Jay Nordlinger of the National Review today points out something that has irked me for quite a while.
Biden likes to refer to the president by his first name in public. This is, I’m pretty sure, unprecedented in American history. And interesting.
I too have noticed this. When the oratorically impaired Vice President speaks publicly, it is always “Barack this,” or “Barack that.” Rarely, if ever does Biden talk about “the President.”
I agree with Nordlinger that this excessive informality is without precedent. Though we all value the notion of a citizen-president, and America remains a largely informal country, leaders refer to the president as just that, the President. This serves two purposes, it demonstrates respect for the head state, but more significantly, it avows reverence for the office of the President while indicated that the man currently occupying the Oval Office is not merely himself but the representative of all the people of the republic.
Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the inestimable man who lead the Pacific effort in World War II, was no fan of his President, Franklin D. Roosevelt. As I understand things, describing Nimitz as not being an FDR fan is an absurd understatement.
At point during the war Nimitz was at an official function with one of his three daughters. FDR was too in attendance. When the President was to enter the room, and all stood, directing their attention to the Commander-in-Chief, Nimitz’ daughter was refusing to stand and offer any salute to the imperious FDR. The Admiral sharply rebuked his daughter, telling her that she (like he) may not respect the man, but they would hold and demonstrate the utmost respect for the Office. (Pointless trivia: my grandfather served on a submarine in the Pacific theater commanded by Chester W. Nimitz Jr.).
As Biden continues to demonstrate his first-name affinity, what are we to make of his habit?
- Biden is simply a buffoon. He does not know any better, and even if he does, lacks the rhetorical discipline to follow etiquette. This rings at least partly true to me.
- Biden, understanding his irrelevance, wants to remind people that he is a bosom pal with the President. This too seems probable.
- Biden is self-consciously trying to overturn protocol and establish a new precedent. Perhaps the veep is trying to show that Obama is an “everyman” and thus democratize the POTUS. I doubt this as Obama seems at least as imperious as an FDR.
- Biden no longer thinks of the executive as the President of the United States, but as a single man, an emperor of the land, or at least, a leader not of the United States, but only of the ideologically Left portion of the United States. Even I cannot believe Obama has wrought that much “change,” and besides, if the Administration saw itself that way the last thing they would do is underscore it through the speeches of the oafish veep.
It is an interesting question.
I am certain of one thing. If a Republican official, Speaker Boehner for example, tried to call the President “Barack,” the media would pounce and denounce the Republican as being disrespectful. The implication or assertion would of course be racism. “No white President was ever called by his first name,” would be the rallying cry. For Biden, it is all just another day without accountability.