I’m not sure what the record is for the most backhanded compliment of all time, but a nominee for recent winner in that category might be this one, from Newt Gingrich, in which he “compliments” President Obama by comparing him to Hillary Clinton.
Here’s the quote, reported by Alan Rappeport of the New York Times’ tipsheet First Draft:
Republicans rarely have nice things to say about Mr. Obama, especially those who once wanted to take his job. But Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who sought the White House in 2012, gave Mr. Obama a backhanded compliment on Tuesday. He said Mrs. Clinton would be a downgrade if she replaced him.
“I think in the end, while Obama is a radical, and I obviously think he is very dangerous on foreign policy because he is so incompetent, he is not venal and he doesn’t corrupt the entire system,” Mr. Gingrich said in an interview with First Draft. “Having the Clintons back in the White House would be like having a very bad mayor running a very corrupt city.”