It’s a door that Donald Trump may regret opening.
This week, President Trump launched one of his first attacks against rising Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, the South Bend, Indiana, mayor who has seen a sharp rise in support since entering the race. Trump had reserved the majority of his attacks for Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, but took aim at Buttigieg this week by referring to him as the Mad Magazine character Alfred E. Neuman — an apparent reference to Mayor Pete’s appearance.
The reference appeared to be lost on Buttigieg, who said that Mad Magazine was before his time. Buttigieg also pointed out that Trump seemed to have a little too much free time to come up with childish nicknames for his opponents.
“I’ll be honest. I had to Google that,” Buttigieg said, via Politico. “I guess it’s just a generational thing. I didn’t get the reference. It’s kind of funny, I guess. But he’s also the president of the United States and I’m surprised he’s not spending more time trying to salvage this China deal.”
The reference appeared to be a curious one for Trump as well. As many on Twitter pointed out, Mad Magazine has a long history of being very critical toward Trump, including one of the president’s most sensitive areas — his wealth. The satirical magazine took aim at Trump in a 1992 comic that pointed out the efforts he was taking to inflate his wealth and game funders in order to keep backing his failing projects. Trump has long been sensitive against any criticism that he is not as rich as he claims to be.
The comic was shared on Twitter by Claude Taylor, a chief Trump critic and conspiracy theorist.
The attacks on Trump have continued, with Mad Magazine frequently mocking Trump on a host of issues, including his relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
The Mad Magazine reference may be part of Donald Trump’s strategy to tread more lightly with Pete Buttigieg than some of the other Democratic nominees. While Trump has long employed mocking nicknames, political experts said there could be some liability to Trump in striking too hard at Buttigieg, who is openly gay. Any attacks that are too harsh could come off as insensitive, some warned, and could open Trump up the counter-argument that Buttigieg served his country in Afghanistan while Trump avoided the Vietnam War with a dubious claim that he was suffering from bone spurs.