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Putting Lipstick On A Pig

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Putting Lipstick On A Pig

Election 2008

Putting Lipstick On A Pig

Putting Lipstick On A Pig

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The phrase "lipstick on a pig" is commonly employed by politicians including Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain, Vice President Dick Cheney and Rep. Charles Rangel. Joel Salatin, a farmer from Swoope, Va., talks about what actually happens when one attempts to put lipstick on a pig.


Well, speaking of pork, we now have some thoughts on the phrase that sent the political world buzzing overnight. Yesterday, Barack Obama said this about John McCain.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Presidential Nominee): So I guess his whole angle is, watch out, George Bush. Except for economic policy, health care policy, tax policy, education policy, foreign policy, and Karl Rove-style politics, we're really going to shake things up in Washington.

(Soundbite of applause)

Sen. OBAMA: That's not change.

SIEGEL: And then he invoked the wisdom of barnyard cosmetology.

Sen. OBAMA: You know, you can put lipstick on a pig.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Sen. OBAMA: It's still a pig.

SIEGEL: But the McCain campaign promptly accused Obama of sexism. They turned out at TV ads saying that Obama was referring to Sarah Palin, who has talked famously about lipstick herself.

Governor SARAH PALIN (Republican, Alaska; Vice Presidential Nominee): You know, they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull, lipstick.

(Soundbite of cheering)

SIEGEL: But today, Obama expressed outrage.

Sen. OBAMA: The McCain campaign would much rather have the story about phony and foolish diversions than about the future.

SIEGEL: But the blogs, radio, TV, were already ablaze with this debate. A common expression, the Obama supporters said. And we wondered, how common?

Well, Senator McCain said this about Hillary Clinton's health care plan this year.

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Presidential Nominee): I think they've put some lipstick on the pig, but it's still a pig.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: Dick Cheney aimed the phrase at John Kerry's campaign in 2004.

Vice President DICK CHENEY (United States): You can put all the lipstick you want on a pig. But at the end of the day, it's still a pig.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: And then there was New York Democrat Charles Rangel speaking of a tax bill also in 2004.

Representative CHARLES RANGEL (Democrat, New York): You can put lipstick on a pig, but you can't call it a lady.

SIEGEL: And we have found instances of many other politicians - Democrats and Republicans - speaking the truth about pigs and lipstick.

Now, the real test. Has anyone actually put lipstick on a pig? Well, joining us from Swoope, Virginia, where he's co-owner of Polyface Farms, is Joel Salatin. Welcome to the program, Mr. Salatin.

Mr. JOEL SALATIN (Co-Owner, Polyface Farms): Thank you. It's - well, I'm not really with you. I'm out here in the field with the pigs.

SIEGEL: I gather you have both a pig and some lipstick?

Mr. SALATIN: Yes, sir. I've got some ruby red here in my pocket, and I've got about 50 pigs here that are coming up around me. Here's a black and white one. Come here, pig. Come here, pig. Here. Here. Well, it's kind of like putting lipstick on a hairbrush. You know, they don't have much lip.

SIEGEL: Have you done it already?

Mr. SALATIN: Yeah, it's mainly nose here.


Mr. SALATIN: They seem to want to eat it.

SIEGEL: Well, have you managed to get any of the lipstick on the pig?

Mr. SALATIN: Well, yeah.

SIEGEL: Does the pig look any better with the lipstick on him or her?

Mr. SALATIN: No, they really don't. Now, you know, if you put a cummerbund around his loins and some Birkenstocks on his hooves, it might improve him a little bit.

SIEGEL: Well, Joel Salatin, I just want us to agree here. I can't see what you've done, but I assume that no harm was done to any animal in the making of this story.

Mr. SALATIN: No. In fact, they really didn't like it and they've all gone and started lying down. So I think I bored them.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: Perhaps they're smart animals. Mr. Salatin...

Mr. SALATIN: They are, indeed.

SIEGEL: ...thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. SALATIN: Thank you.

SIEGEL: That's farmer Joel Salatin of Swoope, Virginia, demonstrating that indeed, you can put lipstick on a pig, probably on its nose, but it is still a pig.

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