Donald Trump has done a pretty effective job of labeling his political opponents with short insults that tend to stick and, in some cases, re-define his opposition.
Remember “low energy” as a devastatingly concise description of Gov. Jeb Bush? Bush was riding high in opinion polls and dominating in fund-raising when Trump lowered that boom on him and it seemed to galvanize an un-spoken hesitation about the Floridian’s campaign.
The somewhat clumsy “lyin’ Ted” hasn’t been quite as effective, but recently even a Super PAC supporting mild-mannered John Kasich took up the label in an ad featuring a creepy, animated Pinocchio-style growing nose on the Texas senator.
Trump has now debuted a new moniker for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “Crooked Hillary.”
“Crooked Hillary” kind of flows off the lips, doesn’t it? It hits Hillary where she’s most vulnerable, even with Democrats wary of her history of obfuscation and duplicitousness.
Clinton was asked about the Trump nickname on Sunday. She told her old pal George Stephanopoulos she “really could care less” about what Trump says about her. “I don’t respond to Donald Trump and his string of insults about me,” she said on ABC News.
Seems to me this response shows that the usually calculated and robotic Clinton let Trump’s nickname get under her skin as her statement includes a sloppy grammatical error. Maybe it’s just a grammar pet peeve of mine, but this one drives me nuts. If she doesn’t care about what Trump says about her, she couldn’t care less. Right? By saying she could care less, she’s indicating she actually cares quite a bit.
Now, to be fair, “I could care less” is referenced by Dictionary.com as a sarcastic delivery to convey that one, in fact, does not care:
Etymologists suggest that “I could care less” emerged as a sarcastic variant employing Yiddish humor. They point to the different intonations used in saying “I couldn’t care less” versus “I could careless.” The latter mirrors the intonation of the sarcastic Yiddish-English phrase “I should be so lucky!” where the verb is stressed.
So to believe that Clinton is being grammatically correct, one must also assume she’s embracing her Yiddish roots. The way she panders to various constituencies in New York, this could be true, but her delivery was less Jackie Mason and more Emma Goldman.
Either way, the bottom line here is that Trump is calling Hillary Clinton “Crooked Hillary” and it may stick, no matter who ends up with the Republican nomination. After all, #CrookedHillary trended on social media within hours of Trump’s employment of the term and the best response Hillary could come up with was a grammatical flub.