Wednesday, November 07, 2007

First-Name Basis

DURING SNIPPETS OF THE Democratic presidential contenders' debates, I've heard some of the candidates refer to one another by their first names. I particularly recall Senators Obama and Clinton doing this. This rubs me the wrong way.

Maybe they're being collegial, seeing as they hail from the same legislature. Maybe Obama is following the lead of just about half the media in referring to Clinton as "Hillary," perhaps to distinguish her from former President Clinton.

I don't recall if Senators Chris Dodd, Joe Biden, or John Edwards have done the same, either with the two senators previously mentioned or among themselves. What I do recall is how Senator Bob Dole, while running for president in 1996, got his hackles up with President Clinton when the incumbent referred to him as "Bob" during a debate. The irascible veteran pointed out how he was extending Clinton the courtesy of using his official title even though Clinton had failed to do so in turn. I'm not certain whether the resurrected Christ could've beaten Clinton in that election, but that outburst fit into an existing pattern of seeming grumpiness on Dole's part, and he went on to pimp for Viagra and Pepsi instead of moving from the Watergate to the White House. So perhaps the greater point Dole was making got lost.

I know legislators employ the "distinguished gentleman/lady" flourish while addressing one another while in chamber. I don't see why they can't apply the same high tone to their debates. It hits me in the same decorum nerve as kids who call their parents by their first names, or the concept of addressing my friends' parents as anyone but "Mr./Mrs. [X]." In a campaign that no doubt will see new lows of dirty tricks and attack ads, in which, according to NPR, a billion dollars will be spent to boost one of these clowns into the Big Seat, it's a little sad to see one of the old social graces of Washington life be cast aside.

No comments: