Walter Mencken 1 p.m., May 1
- Community Blog
- Word Freak
Voters Want Better Insults, Polls Show
It wasn’t the insult of the century. It’s not going to be tweeted exponentially or launch council member Rudy Ramirez to Youtube immortality. But, it was an insult nonetheless. And in the vanilla-bland world of Chula Vista politics, it registered as a low blow.
Bored with the status quo, Ramirez decided to sling some mud. At a Chula Vista city council meeting on July 24, Ramirez was critical of fellow council member John McCann’s announced deployment in the Naval Reserves. Ramirez referenced a recent hot-button issue by jokingly wondering whether McCann would still receive a car allowance while serving overseas.
Politics is an industry that evokes great passion and stokes differing opinions. It can be both an intellectual and an emotional arena. Thus, there is a place for a wise insult in politics. However, Ramirez’s little jab doesn’t even register on the historic list of top political insults.
Below is my list of the all-time top ten political insults:
“She probably thinks Sinai is the plural of sinus.” Jonathan Aitken.
“He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know.” Abraham Lincoln.
“Winston, you're drunk.” “Madam, you're ugly. But in the morning, I shall be sober.” Winston Churchill retort to Lady Astor.
“A modest little person, with much to be modest about.” Winston Churchill.
“The trouble with her is that she lacks the power of conversation but not the power of speech.” George Bernard Shaw.
“A sheep in sheep's clothing.” Winston Churchill.
“Winston had devoted the best years of his life to preparing his impromptu speeches.” F. E. Smith on Winston Churchill.
“Winston, if I were your wife, I'd put poison in your coffee.” “Nancy, if I were your husband, I'd drink it.” Winston Churchill retort to Lady Astor.
“When she speaks without thinking, she says what she thinks.” Lord St. John of Fawsley.
“Really, Mr. Wilkes, I don't know whether you'll die on the gallows or of the pox.” “That depends, my lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress.” Lord Sandwich retort to John Wilkes.
The proper insult is both witty and cutting. Done right, it can lead to infamy and quotable immortality. Done wrong, it’s like a child slinging rocks.
The problem with council member Ramirez’s joke is that it was all insult and no wit.
How much more enjoyable it would have been to witness Ramirez and McCann spar with passion and wit. Imagine the following exchange:
When he found out McCann was being called to active duty in the Navy, Ramirez should have said: “John McCann’s extended absence in service to his country is an even greater service to Chula Vista.”
To which McCann could retort: “Nothing has prepared me better for dealing with the dirty inhumanities of war than dealing with the dirty inhumanities of Rudy Ramirez.”
Or Ramirez could sling this: “As John McCann sails away, so do the Chargers’ hopes for a new stadium in Chula Vista.”
Which would draw this response from McCann: “I would trade my life for my country. Rudy Ramirez would trade his country for a dollar.”
Finally, Ramirez should have said: “Your wife’s readiness and ability to fight your political battles in your absence only affirms your irrelevance.”
Which would evoke this from McCann: “Sir, my wife stands beside me, hand-in-hand. Exactly the same way the lobbyists stand with you.”
If our leaders are going to divert attention from the critical issues facing this city by hurling insults, they should at least provide us enlightening disparagement. Instead, we get nothing but a lousy car allowance joke. The 217,000 citizens of this great city deserve so much more.