This Is A Very Nice Post About Maggie Haberman
Hey, it looks as if Maggie Haberman at the New York Times is not pleased with Wonkette. We hope she wasn't a regular subscriber. Perhaps not fully appreciating the Streisand effect, Haberman tweeted this to her 1.7 million followers:
I admit I'm flattered. Haberman's tweet makes me feel like a cast member on Saturday Night Live (regardless of the season), who's always considered worse than anyone on the show 20 years earlier.
But I firmly stand behind my trash post, which is arguably the nicest thing I've written about Haberman. For those who came in late, Haberman downplayed the fact that Donald Trump keeps calling himself “your president." This is the same Donald Trump who refused to concede the presidential election he lost and still claims it was "stolen" and Joe Biden isn't the legitimate commander in chief.
Apparently, there's nothing to see here, folks, because as Haberman noted, "Bill Clinton's office calls him President Clinton too. Of things they do, this doesn't seem that odd." However, Clinton never incited an insurrection against Congress and tried to make himself dictator for life. Details.
I am glad Haberman called me out, because it provides me the opportunity to offer a small correction. I neglected to mention that Miss Manners had addressed this issue back in December 2003. A reader's son had met Jimmy Carter on an airplane and greeted the former president, peanut farmer, and nuclear physicist (not, really) as “Mr. President." The reader was frankly appalled and embarrassed by her son's boorishness. According to her etiquette books, while close friends and former staff might humor a former president this way, that's not the appropriate form of address, even if Carter had won two terms.
Miss Manners agreed:
Who should be president is a matter on which the citizens are supposed to exercise their opinions. Etiquette is not.
[ ... ]
What Miss Manners can give you is the correct information. But it comes with a warning that most people not only don't know or believe it, but turn indignant with the notion that it is disrespectful.
This is because we suffer from title inflation. Our Founding Fathers, including the ones to whom this question applied, established American protocol to be simple and unpretentious -- and thus antithetical to the modern taste.
Nevertheless, the rule is that titles pertaining to an office that only one person occupies at a time are not used after retirement. A former president can use a previously-held, non-unique title, as the first one did by reverting to Gen. Washington in retirement, or the plain citizen's title of "Mr." The third president preferred to be known as Mr. Jefferson rather than Gov. Jefferson. Thus, the gentleman your son met would be addressed as Gov. Carter or Mr. Carter.
So, Miss Manners has spoken. There's only one president at a time, and, despite what I wrote, you shouldn't call Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, or Barack Obama “Mr. President" even if you're just being nice. Instead, you should say "Gov. Clinton," "Gov. Bush" (or turd blossom), and "Senator Obama." Hmm, Michelle Obama's Squeeze seems a more impressive title than “senator," which is a job we'll apparently give any asshole.
We don't expect Trump to stop calling himself “president." He's an empty shell of a man who publicly insulted Colin Powell the day after he died. Unlike Swedish-made penis enlargers, etiquette's not his bag, baby. (Allegedly)
However, the media should hammer Trump's Republican sycophants on this point, as they keep referring to “President Trump" while never using that title to describe Joe Biden, who is actually president. (Sometimes, as a very funny joke, they will pointedly call him "former Vice-President Biden.") This isn't an issue of respect or etiquette but rather the GOP committing sedition in plain sight.
Thanks for the shout-out, Maggie Haberman. We'll keep the clever trash coming.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."