If you cast your mind back to your history class, you’ll remember that when Washington became our first president there was quite a fuss about how to address him. We were a new republic, not a monarchy, but there was a feeling that we needed a title with some zip to it, so all those old grandees of Europe would sit up and take notice. John Adams liked the idea of “His Highness” or “His Mightiness” or even “His Elective Majesty”. But Washington wisely opted for plain old “Mr. President”—he was a regular Joe, modest and self-deprecating, even though he was one of the richest men in America. Remind you of any politicians today? Not too many.
Given some of the egos on display in this electoral silly season, maybe it’s time to revisit the titles issue. I’m sure Donald Trump wouldn’t mind a bit being called “His Mightiness” or “His Highness” or perhaps “His Most Supreme Excellency”. I’m surprised he hasn’t suggested it already. But it might be good for the country to tweak it to “His Serene Highness” in hopes that the title might influence the bearer to become a kinder, gentler plutocrat. Another idea: with his wall fetish and anti-immigrant diatribes, he could take a page out of Oliver Cromwell’s book and go by “The Lord Protector”. Think about it.
Ted Cruz would probably prefer “His Holiness” or, like the old Emperor of Austria-Hungary, “His Most Christian and Apostolic Majesty, by the Grace of God, President of the United States,” given his personal friendship with the Deity. This gives a whole new meaning to the term “special relationship.”
Jeb Bush will of course be known as “His Highness, Bush the Third”, or “B-3” for short. Sounds a bit like a location on a grid, I know, but sometimes, I hate to say it, Jeb seems more like a location than a candidate.
Marco Rubio will inevitably be “El Grande” or “Su Ilustrisimo” or even (borrowing from Lorenzo di Medici) “El Magnifico.”
Hillary Clinton has a problem: “Mrs. President” sounds terrible, and “Madam President” old-fashioned or even francophiliac. “Ms. President” is hopeless. Perhaps “Her Grace”? That’s got a nice feminine ring to it, while conjuring up that whiff of dynasty—but then would Bill have to be “His Grace”? Bear with me, folks, we’re breaking new ground as we go.
Bernie Sanders won’t want a title—he’ll just be “the Bern” or “the Bernster” to one and all. Or maybe people will christen him “Chief “–short for Commander-in-Chief. I can just hear him in that loveable curmudgeonly voice, snapping at his underlings: “Don’t call me Chief!” He even looks like Perry White.*
*For those of you too young to remember, the old Superman TV show had a running gag where Jimmy Olsen would address Perry White, the editor of the Daily Planet, as “Chief” with the inevitable reply: “Don’t call me Chief!”