Veep has built a reputation for its creative profanity. Selina Meyer is constantly dropping brutal burns that no actual president could say — but don’t go thinking our commanders-in-chief were all Boy Scouts. To prep you for a new season of Veep this Sunday, here are eight insults that American presidents really said. Count your blessings you never crossed Andrew Jackson.
1. “Jerry Ford is a nice guy, but he played too much football with his helmet off.”
Lyndon B. Johnson fired off this slight, and allegedly it’s not the only harsh line he had for Gerald Ford. Johnson is also credited with saying Ford was so dumb, he couldn’t “fart and chew gum at the same time.” Ouch.
2. “He’s a fool, but worse, he is a puking baby.”
This slam on General Douglas MacArthur was found in Dwight Eisenhower’s diary. He wrote it while he was serving under MacArthur, so clearly, Ike didn’t think too kindly of his boss.
3. “He is certainly the basest, meanest scoundrel that ever disgraced the image of his god.”
Andrew Jackson had a lot of problems with Henry Clay, as this description shows. Need further proof? When asked if he had any regrets, Jackson allegedly said, “I didn’t shoot Henry Clay, and I didn’t hang John C. Calhoun.”
4. “It isn’t so much that he’s a bad man. It’s just that he’s such a dumb son of a bitch. He’s about the dumbest man I think I’ve ever run across.”
At one point, Harry Truman and Supreme Court justice Tom Clark were great pals. But that clearly wasn’t the case years later, when Truman shared these harsh words with his biographer Merle Miller.
5. “[He has] no more backbone than a chocolate eclair.”
There’s some dispute as to whether Teddy Roosevelt actually said this. It was definitely directed at then-president William McKinley, but at least one scholar has pinned the quote to Thomas B. Reed, a former speaker of the house. While it could very well be Reed’s burn, it certainly sounds like something a noted madman like Roosevelt would say.
6. “I just won’t get into a pissing contest with that skunk.”
Eisenhower returns with this comment on Joseph McCarthy, the red-baiting senator who also helped kickstart the “Lavender Scare.” Eisenhower said it to his brother Milton while explaining why he wouldn’t publicly attack McCarthy — as Ike saw it, any word from him would only fuel McCarthy’s fire. Eisenhower proved to be correct, although it’s a shame he didn’t put some official insults on the books.
7. “A few weeks ago, Dick Cheney says he thinks I’m the worst president of his lifetime. Which is interesting, because I think Dick Cheney is the worst president of my lifetime.”
This Barack Obama zinger, delivered at the 2015 White House Correspondents Dinner, might be the most savage thing our current commander-in-chief has said about former vice president Dick Cheney. But it’s not the first. When rumors swirled that the two were distant relatives in 2007, Obama deadpanned, “I don’t want to be invited to the family hunting party.”
8. “That asshole.”
Simply dropping a curse word isn’t that noteworthy, but this one gets more caustic in context. “That asshole” was just one of the phrases Richard Nixon used to describe Canada’s prime minister at the time, Pierre Trudeau (aka the father of current PM Justin Trudeau). Nixon also called him a “son of a bitch” and an “a pompous egghead.” No one was supposed to know this, but all the off-hand insults came out of the infamous Nixon tapes. Trudeau had the last laugh, though. When the news broke, he remarked, “I've been called worse things by better people.”
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