Donald Trump and I do not see eye to eye, both literally and figuratively (I generally respect our election laws, and during the last solar eclipse, I did not look up). But one thing that I have always (grudgingly) admired about the former president is his ability to coin a catchy nickname. Little Marco, Lyin’ Ted, Crooked Hillary, Sloppy Steve, Rocket Man, Low Energy Jeb: all classics. So it brings me no pleasure to report that Trump’s new nickname for Mitch McConnell — the Broken Old Crow — is simply awful.
It seems even Trump himself knows he can do better. Just this week, he’s made three attempts to nail his new moniker for the Senate minority leader. A statement on Monday shooting down a report that Trump was nearly disinvited from Biden’s inauguration referred to “the old broken-down Crow, Mitch McConnell”:
What makes this all the more incredible is that Trump has been workshopping this nickname for months. Over the summer, the former president released a statement attacking “Old Crow Mitch McConnell.” The senator quickly took all the fun out of it, declaring that he actually loves the name, due to its association with his hero, 19th-century statesman and fellow Kentucky senator Henry Clay:
This gets at the real problem with using “Broken Old Crow” as an insult, beyond Trump’s inability to settle on a single version: It’s not much of an insult. McConnell is 79, which is undeniably old (and Trump is only four years younger). Nothing about McConnell seems particularly “broken,” aside from his ability to feel compassion for other human beings. As for the bird thing, it’s been well-established by late-night shows, Wikipedia editors, and this very website that the animal McConnell most resembles is a turtle. “Crow” is an upgrade; the Suburban Times, a Washington-based online newspaper, aptly summarized the birds’ reputation as badasses: “Crows think they are in charge of everything. They fly were they want; they rarely back down, and they carry a grudge.”
McConnell is particularly hard to brand with a nasty nickname because he fully embraces all of these negative qualities. He’s laughed off and even encouraged monikers like Darth Vader and the Grim Reaper. When people started calling the senator “Cocaine Mitch” — in reference to a cargo vessel owned by his father-in-law’s company getting caught trying to leave Colombia with 90 pounds of cocaine — he turned it into a fundraising opportunity: His campaign sold T-shirts featuring a McConnell-shaped figure surrounded by powder with “Team Mitch Cartel Member” written on the back.
One nickname that seemed to get under McConnell’s skin was Joe Scarborough’s attempt to brand him as “Moscow Mitch” for blocking two bills aimed at preventing foreign election interference. McConnell took to the Senate floor to lament that he had become a victim of “modern-day McCarthyism.”
Unfortunately for Trump, he can’t use Moscow Mitch, for obvious reasons. (Trump actually tried to defend McConnell in that instance, calling him “a man that knows less about Russia and Russian influence than even Donald Trump. And I know nothing.”) But I expect the former president to come up with a better way to bully McConnell than “Broken Old Crow.”