Presidential History

"When You Have Been President of the United States, Everyone Knows It. You Can Afford To Be Modest."

|

Mr. Presidents

In this week of presidential pomp and circumstance, with former presidents thick on the ground, some words of wisdom from Miss Manners. After noting that George Washington had a slight preference for "His High and Mightiness" over the more egalitarian "Mr. President," she writes:

One might have thought that the world had grown somewhat more casual since the 18th century. And a lot less interested in honorifics. But apparently we have also been growing more pompous. We now have four living former presidents addressing one another as Mr. President, and a citizenry worried that it would be disrespectful to follow George Washington's rule.

Read the whole protocol primer here.

Advertisement

NEXT: Coping Without COPA

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. So, he gets downgraded back to Governor after he retires? I don’t care what Miss Manners says, it may be proper, but it’s also stupid unless he takes a different job, like Taft did.

  2. Is it boorish to suggest that Miss Manners be gangraped daily?

  3. Actually, I like it. Gov. Bush Who is Not Jeb.

  4. It has always bugged the living shit out of me that we refer to ex-Presidents, etc. with the title of their former job. It seems profoundly anti-republican, attaching the position to the man rather than to the office.

    He’s not President (or Governor, or whatever) anymore. When I leave a job, I leave the title behind. Why shouldn’t they.

    Speaking of anti-republican tendencies, let me note that my confident prediction that Caroline Kennedy would get Hillary’s seat in the Senate has not come to pass. I’m glad to have been wrong, wrong, wrong on this one.

  5. Actually, I like it. Gov. Bush Who is Not Jeb.

    LOL. I’ll stick with “Bush the Greater” and “Bush the Lesser” to distinguish the ex-presidents Bush.

  6. Actually, I’m with Mr. Dean. Citizen Bush it is.

  7. Actually, actually.

  8. Nah. After they leave office they shouldn’t have a title at all; their heads should be cryogenically frozen for historical purposes, and we should forget about them.

  9. The former presidents settled on “Mr. President” because calling each other “Hey, Asshole” wasn’t working out.

  10. To be serious, we call retired military officers “General Jones” and “Colonel Smith.” The President is the nation’s highest-ranking military officer.

  11. ??? So there can only be one president, and that’s why Bush’s title reverts to Governor Bush? Can there be two governors of Texas? WTF?

  12. To be serious, we call retired military officers “General Jones” and “Colonel Smith.” The President is the nation’s highest-ranking military officer.

    We also invade countries for no discernable reason. Just because we do something doesn’t mean we should.

  13. ??? So there can only be one president, and that’s why Bush’s title reverts to Governor Bush? Can there be two governors of Texas? WTF?

    Why the hell can’t we just call him George?

  14. First of all, retired military guys can be recalled to duty. The president is done and done. His military “title”, such as it were, is “Commander in Chief”, anyway.

    Second, R C Dean’s point is right on the money–we’re a republic. These guys get a whole lot more post-term protocol and service than they deserve, as it is.

    Third, for this particular ex-president, I’ve decided that I will call him The Bushmeister if I ever meet or correspond with him.

  15. “…and he has much to be modest about.”

    here on my land in oregon, visitors who aren’t very close friends refer to me as “your majesty the sun king.”

    who else caught the second letter in ms. manners’ column about the wife of the board president making disrespectful gestures toward a congressman and some other vip’s and thought that she was undoubtedly the most fun and interesting person in the room?

  16. “Second, R C Dean’s point is right on the money–we’re a republic. These guys get a whole lot more post-term protocol and service than they deserve, as it is.”

    Since he no longer is in control of the forces of evil, I’m assuming we can no longer call him Bushitler?

  17. First of all, retired military guys can be recalled to duty. The president is done and done.

    Ah, good point. I didn’t even think of that.

  18. Let’s take a page from the Romans and come up with our own equivalent to proconsul. Like “former President”, “pro-president”, “post-president”, or “shithead”.

  19. Yes, but a proconsul had actual powers. Hmmm, well, wait a second. What we could do is name him Proconsul of Iraq. Yes, that seems appropriate.

  20. Episiarch,

    We did some motivational posters for the new SoS at Urkobold, which I think you might like. Or have an allergic reaction to–your choice.

  21. Oh, I like that idea, ProL. He can have fun trying to tax the shit out of Iraq to make some money. I’d give him about 3 weeks survival time.

  22. And he’s not allowed back in the U.S. while he holds proconsular powers. Yes, this is a good idea you’ve had.

  23. As it happens, I already have my own formal titles for each of the former Presidents….

  24. We did some motivational posters for the new SoS at Urkobold

    You forgot “I find your lack of faith disturbing” and “I’ll get you my little pretty, and your little dog Toto too”.

  25. In the unlikely event I get to address him in person, I think I’ll just go with “stupid”.

  26. Episiarch,

    I like the first one and will post. I had also considered another, albeit non-Ozian, cross-genre shift: “Fuck the village.”

