When George Washington retired from public life, writes Emily Yoffe, he opted to be referred to by his military rank rather than as President Washington. This is in stark contrast to American public officials today who maintain their title even after they retire from office. Yoffe argues that there are several reasons why this is a practice that needs to be stopped and why when President Obama leaves office he should be referred to as Mr. Obama:
- The constitutionality of doing so is debatable. The constitution states that “No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States” yet by referring to officials by their former titles, a new, separate, class of citizens is created, one with everlasting titles.
- In cases where the office is only held by one person at a time – such as the Presidency, it is rude to the current office-holder for previous office-holders to retain their title.
- It also opens up the possibility of corruption and abuse. Former Generals working in the private sector might mislead defense contractors into thinking they represent the government by introducing themselves as General.
- Current transgressors include Al Gore, Dick Cheney, George Bush and Jimmy Carter.
To read more about what it says about status anxiety, why the Senate wanted to refer to the President as “His Highness”, what Adams and Truman did differently, and why the title ‘congressman’ is incorrect click here.