Donald Trump has become known for creating nicknames and labels for his campaign rivals including “Lyin Ted” for Texas Senator Ted Cruz , “Little Marco” for Florida Senator Marco Rubio and “Low Energy” for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. He recently introduced a nickname for John Kasich, “41-1 Kasich” with the caveat that it will soon be “46-1 Kasich”. The nickname is an obvious reference to the Ohio Governor’s having won only one primary, his home state. The launch of the Kasich name comes on the heels of the news that Kasich and Cruz have banded together to form an “anti-Trump alliance”. Last week Trump Christened Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, “Crooked Hillary”. The former Secretary of State has stated that the nickname does not bother her, saying “I can take care of myself. What I’m concerned about is how he goes after everybody else.”
The word “crooked” traces its roots to the Old Norse word “krokr,” which means hook such as in a hooked staff which was carried by shepherds. The word “crook” was also used, almost since its first occurrence to mean things “morally bent or twisted,” including, by the 19th century, a dishonest person. The etymology of “crooked” as a synonym for dishonest is biblical. The Bible consistently uses verbiage such as a “straight and narrow path” or being “straight as the gate” to depict morality. Conversely, someone who is on a “crooked or wavering path” is perceived as being dishonest. From Watergate to Email Gate, candidate Clinton has been consistently dogged by allegations that she has been dishonest with the American people over the course of her forty year career. Many believe that Hillary’s first example of “crookedness” surfaced when she was a 27 year old attorney working on the Watergate investigation. Jerry Zeifman, who served as chief counsel to the House Judiciary Committee, was also Hillary’s boss. According to Zeifman, Hillary Rodham was fired “because she was a liar….She was an unethical, dishonest lawyer. She conspired to violate the Constitution, the rules of the House, the rules of the committee and the rules of confidentiality.”
Former President Richard Nixon who resigned the presidency in 1974 in the wake of the Watergate scandal, was also known by a famous sobriquet “Tricky Dick”. It is a common misperception that Nixon was called “Tricky Dick” because of his knowledge and cover-up of the Committee for the Re-Election of the President’s (CRP)’s orchestration of a break-in at the Democratic National headquarters at the Watergate office complex in DC. In point of fact, the “Tricky Dick” moniker goes back to Nixon’s 1950 California U.S. Senate seat race against Helen Gahagan Douglas, the first Democratic woman California sent to congress. Nixon and Douglas announced their campaigns in 1949 and entered both party primaries under a practice known as cross-filing. During the primary, the Nixon campaign tried to persuade Democrats to vote for Nixon instead of Douglas, who was deemed “too left” by sending out a flyer to registered democrats with the words “As one Democrat to another”.
A Democratic Committee then sponsored a full page newspaper advertisement which depicted Nixon holding a pitchfork of hay labeled “Campaign Trickery” which he was feeding to a Democrat donkey. Apparently the trick was that Nixon was trying “to delude Democrats into believing he is one of them”. The ad included a callout “Look at Tricky Dick’s Republican Record”. The person who coined the Tricky Dick moniker was the third candidate in the race, Los Angeles Daily News Publisher Manchester Boddy, who had also cross-filed as a candidate for both the Republican and Democrat parties. Boddy is also credited with nicknaming Helen Douglas “The Pink Lady” for her alleged left leaning tendencies. Nixon ultimately ran in the general election as a Republican and defeated Douglas who ran as the Democrat 59% to 40%.
It has been over 65 years since Nixon was first called “Tricky Dick”. While people may have forgotten the origin of the name, they haven’t forgotten it and its negative connotation. Those who say “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” never ran for public office. If history is any indicator, 65 Years from now, we may not remember who coined “Crooked Hillary” or “Lyin Ted”, but we will remember that both Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz were perceived as “dishonest” by some segments of the population.
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