By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – In the recent debate, Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan referred to incumbent Vice President Biden by his first name – Joe.
Most people probably did not think twice about those particular exchanges during what was a feisty debate.
Most were probably more fascinated with Biden’s laughter – some liking it and others put off by it – and his facial expressions and, by the fact that whether you want to admit it or not, he has really good teeth.
Granted, how the vice president was addressed is not a big deal when compared to the monumental issues that were discussed at the debate, such as jobs creation, foreign policy and social issues.
Plus, perhaps to Biden’s credit, many see him as sort of like the uncle everyone has – cool Uncle Joe or crazy Uncle Joe, depending on one’s political philosophy.
There is no wrong or right answer on how people should address their elected leaders. After all, we pay them – through our tax dollars – so we should be able to call them what we want.
Hey, we are all Americans – part of a representative Democracy. We all are created with certain rights and we all can have a voice – the wealthy and the downtrodden – in how this country is governed.
I believe deep down we all should and do have the same rights as Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan or the most famous movie star.
We do not have royalty in this country – though in my humble opinion the Mannings – at least Archie – should be considered close.
By the same token, because I do care deeply for the principles of this country, I believe those elected by the people – the representatives of the people – should receive a certain level of respect.
Notice, I did not or would not say they should be free from criticism or from the rules, laws regulations and principles that we all are expected to follow.
A while back Attorney General Jim Hood returned a phone call to answer some questions for a story I was pursuing. At one point, I referenced him as Gen. Hood and he laughed and asked me to call him Jim.
When I bump into Hood, and we are shooting the breeze, I might call him Jim, but when referencing him or other elected leaders in an official capacity, such as a news conference, I try to always refer to them by their title – not their first name.
I refer to Gov. Phil Bryant as governor or Gov. Bryant – not as Phil. The same is true for Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, Hood, any member of the Legislature or any other elected official. I always referred to former House Appropriations Chair Johnny Stringer, D-Montrose, for instance, as Mr. Chairman. I do the same for his predecessor – Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville.
By referring to Gov. Bryant or Sen. Bryan I am bestowing respect not only on Phil Bryant or Hob Bryan, but also on their position and on the people who elected them to that post.
I will admit I have somewhat of a personal relationship with some of the state’s elected officials. During a friendly lunch, I might call them by their first name.
A few months ago I walked from my state Capitol office down to a downtown Jackson eatery to grab a quick bite. I bumped into Frierson, discreetly eating lunch by himself even though there was a Capitol full of lobbyists a few blocks away who would have given a foot – they need both hands to operate their cellphones and to shake hands – to have taken the House Appropriations chair to the finest restaurant in Jackson for lunch.
We had lunch together. I might have referenced Frierson by his first name during lunch. I really can’t recall.
But I can assure you that if Frierson had returned to the Capitol later that day to hold a news conference to talk about the state budget, I would have referred to him as Mr. Chairman or Chairman Frierson during that event.
Call me a fuddy duddy or old school.
I have heard that often from my children. I just wish they would address me in public as the world’s Smartest and Best Dad, but we should not get too hung up on titles.
Bobby Harrison is the Daily Journal’s Capitol Bureau chief. Contact him at (601) 353-3119 or firstname.lastname@example.org .