A web site comment today (and subsequent retort) pinged my memory, and had me digging for what the proper protocol is.
True, Tim is not a Senator anymore, but it’s not like he’s using it to get anything, and given he just left office it was very likely a slip of habit. But as I did note, it did bring up the issue of what is proper protocol.
Democratic State Senator Doris Miner, who had served in the 90’s was not unknown to refer to herself as Senator when out of office at least for a time. I know of another former State Rep who served a single term back in the 90’s who still refers to himself as “the Honorable.”
But they’re the exception more than the rule. Most are quite content to go back to being Joe Blow. But, seeing the always pleasant comment section this AM had me scrounging around to look it up. And I found a great reference in the on-line web site for the book “The Protocol School of Washington’s Honor & Respect – the official guide to names, titles, and forms of address.”
So, what does the protocol guide have to say about the use of former titles? It’s actually easy after you see it laid out:
Referring to Former Officials
By their Former Office in the Third Person?
One thing I find missing is how one should reference a former United States Official in descriptive text or to a third party. I notice that former Governor Huckabee is always introduced as Governor Huckabee on his TV show. Is this correct, incorrect, or optional? I assume it is correct to use their official titles when describing their actions in office.
Addresing Mike Huckabee as “Governor Huckabee” is not correct.
Mike Huckabee would not be referred to as “Governor Huckabee” at the Governor’s Mansion, at the State Capital, in Washington, D.C., or in the U.S. Capital. He’d be Mike Huckabee, former Governor of … or Mr. Huckabee.
Perhaps the producers of the show are concerned everyone won’t know who he is?
Former officials who hold a position of which there is more than one at a time — retired judges, retired ambassadors, retired generals, retired senators, retired bishops etc. — use their “title” in every situation for the rest of their lives.
But officials of which there there is only one at a time (The Governor, The President of the United States, The Speaker of the House, The Secretary of State, The Surgeon General …) don’t continue use of their former title.
They use what they were entitled before taking the one-at-a-time position. E.g., Dwight Eisenhower in retirement went back to General Eisenhower. He was no longer The President”.
Same with Colin Powell … he’s no longer addresses as “Secretary” … he’s General Powell.
Bill Clinton is now “Mr. Clinton.” When you hear a TV journalist saying “President Clinton” it’s a short-hand third-person phrase to quickly tell the viewer who is being discussed. It’s not a form of address. If they are directly addressing him that way it is incorrect.
— Robert Hickey
According to the protocol guide, since they’re all former officials who hold a position of which there is more than one at a time technically, Tim, Doris, and others who have served in the legislature are quite proper in the use of their former title of Senator or Representative.
Now you know. (And knowing is half the battle.)