George W. Bush has been back in the headlines lately for his political differences with fellow former President Donald Trump. But let’s not forget that the two Republicans have one important thing in common: a talent for coming up with unforgettable nicknames.
While Trump mostly popularized derisive monickers for his political opponents, like “Sleepy Joe” and “Crooked Hillary,” Bush — who is currently supporting an anti-Trump Senate candidate — showed broader range as president:
“TURD BLOSSOM”: Karl Rove, Bush’s deputy chief of staff
- When Rove was in Bush’s good graces, the president called him “The Architect,” according to a 2021 Politico Magazine article.
“POOTIE-POOT”: Russian President Vladimir Putin
- During moments of geopolitical tension between the U.S. and Russia, Bush would tell his staff, “Get me Pootie-Poot on the phone!” Time Magazine reported in 2002.
“ALTOID BOY”: Israel Hernandez, Bush’s assistant secretary of commerce
- When Bush was running for governor of Texas in 1994, one of Hernandez’s duties as the candidate’s personal assistant was to supply him with breath mints, the New York Daily News reported in 2005.
“THE BLADE”: Mitch Daniels, Bush’s director of the Office of Management and Budget
- Daniels, who went on to be the governor of Indiana, earned Bush’s respect for the “gleam in his budget-cutting eye,” The Washington Post reported in 2004.
“HORNY”: Jonathan Horn, Bush speechwriter
- In a 2008 article for the academic journal, “Names,” Indiana University linguistics professor Michael Adams argued Bush’s nicknaming of Horn and others “seems an innocuous, playful social behavior, but it is a more complex onomastic maneuver than it seems, and more significant.”
- According to Adams, “it is a species of Althusserian interpellation, a means of ‘hailing’ actors within the state and converting them into subjects of state ideology, which, on one construction (the one operating here), collapses state authority and the executive power of the American presidency.”
“SCROTE”: Ronny Jackson, White House physician
- Jackson, who went on to serve under Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, is known for telling “one particular tale about administering stitches on an intimate part of his body,” the Washington Post reported in 2018.
- The doctor reportedly related the tale to Bush to assuage the president’s fears about being stitched up following an incident in which he cut himself with a hoe on his Texas ranch.
“LITTLE STRETCH,” “STRETCH,” “SUPER STRETCH”: David Gregory, Dick Kyle and Bill Sammon, respectively, journalists
- Gregory, Kyle and Sammon got their nicknames on account of their heights, according to Washingtonian Magazine and Sammon’s 2006 book about Bush.
“FLIES ON THE EYEBALLS GUY”: Cofer Black, director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center
- According to Bob Woodward’s 2003 book, “Bush at War,” Black made a lasting impression on Bush with his pitch for a CIA operation against al-Qaida and the Taliban.
- Black reportedly said: “When we’re through with them, they will have flies walking across their eyeballs.”