The Best (American) Political Insult Ever!
It may be early in the 2012 presidential general election campaign, but the rhetoric so far has been really lame. Obama indirectly insulted Romney by saying that he (Obama) wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth while Romney said he’d like to tell Obama to start packing. Sometimes the subordinates in election campaigns say interesting stuff, but the best they’ve come up with so far is about a dog that Romney put on top of his car and a dog that Obama ate when he was a kid.
To be fair, it’s been a few presidential campaigns since anybody’s had a really good political insult.
1988, now that was a great year for political zingers. Most people remember Senator Lloyd Bentsen telling Dan Quayle during the Vice-Presidential Debate that he (Dan Quayle) was no JFK. That was a memorable moment. But it wasn’t the BEST EVER!!
A couple months earlier Texas Governor Ann Richards was speaking at the Democratic National Convention (yes, Texas actually used to have Democrat governors, if you can believe it) when she said of George Bush (the first):
“Poor George. He can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth!”
This might not seem like such an awesome political insult at first, but further study of it demonstrates why it’s in the BEST EVER category. First of all, it was a combination of two idioms. Metaphors aren’t supposed to be mixed, but idioms are another matter. Governor Richards combined “he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth” with “he stuck his foot in his mouth” to say that Bush was both rich and stupid. And she said it without saying directly that George Bush was rich and stupid.
Secondly, Ann Richards delivered her insult with a Texas drawl. I’m not sure if Texans have drawls anymore, but Ann Richards talked with one when she wanted to. Her “he can’t help it” sounded more like “he caint hep it,” and that made the words sound endearing yet even more insulting at the same time.
Finally, the insult was kind of good-natured. It wasn’t delivered in a self-righteous tone that Lloyd Bentsen later used (that really turned off some Republicans) on Dan Quayle. Whether it was funny or not is subjective, but it seemed like a lot of Republicans thought Ann Richard’s insult was funny (I only have anecdotal evidence to back that up). When both Republicans and Democrats think a zinger is funny, then that insult is in the BEST EVER category.
Unfortunately for the Democrats, the BEST EVER political insult had no influence on the presidential election. Bush defeated Dukakis that year, and six years later, Bush’s son defeated Ann Richards to become Texas governor (and then he later became President of the United States himself).
When an insulted politician’s son has to get into politics to avenge a political zinger directed against the father, you know that the insult was a BEST POLITICAL INSULT EVER!!
So if you want to thank/blame anybody for the president that was George W. Bush, you can thank/blame Ann Richards.
Presidential insults might sound great and be momentarily gratifying, but they probably won’t affect a presidential election. Politicians might be better off sticking to their “hope and change” and “morning in America” slogans rather than talking about silver foots and spoons in mouths and who ate what dog that was on whose car.