WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — President Barack Obama suddenly finds himself fighting fellow Democrats on two fronts: He’s fending off liberal efforts to defeat a White House-negotiated free-trade deal and he’s taking friendly flak from some political allies who have accused him of acting “sexist.”
His offense? Obama referred to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren by her first name when criticizing her opposition to a controversial free-trade deal the White House has negotiated with Asian nations.
“She’s absolutely wrong,” Obama told Yahoo News last weekend in dismissing her criticism as baseless. “The truth of the matter is that Elizabeth is, you know, a politician like everybody else. And you know, she’s got a voice that she wants to get out there. And I understand that.”
Read:Fight over free trade could turn Obama into a lame duck
Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, a staunch liberal often allied with Warren, called the president’s choice of words disrespectful. “I think referring to her as first name, when he might not have done that for a male senator.”
Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, also chimed in.
“I think the president was trying to build up his own trustworthiness on this issue by convincing us that Sen. Warren’s concerns are not to be taken seriously, but he did it in a sexist way,” she said. The “clear subtext is that the little lady just doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”
But is it really that clear? Appropriate or not, Obama has often shown impatience with diplomatic protocol and the formal trappings of politics. And he often uses first names when referring or talking to important figures, including male senators such as top Senate Democrat Harry Reid as well as foreign leaders of both sexes.
Consider the most prominent U.S. allies. In the past year alone, Obama has referred to the leaders of Germany, United Kingdom, France, Italy and Japan repeatedly by their first names when meeting in person, usually at the White House. “Angela,” “David,” “Francois,” “Matteo,” and “Shinzo” have rolled off his tongue as easily as “Elizabeth.”
If anything, Obama tends to refer by first name only to powerful or influential figures, especially if he knows them fairly well.
By contrast, Obama always sticks to official titles when meeting with leaders of less influential countries, avoiding the informality he displays with David Cameron or Shinzo Abe. He stuck to protocol in recent meetings, for example, with the leaders of Brazil, Ireland, Colombia, Afghanistan, Liberia and Jamaica — countries in which a first-name address might be seen as a sign of disrespect for leaders who want to boost their global stature.
Even when Obama adopts an informal approach, some leaders don’t always seem comfortable doing the same. Germany’s Merkel, France’s Holland and Italy’s Renzi have all referred to the U.S. president as “dear Barack,” apparently a common colloquialism among continental leaders.
Whatever the case, Obama was clearly ticked off by the accusation of sexism from members of his own party. The president’s chief spokesman all but demanded an apology by Brown — he hasn’t — and other Democratic senators have come to Obama’s defense.
“It’s silliness,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri.
View more information: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/sexist-a-close-look-at-obamas-name-calling-2015-05-14