The Art Of Political Name-Calling

Vice President John Nance Garner
John Nance Garner, a.k.a. "Cactus Jack Garner," Vice President (1933-1941) under Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Weekly commentary by CBS Evening News chief Washington correspondent and Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer.

Finally today, as we say in politically correct modern America, it was "inappropriate" when Barack Obama staffer Samantha Power called Hillary Clinton a "monster." Ms. Power had to resign.

I have no problem with her taking leave. The remark was over the top.

But here's the other side. Creative name calling is as much a part of American politics as waving Old Glory.

Back in 1952 when Harry Truman called Republicans "a bunch of snolly-gusters," it set off such a shock wave that my late colleague Eric Sevareid thought it necessary to counsel calmness.

After all, he said, the man's remark wasn't nearly as bad as when President McKinley's opponent said he had "the backbone of a chocolate eclair."

Or when candidate Winfield Scott was called "the Peacock of American politics, all fuss and feathers and fireworks."

For pure invective I have always been partial to the late labor leader John L. Lewis's description of Roosevelt's first Vice President, John Garner.

He called him a "labor-baiting, poker-playing, whiskey-drinking evil old man."

"Cactus Jack" Garner, of course, was the one who described the office he held as "not worth a bucket of warm spit."

[That is the clean-upped version of the quote.]

Oh, they had phrases back then!

You know, I'm glad we've moved campaigns to a higher level, but you know what? Sometimes I really miss the old days.

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By Bob Schieffer
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    Bob Schieffer is a CBS News political contributor and former anchor of "Face The Nation," which he moderated for 24 years before retiring in 2015.