Don’t talk like this: Titles.

I keep seeing references to “Speaker Gingrich” and “Governor Romney” in the news. These people do not exist. Neither do President Bush, President Clinton, the other President Bush, President Carter, Speaker Pelosi, or Governor Palin. Mitt Romney is not the Governor of Massachusetts. Newt Gingrich is not the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Bill Clinton is not the President of the United States.

Rick Perry is “Governor Perry” because he’s the Governor of Texas. You can even call him “the Honorable Rick Perry, Governor of Texas,” if you like — because he really is the Governor of Texas. When he leaves office, he won’t be the Governor of Texas anymore; he’ll be “Rick Perry,” or “Mr. Perry,” if you prefer.

Ron Paul really is a United States Representative, so you can call him “the Honorable Ron Paul,” or “Dr. Paul” (because he’s a doctor) or — more informally — “Representative Paul” or “Congressman Paul.” When he leaves office, you can call him “Ron Paul” or “Dr. Paul.”

The titles that belong to the holders of elected and appointed offices belong (surprise!) to the holders of those offices. To pretend that people are entitled to hold on for life to the titles belonging to the highest offices they ever held is an insult to the whole concept of democracy. It’s an office; it’s not a life peerage.

While I’m at it, “First Lady of the United States” is an informal title customarily bestowed, for about the last 150 years, on the President’s wife or whatever other person may be acting as the White House hostess. Emphasis on “informal.” The wife of the President has no official duties and no official title. None at all. It is the epitome of absurdity to imagine that this informal title attaches to any particular woman for life. There can, by definition, be only one First Lady at a time. There is not a six-way tie between Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan, and Rosalynn Carter.

The wife of the Vice President, by the way, is “Jill Biden” or “Mrs. Biden” or “Ms. Biden” or, if you are the sort of person who refers to a Doctor of Education as Doctor, “Dr. Biden.” There is not ever, under any circumstances whatever, any such person as the “Second Lady of the United States.”

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