  27. joe,

    The Prez is Commander-in-Chief of the military, but he is emphatically civilian, not a military officer. He gets where he is through electoral means, not via military promotion.

  28. The reason ex-presidents get Secret Service protection til their death is to rough up people who don’t address them as “Mr. President.” And to chase off all the people who take craps in their yard.

  29. Most other retired politicians as well have their highest office attained added as an honorific or title e.g. Senator, Governor, Ambassador.

    Really, this is no bigger deal than entitling non M.D.’s to “Doctor”.

  30. Now, that I’ve rtfa, I see Judith Martin disagrees with my last sentence.

  31. And Martin’s protocol is in opposition to the real, actual protocol guides used by the US government, which is suprising considering she’s be writing for the Washington Post for the better part of a quarter century.

  32. I’d rather refer to him by an inmate number.

  33. Kolohe,

    Who gives a crap what DC says about has-been politicians? I say this in all seriousness: Miss Manners is the arbiter of protocol in this country. Which, I might add, is the libertarian way of doing business. I could ignore her without loss of liberty, property, or life, but she’s earned my respect. . .and obedience.

    We could call him the Un-President–crisp and clean and no caffeine. Never had it, never will.

  34. I’m just going to call him pickle sniffer. If I ever get to.

    Or Floorsheim.

  35. Hey, was there a new episode of Ex Presidents on SNL this week?

  36. SNL hasnt occured since we got a new ex-prez. Maybe this saturday?

  37. Let’s take a page from the Romans and come up with our own equivalent to proconsul. Like “former President”, “pro-president”, “post-president”, or “shithead”.

    How about “Pastident.”

  38. Kinda of reminds me of “Airplane” and Capt Roger and Officer Over.
    “Over” Roger
    “Roger” Over
    “Roger” Roger
    “over” Over

    President Carter, President Bush, President Bush, President Carter
    President Bush “Which Bush?”
    President Nixon “42”
    Hey, I thought Nixon was dead!
    President Nixon “Nah, I was never dead – it was all a conspiracy”
    Presdient Clinton “I’m 42!”
    President Nixon “just fu#king with ya”
    President Bush “are you talking birth order or something else?”

  39. I have no problem with “Mr President,” provided I get to make finger-quotes when I say it.

  40. Thank god we live in a world where we have nothing more important to argue about…

  41. I have no problem with “Madam Secretary,” provided I get to finger her when I say it.

  42. We now have four living former presidents addressing one another as Mr. President, and a citizenry worried that it would be disrespectful to follow George Washington’s rule.

    Two of them probably refer to each other as Pops and Sonny, or something. Which brings up the question: Why the fuck, in a country with 300 million people, do we keep choosing Presidents from the same tiny pool of shitheads? We might as well instate a hereditary emperorship and stop paying lip service to all this government of the people and for the people stuff.

  43. Mike,

    Absofuckinglutely. Best news in a while was Caroline Kennedy proving herself to politically inept to take on the Senate and bowing out of the appointment process. If only we could purge ourselves of these pesky Clintons and Bushes.

  44. If only we could purge ourselves of these pesky Clintons and Bushes.

    And Bidens. And the rest of the Kennedys. And anyone else who got their position of power because of who their parents or spouse is.

  45. Kolohe,

    I’m with Pro Libertate. Miss Manners is the foremost authority on protocol and manners in this country, and is also a hoot to read. Disobey her at your own peril!

  46. What did they call John Q. Adams when he went back to the House?

  47. House boy?

  48. I would, however, accept another Washington or Jefferson.

  49. Jefferson thought so little of the job that he didn’t even include it on his headstone.

  50. creech,

    That is cool beyond words. These days, there’s this idea that presidents should become statesmen and do only dignified things, because they’re so danged important. Screw that. If I’m ever president, I’m going to host a variety show the day I get out of office.

  51. You can imagine my surprise that RC didn’t think to mention the Doles and Cheneys. Or Elaine Chao.

    Yep, you can knock me over with a 105 mm howitzer.

  52. joe,

    Tweeeeeet! I cite you for goaltending. I believe that Mr. Dean did lead with an “and”, which would imply a rejection of another Bush as well.

  53. Well, joe, the Doles are out of power now, aren’t they? Kinda pointless to complain about them (unless they have a kid running for office). And what familial stuff were the Cheney’s up to? Serious question there. I know his daughter was doing something but that’s about it…

  54. When a President retires, he should become a Sident, and when he dies, a Postsident.

  55. Syd,

    As a candidate, he should be a president. When he takes office, he should be an insident. If he’s impeached, he should be an outsident. Once he leaves office, he’s a postsident. When he dies, he’s an exident.

  56. I think it is polite to be as disrespectful to any politician as possible. Politicians deserve nothing but utter contempt.

  57. Obama is so full of himself I think I will start calling him “His High and Mightiness”. I think it has a nice ring to it. Of course this is not meant as a compliment.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.