be taken as such. I have to think that comments of this nature are considered by candidates before they are used, to determine whether there is a downside to their use. If Obama used this phrasing without recognizing that it could be considered an attack on Palin, then he is really dumb. What he probably wanted was a nasty little attack, with plausible deniability. And that is what he thought he got, but he didn't.
This is going to explode in Obama's face with women. They will not be particularly vocal about it (we are already hearing from the vocal women) but they will not vote for him in November, and a significant number of them will vote for McCain. How do I know this? I had a conversation with a friend yesterday (before the pig thing) and much to my surprise, she opened the conversation by talking about Palin (we very rarely discuss politics - she is a liberal democrat, I am NOT!). She was delighted by the selection, did not consider it a token thing, and was clearly exercised to find out more about Palin. For example, she had researched the Bridge to Nowhere, and knew (which I did not) that the airport that was going to be connected was an International Airport! She also knew it was probably one of the world's smallest International Airports! She had sailed through the straight between the two islands that would have been joined by the bridge, and she was quite clear that the bridge to nowhere was completely inappropriate and she fully backed Palin's decision to can it (even if she had, during an election, said she supported it). I was totally taken aback by the degree to which she had investigated this, and seemed to want to have a reason to vote for Palin. I doubt if she has ever voted for Republicans in her life, and I would not bet on her doing so this November, but I am damned sure that she will not vote for Obama, not now, and especially not after the "pig" thing.
Why has Obama miscalculated so badly? Cocooning. He has listened too much to the coastal elites who think that only someone with an Ivy league education is fit to lead the US. He has heard all their sneers about Palin as being some sort of Neanderthal throwback, and he has believed them, because nobody around him thinks any differently.
But out here in the real world, Palin is resonating with folks like nobody's business. Her ability to take on her own party has largely removed the partisan issue from the table, by which I mean that people who have voted Democrat all their lives will feel able to cast a vote for her because they feel she will take on political scumbags in both parties - and given that 80% feel the country is on the wrong track, and only 9% approve of the job congress is doing, there are lots of folks out there who see a real need for someone to take on the scumbags. Plus, Sarah Palin does things like this (warning: hankies may be needed!).
Camille Paglia has an excellent article in which she warns Democrats about their response to Palin. She also very clearly and emphatically states that Palin is a feminist, and indeed goes further to indicate that Palin's type of feminism (basically, get on and do it, gut the damned moose!) is much more relevant and resonant than the dated feminism that still rules the coastal elites. Contrast her thoughtful take with an insult from above the border, and with depictions of Palin as a dominatrix into bestiality. The latter two, of course, serve only to make Paglia's point and hurt Obama's electoral chances even further. And this is why the McCain group came out with their ad which some (see the corner for example) think is a mistake. If it were aimed at Republicans, it would be, but it is not. It is aimed at those for whom the sexist attacks against Palin have been a total outrage, and it will help to ensure that those folk will not vote for Obama in November.
Why is all this happening? Well, McCain, being a fighter pilot, has got right inside Obama's OODA loop. A key quote from the Wikipedia site on OODA loops is:
How does one interfere with an opponent's OODA cycle? One of John Boyd's primary insights in fighter combat was that it is vital to change speed and direction faster than the opponent. This is not necessarily a function of the plane's ability to maneuver, rather the pilot must think and act faster than the opponent can think and act. Getting "inside" the cycle — short-circuiting the opponent's thinking processes - produces opportunities for the opponent to react inappropriately.And that is what is happening here. Obama is reacting (still!) to the selection of Palin as the VP choice. Yesterday, Palin and McCain had an article on the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailout. Obama's comments yesterday were the sort of comments you make to fire up your base. McCain has been using all the attacks on Palin to enlarge his base and strip voters away from Obama. In short, McCain is messing with Obama's mind, and it is only going to get worse. I loved one suggestion I read today about a suggested (by Mark Krikorian) suitable response by Palin to the latest Obamablunder:
I agree with the consensus that the campaign shouldn't whine about the lipstick on a pig comment. Instead, Gov. Palin should simply start each appearance by pausing briefly at the podium to touch up her lipstick, and then move on. People who get the joke will love it, and those who don't will have it explained to them by others, ensuring that pretty soon, even those who don't follow the news will hear about it, to Obama's detriment.There will be nothing more from the McCain camp about the pig blunder other than subtle things like this. They will be onto something else and Obama will be reacting again. At some stage, the meme will start to be discussed that, given the disarray in the Obama camp, his claim that this gives him experience to be President is not that valid.
All of which makes my prediction that Obama was going to lose this election big (338 to 200) seem more likely by the day. To do this, McCain will have to win the following swing states:
NH, FL, PA, OH, MI, IA, MN, CO, NM, and NVFlorida is moving beyond Obama's reach, Colorado and Ohio are moving in that direction too. The trend in the others is all in McCain's direction. Absent a major refocusing of the Obama campaign, he is in major trouble. And that disarray is beginning to show in all the gaffes and errors.