What to call Bill if Hillary wins?

First gen­tle­man? Mr Pres­i­dent?

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Hillary Clin­ton’s pos­si­ble elec­tion next week to Amer­ica’s highest of­fice has raised a sticky ques­tion: What’s the best way to re­fer to the pres­i­dent’s male spouse? There have only ever been male pres­i­dents in the United States with fe­male spouses. One pres­i­dent, James Buchanan, re­mained a life­long bach­e­lor. Bill Clin­ton poses a spe­cial dilemma-not only he would be the first male pres­i­den­tial spouse, but also the first for­mer pres­i­dent to re­turn to the White House as a spouse.

The for­mer Arkansas gov­er­nor was elected pres­i­dent in 1992 and again in 1996, serv­ing eight years in of­fice. It is com­mon to use the hon­orific “pres­i­dent” to any­one who has served in the post, even af­ter they leave of­fice. But if the prog­nos­ti­ca­tors are cor­rect, and Hillary Clin­ton wins the pres­i­dency, then Bill Clin­ton can no longer be re­ferred to as Pres­i­dent Clin­ton af­ter his wife’s in­au­gu­ra­tion in Jan­uary with­out cre­at­ing mas­sive con­fu­sion. Lisa Grotts, a cer­ti­fied eti­quette ex­pert said that the dilemma of how to ad­dress a male spouse has been dealt with at the state level, which may, or may not, pro­vide a roadmap. “In the US, we have six fe­male gov­er­nors, and their hus­bands un­of­fi­cially go by First Gen­tle­man. But there are no rules for pres­i­den­tial spouses,” she said. “Once a pres­i­dent, al­ways a pres­i­dent and that will al­ways be his ti­tle for life,” she said.

Al­l­ida Black, an ex­pert on first ladies with the White House His­tor­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion said that there is no ques­tion that, in terms of pro­to­col at least, Bill Clin­ton’s “ti­tle will stay the same” when the first cou­ple are pre­sented at for­mal events-at a state din­ner, for ex­am­ple. “It will be Pres­i­dent Clin­ton and for­mer pres­i­dent Clin­ton,” Black said. “We went through the same thing with the Bush fam­ily,” she con­tin­ued, re­fer­ring to Ge­orge HW Bush, the 41st US pres­i­dent, and his son, Ge­orge W Bush, the 43rd.

“We had Pres­i­dent Bush and for­mer pres­i­dent Bush, so when they were to­gether, they were in­tro­duced that way, and the Clin­tons will be in­tro­duced the same way as well,” she said. The stick­ier is­sue of day-to-day nomen­cla­ture will be han­dled by the in-house ex­perts, Black said. “The of­fice of pres­i­den­tial pro­to­col, work­ing with the Clin­tons, will de­cide how to re­name the Of­fice of the First Lady,” Black said. “If she was mar­ried to a per­son who had not been pres­i­dent, he would have been the First Gen­tle­man, but be­cause Bill Clin­ton had been pres­i­dent, he is for­mer pres­i­dent, and not the First Gen­tle­man.”

Choos­ing a cause

What is clear, is that Bill Clin­ton will not re­vert to the ti­tle of gov­er­nor or for­mer gov­er­nor, which would be a breach of pro­to­col. “It would be a lesser ti­tle than be­ing for­mer pres­i­dent,” Black said. The first lady tra­di­tion­ally has her own staff and bud­get in the White House, and typ­i­cally adopts causes that are more or less non-con­tro­ver­sial. Laura Bush took on the is­sues of read­ing and lit­er­acy; Michelle Obama tack­led obe­sity, and good nu­tri­tion via her White House gar­den. She also gave greater vis­i­bil­ity to sup­port for vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies. An­other is­sue brew­ing in po­lit­i­cal cir­cles is pre­cisely what of­fi­cial role the First Gen­tle­man-if that is what he’s called-will play.

Bill Clin­ton has promised to step away from the fam­ily’s Clin­ton Foun­da­tion char­ity if his wife is elected. He re­mains rel­a­tively fit and ac­tive, but has sworn off one of the en­deav­ors that has oc­cu­pied much of his time in re­tire­ment and proved quite lu­cra­tive-speech-mak­ing-which earned both Clin­tons mil­lions of dol­lars once they were no longer in pub­lic of­fice.


This com­bi­na­tion of file pho­tos shows the sil­hou­ettes of Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump and Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Hillary Clin­ton.

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