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The Best U.S. Political Insult Ever!

October 31, 2015
It looks peaceful, but they probably said and thought nasty things about each other. (image via wikimedia)

It looks peaceful, but they probably said and thought nasty things about each other. (image via wikimedia)

Experts may disagree about which U.S. political insult is the best ever, but everybody agrees that it hasn’t happened in the current election cycle.  In fact, the rhetoric in the 2016 presidential campaign has been really lame.  Hillary Clinton has called Republicans her enemies.  Donald Trump has pretty much insulted everybody, and everybody else has insulted him back.  Even so, nobody yet has had a good zinger that historians will remember.

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.

She looked like a sweet old lady, but if you pissed her off, she'd rip you a new one. (image via wikimedia)

Don’t let that sweet smile fool you.  If you pissed her off, she’d rip you a new one. (image via wikimedia)

A couple months earlier in 1988, Texas Governor Ann Richards was speaking at the Democratic National Convention (yes, Texas used to have Democrat governors!!) when she said of George Bush (the first one):

“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 take a closer look.  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 or smarmy tone that politicians usually resort to.  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).  If 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.  George Bush defeated Michael 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).

So if you want to thank/blame anybody for the president that was George W. Bush, you can thank/blame Ann Richards.

I don’t know if Ann Richards’s zinger was the best political insult ever because I’m not a political expert, and I haven’t heard or read about every political insult ever.  But it’s been over 25 years since Ann Richards zinged George Bush, and people still remember it.

When an insulted politician’s son has to get into politics to avenge a political zinger directed against the father and then the insulted politician’s son becomes President of the United States, you know that the insult was a BEST POLITICAL INSULT EVER!!


What do you think?  What other political insults throughout history should be considered as the “Best U.S. Political Insult Ever”?  If you’re not in the United States, what do you think the “Best Political Insult Ever” is for where you live?


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From → Pop culture

  1. UK politician Denis Healey once remarked that being attacked by the late Geoffrey Howe – the deceptively mild-mannered cabinet minister widely credited with dealing the death blow to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – was like ‘being savaged by a dead sheep’.

  2. I love that comment from Ann Richards – smart cookie.
    I’m not sure our modern politicians are clever enough to come up with anything like that . They’re forever bickering and sniping at each other in the House of Commons, but it sounds like school boy name calling rather than smart put downs. The likes of Prime Minister David Cameron have every word they speak spun to death – every gesture and phrasing rehearsed so it comes across exactly as their speech makers have decided.

    • Yeah, most political insults (or attempted insults) make me cringe. I think the Ann Richards insult was the only time I’ve actually laughed at a political insult. I mean, I didn’t fall down on the floor laughing or anything like that. It was probably a quick laugh, maybe even just a snort, but I still laughed at it.

      • At least she showed she had a brain and some wit, which seems in pretty short supply in our politicians. Though not as short as compassion.

  3. Winston Churchill offered “a sheep in sheep’s clothing.”
    Theodore Roosevelt, “He has all the backbone of a chocolate eclair.”
    Lincoln had many about politicians and generals. A favorite is the general “was stunned like a duck hit on the head.”

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