What to call Bill if Hillary wins?

The Myanmar Times - - World -

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?

Bill Clin­ton poses a spe­cial dilemma – not only would he be the first male pres­i­den­tial spouse, but also the first former pres­i­dent to re­turn to the White House as a spouse.

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 with­out cre­at­ing mas­sive con­fu­sion.

Lisa Grotts, a cer­ti­fied eti­quette ex­pert, said 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, adding, “Once a pres­i­dent, al­ways a pres­i­dent and that will al­ways be his ti­tle for life.”

Al­l­ida Black, an ex­pert on first ladies with the White House His­tor­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion, said 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.

“It will be Pres­i­dent Clin­ton and former pres­i­dent Clin­ton,” Ms Black said in ex­pla­na­tion.

“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.”

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.

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