Paul Newman was a man of many parts: Oscar-winning actor, race-car driver, political activist, environmentalist, and philanthropist. But he used to say that one of his proudest achievements was discovering his name on Nixon’s “enemies list.” The list was a tally of opponents and combatants in the culture wars and toxic politics that swirled around Nixon, in particular those who were against the war in Vietnam. Newman was in good company.
I believe there is a league of men and women who take similar pride in being on Trump’s Twitter List, opponents and people he generally perceives as threats—to his manhood, to his position, to his self-image. These are the ones he has tagged with one (or more) of his base, schoolyard nicknames. For a man who surely must be the most ridiculed human in history, you’d think he’d just let things go every once in a while. When Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau made a comment about the length of Trump’s press conference at a Buckingham Palace reception for the visiting NATO leaders earlier this month, the president twitched into action, calling Trudeau “two-faced.”
× I find Trump’s nicknames lame, oafish, and unclever. But then that’s the way I find him. Trump is so limited in his command of the language that the poor fellow keeps labeling people with the same clumsy epithets he’s used before. He’s used “Crazy” on any number of people, including CNN White House reporter Jim Acosta and Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. He’s particularly at home when he’s trashing women. There’s “Nervous Nancy” (Pelosi), “Pocahontas” (Elizabeth Warren), and, famously, “Crooked Hillary” (Clinton).
Trump is so limited in his command of the language that the poor fellow keeps labeling people with the same clumsy epithets he’s used before.
For a man whose mental abilities are clearly teetering on the edge, he relishes slamming others for their apparent lack of brains—especially if they are African-American. Hence: “dumbest man on television” (CNN’s Don Lemon) and “low IQ” (15-term congresswoman Maxine Waters). He’s called Mika Brzezinski “dumb as a rock” and referred to Jeff Bezos as “Jeff Bozo.” Such a wit, our president. For someone whose grasp of truth and reality is by now hanging by a thread, Trump’s big on assessing others’ trustworthiness and reason, hence “Lyin’ Ted Cruz” and “Morning Psycho” (Joe Scarborough). When he’s just tooling around the private quarters with nothing to do (White House translation: “executive time”), he taps out random put-downs along the lines of “lowlife” Christopher Steele and “Horseface” Stormy Daniels.
In Trump’s world, size matters, so he’s added “Little” to an assortment of characters who have run afoul of him: Mike Bloomberg, CNN president Jeff Zucker, NBC correspondent Katy Tur, Morning Joe regular Donny Deutsch, ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos, Adam Schiff, and Marco Rubio. Perhaps his only clever epithet was “Little Rocket Man”—his label for Kim Jong Un. But then the banty North Korean leader one-upped Trump, calling him a “dotard”—which left just about everybody scrambling for a dictionary. He’s called Chris Cuomo “Fredo,” Robert De Niro “Punchy,” Jerry Nadler “Fat Jerry,” Jeb Bush “low energy,” and James Comey “slippery.” He’s called both Carl Bernstein and Steve Bannon “sloppy.”
He’s called Mika Brzezinski “dumb as a rock” and referred to Jeff Bezos as “Jeff Bozo.”
Not surprisingly, given his character and temperament, Trump’s much kinder when it comes to the one he loves most of all, referring to himself in the third person variously as “President Trump,” “Your Favorite President,” “Tariff Man,” and the “Chosen One.” Not to mention my personal Hall of Famer: “Stable Genius.”
At Spy magazine in the 1980s, we were on to Trump the moment he ditched the mauve suits and tried to pass himself off as an up-and-coming New York real-estate wiz. We saw him for what he was even back then: a grifter on his best behavior. We had our own slightly funny, slightly juvenile epithets for members of New York’s boisterous passing parade. The wife of a prominent editor was regularly referred to as a “bosomy dirty-book writer.” We described Larry Tisch, who had taken over CBS and was laying off employees by the hundreds, as a “churlish dwarf billionaire.” This prompted a phone call from John Scanlon, an old friend of mine, who was then handling communications for Tisch. “Look, Graydon, you’ve gone too far this time,” Scanlon barked into the phone. “First of all, Larry is not technically a dwarf!” I jotted this down, and in the next issue we made a correction of sorts by stating that a factotum from the Tisch empire had called to say that Larry was “not technically a dwarf.” Scanlon didn’t speak to me for a year after that. We especially relished referring to Trump as a “short-fingered vulgarian” and occasionally as a “Queens-born casino operator.”
We saw him for what he was even back then: a grifter on his best behavior.
I was looking up some of Trump’s oafish nicknames for others and came to the realization that he might have applied more to me than to any other single person. Some of the names he has given me in his tweets include “Dummy,” “Sissy,” “Sloppy,” “Dopey,” and “Sleepy.” (I’m just two names away from my own Disney feature!)
I’ve written in the past that Trump has tweeted negatively about me 49 times—everything from denigrating Vanity Fair and me to besmirching the restaurants I’m a part owner of. At the top of the menu for the Waverly Inn in the West Village is a quote: “‘Waverly Inn—worst food in city’—Donald J. Trump.” This from a man who has never set foot in the place. Still, it’s a banner we fly inaccurately but proudly. I’m pleased to have pricked Trump’s ire at least 49 times. And while I’m no Paul Newman, making Trump’s Twitter List is something I’m enormously proud of.
Perhaps it’s time to come up with some new epithets for Trump himself—although given his thuddingly crude put-downs of others, it’s like having a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent. Here are some of the options (along with their creators where indicated). Vote for your favorite or favorites. Do feel free to add your own. (Please try to keep it relatively clean—this digital weekly is family friendly.)