Is calling Obama “Barack” out of line?
A few days ago, I posted a piece titled, “Beware the experts, Barack.” One reader took offense, saying:
It’s President Obama.
I doubt you’re on a first name basis with him.
So what do you think about this? On the one hand, I can see the commenter’s point: in general the president deserves the respect of being called “Mr. President,” although many of us didn’t show George W. Bush that deference. If I were actually speaking directly to Barack Obama, obviously, formal address would be called for. Similarly, if I were writing a column for The New York Times, referring to the president by his first name would at least arguably be out of bounds.
But this isn’t The Times — it’s a blog. And part of the charm of blogging is a certain snarky informality. This often leads to a faux familiarity — supposedly speaking in personal terms to important people you’ve never actually met (and who might call security if you suddenly showed up). Personally, I don’t see much wrong with this: and, besides, naming a post “Beware of experts, Mr. President” seems dorky to me, and even a bit officious for a blog post.
You can trust me that when I purport to speak directly to President Obama, by whatever name, I’m under no illusion that the message will actually be received.
So, give me your honest take. Is pretending to speak to the president by using his first name out of line?
BTW, please don’t use this post to criticize the reader who left the comment. While I personally don’t agree fully with his point, we all sometimes get mad about things other people may consider no big deal (the Democrat Party anyone?).
March 14th, 2009 at 12:07 am
I see no harm in using Mr. Obama’s first name on a blog. There is a certain informality here and a community. I feel at ease expressing my opinion. In social situations, I would not do so this freely, because I see no reason to offend or start an argument. If I ever met the man, I would, of course, address him as President Obama or Mr. President. My mother was rather strict on etiquette. She was a school teacher. But, political blogs are political blogs, and the rhetoric can get salty. Politics, after all, is not for the faint of heart. President Obama knows that firsthand. Barack Obama is not perfect. I am disappointed in some of his recent decisions. I owe him due respect as President of the United States; but I reserve the right to be critical and exercise my freedom of speech. I am very unhappy with his decision to keep prisoners at Guantanamo without charges and a right to a fair trial. You can call them Tom, Dick and Harry instead of enemy combatants; but we respect the law in this country and it MUST be extended to those under our jurisdiction. Hitler’s Gestapo dragged people from their homes in the middle of the night, without charges, and shipped them off to prisons or summarily executed them. WE DO NOT WANT TO DO THAT HERE, EVER!!!!! We dont even want to come close to it. So, I am very displeased with the President and with the man, Barack Obama. It is a wrong and wretched decision. We are judged by our actions. All of us, even presidents, have to earn respect.
March 14th, 2009 at 12:11 am
It’s all good. My bro speaks to Chuck (Darwin) quite often and Rich and I have been know to argue the virtues of Watermelon Sugar v.s. Oak planks on occasion so consider yourself un-rebuked.
Seriously, it’s not as if it sounded like you were implying that you and Barrack had a personal friendship nor did it sound as if you were trying to put him down.
March 15th, 2009 at 10:12 am
My guess is that if Bobby Kennedy had become president, many of us would have called him “Bobby” on an informal basis.
George W. Bush on the other hand was called everything imaginable and he earned every ounce of disrepect he was shown.
I really can’t take any offense at anyone calling Obama by his first name, Barack, in an informal setting. What I do object to, however, is hate radio and TV wingnuts referring to him by his childhood name, “Barry.” Their intent is to show disrepect.
Historically, people called Eisenhower “Ike,” Roosevelt “FDR, ” and Ronald Reagan “an amiable imbecile.” I don’t have any problem with any of these, but I’m sure that in formal settings, all would have been referred to as “Mr. President.” And as much as it pains me to say it, the war criminal Bush would also have received the same title of respect in a face-to-face setting.