A number of readers have written in to say that while they wish Newt would get off their TV as much as the next guy or gal, they fear he may actually be entitled to the continued use of the title just former Ambassadors and Judges can use the terms even after they’ve left the job.
So let me answer this in two parts. First, yes, there are many official capacities in which people are referred to by the highest office they’ve held — particularly in official functions on Capitol Hill and such. But entitlement is the key. While presidents generally hold the title for life, few other people actually insist on being addressed by their formal title when they go on TV and do media events like Gingrich does. For instance, you don’t see Tom Daschle going around calling himself “Majority Leader” or Colin Powell asking to be called “Secretary” Powell. Lots of people have this or that honorific they technically have a claim to but aren’t silly enough to demand when addressed.
It’s also true that with former ambassadors and judges, it’s a pretty common thing. So for instance TPM Reader PK writes in …
Here in Houston there is a big Democratic contributor who served as ambassador to the Bahamas for a couple years under Clinton—he uses the title on everything, and even in casual settings introduces himself with his rank. Sure, he’s technically entitled to, but really …
It’s an interesting point. Why are these titles commonly used in this way. I thought about it and what I told PK was that people would probably laugh in this dude’s face if he introduced himself as Ambassador to the Bahamas, since obviously he’s not ambassador to the Bahamas anymore. He just gets to preen with the title.
Actually come to think about, I should probably be happy that Newt has warmed to the ‘Speaker’ title. For those who remember the heady days of the Republican Revolution will remember that early in his speakership, when he was affecting the air of a philosopher king, Gingrich would get key deputies and flunkies in the House to refer to him as “Professor” Gingrich. So maybe I should leave well enough alone.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.