POLITICS
10/30/2014 10:53 am ET Updated Oct 30, 2014

Benjamin Netanyahu Not The First To Be Called 'Chickensh*t'

ASSOCIATED PRESS

As the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu is no stranger to harsh criticism and name-calling. But when the snipe comes from the White House -- ostensibly the Israeli government's closest ally -- it's news.

On Tuesday, The Atlantic reported that a senior Obama administration official reportedly called the prime minister "a chickenshit" for his unwillingness to put long-term geopolitics ahead of short-term electoral interests.

The leveling of such an insult underscores the deteriorating back-door relations between the U.S. and Israel. That said, people shouldn't be entirely surprised by the use of the term. The reference to poultry feces is a time-honored insult in American politics.

It all started when President Lyndon Johnson was put off by a banal question asked by a journalist attending an informal press gathering at the Oval Office. According to Slate, Johnson glared at the reporter and did not mince words.

"You're talking to the commander-in-chief of the most powerful military in the world," Johnson reportedly sneered, "and you ask a chickenshit question like that?"

Johnson was infamous for his snide remarks. But "chickenshit" appeared to be one of his go-to put-downs. For instance, when Johnson was a senator and was asked by a reporter how he could praise then-Vice President Richard Nixon, he used the term to refer to the Republican.

"In politics," Johnson reportedly said, "you've got to learn that chicken shit can turn overnight to chicken salad."

A couple of decades later, "chickenshit" returned to the spotlight at the height of the Gulf War during a clash between two politicians: Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) and President George H.W. Bush.

After Wellstone's big win in the 1990 Minnesota senate race made him a progressive hero, he emerged as one of the most vocal and astringent critics of the Gulf War. Bush, who had deployed U.S. forces to Saudi Arabia, had some disparaging remarks for his critic.

"Who is this chickenshit?" the elder Bush snarled after being lampooned by Wellstone at a reception for new congressional members, Mother Jones reported.

And it's not just presidents and their anonymous aides using the epithet.

In June 2007, then-Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) butted heads with Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) over a sign that illustrated the federal deficit and the typical American's individual share of it, according to Roll Call.

Gohmert had taken the sign from outside Shuler's office and used it in a floor speech in which he railed against Democratic spending. Later, Shuler, a former NFL player, was seen towering over Gohmert, wagging his finger in the Republican's face and calling him a "chickenshit" among other names.

One of the most heated confrontations among the political chickenshit revelations was between Gen. David Petraeus and his superior, Adm. William Fallon, chief of U.S. Central Command.

According to the Inter Press Service news agency, Pentagon sources revealed Fallon approached Petraeus at their first meeting in Baghdad in March 2007 and did not hold back his personal thoughts when he said he believed Petraeus was "an ass-kissing little chickenshit." Adding more insult to injury, Fallon reportedly said, "I hate people like that." According to IPS' Pentagon sources, Fallon made the snide remarks after Petraeus began the meeting with words that Fallon "interpreted as trying to ingratiate himself with a superior."

And then there is House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who on Wednesday demanded that President Barack Obama fire whichever aide made the disparaging comment about Netanyahu. Back in 2008, when he was House minority leader, Boehner weighed in on Obama's time in the Illinois state Senate and had some choice words about Obama's penchant for voting present.

"Now, listen, I've voted 'present' two or three times in my entire 25-year political career, where there might have been a conflict of interest and I didn't feel like I should vote," Boehner said. "In Congress, we have a red button, a green button and a yellow button, alright. Green means 'yes,' red means 'no,' and yellow means you're a chicken s***."

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