LIPSTICK ON A PIG…. I suppose it’s possible for our political discourse to get even dumber, but it’s hard to imagine how.

Last October, asked about Sen. Hillary Clinton’s health care plan, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was blunt. McCain said Clinton’s proposal was “eerily” similar to the ill-fated plan she devised in 1993. “I think they put some lipstick on a pig,” he said, “but it’s still a pig.”

A common expression, right? McCain surely wasn’t calling Clinton a pig. After all, McCain’s former press secretary, Torie Clarke, wrote a book called “Lipstick on a Pig: Winning in the No-Spin Era.” Elizabeth Edwards told some health journalists that McCain’s health care plan was like “painting lipstick on a pig.”

Tonight Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said of McCain painting himself as a change agent, “You know, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.” … “You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called ‘change,’” Obama continued, “it’s still gonna stink after eight years. We’ve had enough of the same old thing! It’s time to bring about real change to Washington. And that’s the choice you’ve got in this election.”

The McCain campaign called Obama’s comments “disgraceful” and demanded an apology. The campaign added that Obama, in addition to calling Palin a pig, might have also been calling John McCain a fish, which, of course, would also require an apology.

The media seems to find all of this fascinating, as if use of an old American expression, utilized by all kinds of political candidates from both parties for generations, might be some kind of sexist insult — not when McCain used it to slam Hillary Clinton, but only when Obama used it to criticize the Republican campaign in general.

It’s honestly like being stuck in a “Twilight Zone” episode in which reality has no meaning at all.

Obama campaign senior advisor Anita Dunn said, “Enough is enough The McCain campaign’s attack tonight is a pathetic attempt to play the gender card about the use of a common analogy — the same analogy that Senator McCain himself used about Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s health care plan just last year. This phony lecture on gender sensitivity is the height of cynicism and lays bare the increasingly dishonorable campaign John McCain has chosen to run.”

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.