Dennis Prager
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A second reason, that only theoretically conflicts with the first, is that this president is a man of the left to the depth of his soul, and therefore has egalitarian instincts. Consequently, he likely thinks that there is something not quite right in sustaining class-based titles by referring to people by their honorific; and conversely, there is something charming in publicly calling senators, representatives, and members of his cabinet by their first names.

A third -- related -- reason, is the egalitarian spirit that has pervaded American society since the 1960s and '70s. Obvious examples include students calling teachers by their first name, young people calling adults by their first name, congregants calling their clergymen by their first name, and the like. In almost every case, there has been a loss of prestige to the person and to the profession (yes, adulthood is a profession) and a corresponding loss to society.

In 28 years of radio, I have never called an interviewee who had a title by his or her first name. A psychiatrist who teaches at the UCLA School of Medicine has been on my show a number of times. Though he has been one of my closest friends for over 20 years, I have always addressed him as "Dr. Marmer" on the radio, never "Steve." Likewise all the rabbis, priests and ministers with whom I am friends are all "Rabbi," "Father" and "Pastor" when I address them in public.

Some will argue that this was precisely what Sen. Barbara Boxer was saying when she said to Brigadier General Michael Walsh, who was testifying before a Senate committee, "Could you say 'senator' instead of 'ma'am?'" And therefore, anyone who ridiculed her for that comment cannot now complain that President Obama did not call senators and congressmen by their titles.

But the argument has no merit. Walsh never called Boxer "Barbara." If he had, it would have been scandalous. He called her "Ma'am," which, along with addressing a man as "sir," is how the military (and many others) show people respect.

The issue, in any event, is publicly addressing people with titles by their first name -- especially when the one doing it must be addressed by his title. Even if President Obama had used "Mr.," "Ms." or "Mrs.," it would have been acceptable.

Perhaps the president thought that Americans would appreciate that he is so friendly with all these congressmen and senators -- even Republicans -- that he calls them all by their first names. If so, he seriously miscalculated. If he did not object to "Mr. President," he had no right to drop "senator" and "congressman."

But, as noted, Mr. Obama is a man of the left. And the cultural left does not particularly like "Mr.," "Mrs.," "Pastor" or "Rabbi" -- or "Senator" or "Congressman." And if you don't think this is a right-left distinction, read right and left reactions to this column.

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Dennis Prager

Dennis Prager is a SRN radio show host, contributing columnist for Townhall.com and author of his newest book, Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph.
 
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