Offended? Why, we're shocked!

The Baltimore Sun

If there's one way to sum up the 2008 presidential campaign, it's this: Never have so many professed to be offended with so little cause.

Case in point: John McCain's campaign claims to be offended by a new Barack Obama commercial that paints the Arizona senator as an out-of-touch old guy.

The spot shows footage of McCain from 1982, wearing dorky glasses and an unstylish suit, and mixes in elevator music and images of a disco ball and an old-fashioned portable phone, just in case you didn't get the point.

Not to be outdone, Obama's campaign says it's offended by the new McCain ad that accuses the Obama campaign of calling Sarah Palin a liar and dismissing her as "good-looking."

All these people professing to be offended! Who knew politicians and their operatives had such delicate sensibilities?

And this was even before Tina Fey played Sarah Palin as an Alaskan bubble-head ("I can see Russia from my house!") and Amy Poehler played Hillary Clinton as a bitter, power-obsessed shrew ("I didn't want a woman to be president - I wanted to be president!") on Saturday Night Live.

Oh, you don't think that sketch was going to offend a few people in both campaigns?

All of this chronic offense-taking comes after the events of last week, when each campaign professed to be offended by just about everything the other campaign did.

John McCain's people were offended when Barack Obama said of McCain characterizing himself as an agent of change: "You can put lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig."

They were offended, they said, because it was a slam against Palin, who told a joke involving lipstick at the Republican convention.

No one could explain how that was a slam against Palin, but they got offended anyway.

Then pig farmers all over the country weighed in to say they were offended by all this talk of pigs and lipstick, which they found to be demeaning to pigs.

There were no reports about the pigs themselves being offended. But that could just be a matter of time.

Look, when Sarah Palin told that joke about the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull being lipstick, I thought: Oh, she's done it now.

I didn't know if the hockey moms would be offended. But I knew it would offend the pit bull owners, which it did.

Pit bull owners get offended very easily, something I learned from experience.

If you don't say their dogs are terrific and wouldn't hurt a fly and that you'd be happy to leave your 6-month-old baby right there on the floor to play with the pit bull, they think you're disrespecting pit bulls.

Still, the amount of serial offending by both campaigns seems to have picked up in recent weeks.

Cindy McCain said she was offended by Obama's comments that John McCain "doesn't know about the lives of middle-class Americans," just because McCain didn't know how many houses he owned.

The idea that Cindy McCain was offended by this - and you have to believe John McCain was offended, too, since when your wife is offended by something, you pretty much have to be - seemed to offend the Obama campaign.

Because Obama spokeswoman Linda Douglas sure sounded offended when she told reporters: "The fact that John McCain does not know how many houses he owns when millions are struggling to stay in the only house they have shows he's out of touch with the lives of real Americans."

You know whom that statement probably offended more than anyone else?

John McCain's Realtor. Because John McCain's Realtor probably heard that and thought: "Is that Douglas woman implying I don't keep the senator informed about how many houses he has? That really offends me."

Sometimes, though, it's not enough to be offended. Sometimes the campaigns like to step it up a little and claim to be outraged.

Being outraged, of course, is like being offended on steroids.

So after the McCain campaign claimed it was offended by Obama's "lipstick on a pig" remarks, the chairman of the Michigan Republican Party decided, no, he was way beyond offended.

"What an outrage!" Saul Anuzis wrote to party donors, according to the Associated Press. "I need you to click here now to make a secure on-line donation ... so we can fight back against Obama and the Democrats' false and sexist attacks on Gov. Palin."

But you can't out-outrage the Democrats.

Because the Obama campaign immediately denounced the McCain campaign outrage, with The One himself calling it "phony outrage."

"They seize on an innocent remark, try to take it out of context, throw up an outrageous ad because they know it's catnip for the news media," he thundered.

As a card-carrying member of the news media, let me say how offended I am by that remark.

Or maybe I'm outraged by it.

Give me some time to think it over.

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