About Willard

Let’s be respectful and refer to Mitt Romney as “Mitt Romney.”

It continually annoys me that Maureen Dowd calls President Obama “Barry.” I find that usage superficial, uncreative, and disrespectful.

In a similar spirit, though, I submit that progressives shouldn’t call Mitt Romney “Willard.” What say others?

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect, tnr.com, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

26 thoughts on “About Willard”

  1. an actual conversation:
    my 8-year old daughter: Mom, why would someone name their kid Mitt?
    me: It’s a nickname. His real name is Willard.
    daughter: But Willard is not a teasable name. Mitt is a teasable name.

    While I agree that we should “do unto others…”, and not give our political opponents disrespectful names when writing serious commentary, I know an 8 year old that would say that calling him “Willard” is not disrespectful.

    1. Isn’t “Mitt” his actual middle name? I guess we need to see his long-form birth certificate to be sure.

      Anyway, I agree with your daughter.

  2. Concur. I am not a Romney fan, but it’s rude. It would be one thing if Romney had decided to start using the name when he entered politics, which would be kind of phony, but by all accounts he has used his middle name since kindergarten. (Likewise “Mittens” and other idiotic expressions.)

  3. If there was a way to point out the petty, small-mindedness of ‘Barry’ or ‘Barack Hussein Obama’ while pointing out how you are not stooping so low as to use ‘Willard’, I say go for it.

  4. Maureen Dowd IS “superficial … and disrespectful” – it’s her specialty. She’s been making a good living at it, and being popular at parties, since she was taking out after Bill Clinton. Progs shouldn’t model their behavior on hers, positively or negatively.

  5. Mr. Romney is not President of the United States, and so is not accorded the respect that goes with the office.

    But you’ve got your corresponding apellations crossed.

    “Barry” was President Obama’s diminutive nickname as a boy.
    “Mitt” was Mr. Romney’s diminutive nickname as a boy.

    “Barack” is President Obama’s legal name.
    “Willard” is Mr. Romney’s legal name.

    So to show both equal respect, we should call them “Barack” and “Willard”, respectively.

    To treat both equally over-familiarly, we should call them “Barry” and “Mitt”, respectively.

    1. To treat someone with respect, you cal them what they wish to be called, whether it is their first name, their middle name or something that doesn’t appear on their birth certificate at all.

      1. On the other hand, when you’re talking about a person’s place of birth, it’s rude to deviate from what’s on the birth certificate.

      2. As far as I am concerned, J. Micheal Neal’s comment regarding names is all that needs said – simple and respectful.

    2. When you intentionally call someone by a name they do not choose to go by, you are making a choice to make a point.

      People use “Willard” instead of “Mitt” because it sounds kinda stuffy or funny.

      People use “Barack Hussein Obama” instead of “Barack Obama” because it sounds vaguely evil.

      My mother used “Edward” instead of “Ed” when she was mad at me.

  6. Shall we catalog all the disrespectful names we have called presidents past?

    Oh weep an gnash.

    I’ll be satisfied the press tells the truth, and let them name how they like.

  7. I’m kind of with Joel on this. I don’t read Dowd but my guess is it’s some sort of faux familiarity whereas when I call Romney “Willard” I mean to be mean.

  8. One of the kindest, most honest people I have known was named Willard. That name is too good for Romney who is neither.

    1. Of course there was also that movie Willard starring a wierdo controlling an army of rats…
      I suspect the people publicizing the name are rather hoping to channel that vibe rather than associations of your friend…

  9. I do think that in general people should be called what they call themselves. But why on earth are you still reading what Dowd writes? Life is annoying enough, and it’s not as if you’re actually going to learn something or even be entertained.

  10. I’d be inclined to agree if we hadn’t just the other day gotten a soundbite of Willard saying “I’m Mitt Romney — and yes Wolf, that’s also my first name.”

    It’s fine for Willard to use his middle name, but if he’s going to gratuitously lie about it then I don’t see why people shouldn’t call him Willard.

  11. I don’t mind “Barry” and “Willard” is his name, is it not? Like, where’s the beef?

  12. I think it’s a trump card you can use when you don’t have a good argument but are sure you’re right. “He’s got a funny name!”

  13. I whole-heartedly disagree with the assertion that politicians deserve respect. They certainly don’t demonstrate respect for each other on the campaign trail. Using the pejorative voice when discussing Willard Romney, Barry Obama, Dick Santorum and Newton Leroy Gingrich communicates in a visceral and compact way. Besides, you can’t fit “I fart in your general direction” in a 140 tweet and include the reason why. As for the labels progressive, liberal, conservative, wingnut, which imply favoritism for one form of prostitution over another, I reject them all. For the record, I am not a supporter of Ron “I never said N*” Paul either. Get over it!

  14. Maureen Dowd sounds disrespectful when she calls the president “Barry” because she disrespects him and wishes to convey that fact clearly. It’s one of the few things “MoDo” does well.

    I’ve been known to refer to that great man, the forty-third President of These Goddamn United States, the Honorable George Walker Bush, as “Chimpy McFlightsuit.” Not the most dignified thing I could do, I’ll admit, but it admirably summarizes two salient points about President Bush that would otherwise take a lot of explaining. (To wit, he is chimpanzee-like in demeanor and intelligence, and he was fond of wearing the costumes of actual military servicemembers.)

    I’m not saying Barry and Willard should start zinging each other with those names during debates. But not everything we do in politics is high-church formal.

  15. Serious political blogs should concentrate on two areas: consequences if a Republican wins, and why the leftmost choice for President is a moderate Republican. Other things are schoolyard games.

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