The august New York Times, keeping to its long tradition of referring to news subjects by the titles "Mr." and "Mrs.," refers to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as "Mrs. Clinton, of New York." As I was reading this morning's NYT front page account of Senator Barack Obama's impressive margin of victory over Senator Clinton in yesterday's Wisconsin primary and Hawaii caucuses, I thought, "Wow. "Mrs. Clinton, of New York. - That's her problem right there."
The Times keeps the style of Mrs. consistent, as far as I know, throughout the paper. Scanning other political stories of the day, I can read, for example, the account of Mrs. McCain's smackdown of Mrs. Obama. I'm still a little shocked, however, when I read the title Mrs., especially before the name of a woman who, though married, exercises a fair measure of independent political power.
When I was an aspiring ambitious youngin' in the great state of Texas, older uncle types would ask me about my college plans. "Are you planning on getting a MRS degree?," they'd ask, chuckling, referring of course to the useless academic time girls spend as co-eds. "Naw, man, I can't wait until I'm Governor of Texas, and you're in jail," I would think to myself, and then I'd go home to read MS. magazine.
"Mrs. Clinton" - now, that's the woman I think who stays home and bakes cookies. Adding "of New York" adds a double whammy. In the first place, in this election season you can see how well New York resonates with national voters. New York is still that suspicious foreign big crowded cold place where people get knifed in the face for no reason. For even me, "Mrs. Clinton, of New York" reads Upper East Side, a Botox-injected socialite who wouldn't in fact bake cookies but have her assistant go buy them over on Madison. It's a wonder Mrs. Clinton, of New York gets any votes outside of 10021 and 10022. On the other hand, "Mr. Obama, of Illinois" - now that's Lincoln-esque!
The New York Post doesn't use titles, so the candidates are simply Clinton and Obama, for example. Ditto for The New York Post. Other newspapers begin their reports referring to "Senator Hillary Clinton" and "Senator Barack Obama" but then drop the Senator title and the first names after these identifications. I prefer that style over the Mr. and Mrs. traditions of The New York Times. When I'm reading the Times I feel like I'm at a formal tea party. In 1954.
The way things are going, though, the title, "Mrs Clinton, of New York," sounds like a self-fulfilling prophecy.