What’s With “Barack”?
If you are a fan of politics, then I am sure you are a fan of the film “The American President“. The movie, stars Michael Douglas and Martin Sheen and if you are a fan, you probably remember the scene where The President, Andrew Sheppard (played by Douglas) and his Chief of Staff, AJ MacInerney (played by Sheen) have the following exchange:
A.J.: Good night, Mr. President.
President Andrew Shepherd: A.J.?
A.J.: Yes, sir?
President Andrew Shepherd: When we’re out of the office, and alone, you can call me Andy.
A.J.: I beg your pardon, sir?
President Andrew Shepherd: You were the best man at my wedding, for crying out loud. Call me Andy.
A.J.: Whatever you say, Mr. President.
The point of this back and forth was to illustrate the respect given to the office of the President of the United States. AJ MacInerney, who for the purposes of this fictional situation was the second most powerful person on earth and the best friend of the sitting president, still felt it necessary to address him formally. Even when they were all alone.
This got me thinking about the way the associates and staffers refer to the current president-elect. The Obama e-mail machine is still churning out regular updates to the faithful and I got an email the other day from David Plouffe and the subject line said “National security announcement from Barack”. It didn’t say, “from Barack Obama” or “President-Elect Barack Obama”, it just said “Barack”.
Then in the body of the email Plouffe refers to the next president four different times as just “Barack”. He also refers to Vice-President-Elect Joe Biden as just “Joe”.
It is not just recently that Obama’s associates referred to him by his first name. In fact it was my experience that anyone connected to the campaign referred to him exclusively by his first name. Gov. Tim Kaine right on down to low level press relations staffers all called him “Barack”.
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I assumed that this policy of calling him by his first name was a way to make the candidate seem like the everyman, that even though he was a U.S. senator, that he was just like you or me. It seemed like a useful campaign trick, but I figured after he was elected that his associates and staff people would begin referring to him a bit more formally.
I was wrong.
Now, there is still a little more than five weeks until the President-Elect actually becomes the President, and I am interested to see if this policy will change. Will a President Obama allow those close to him to continue to refer to him by his first name?
I realize that with all the important things going on in the world that this is rather inconsequential, but it got me thinking. I am wondering what you think.