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(Don't) call me Madame

Boxer A would-be Republican challenger is trying to capitalize on Sen. Barbara Boxer's now infamous reprimand of a general for addressing her at a hearing as "Ma'am" instead of "Senator." According to Chuck DeVore, Boxer's dressing down of Brig. Gen. Michael Walsh of the Army Corps of Engineers reflected liberal contempt toward the armed forces and was just what you'd expect from a Vietnam War protester.

But you don't have to be a Republican to be appalled by Boxer's display of pique, which has become must-gag TV on YouTube. "Do me a favor," Boxer told Walsh at a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. "Could you say 'Senator' instead of 'Ma'am?' It's just a thing; I worked so hard to get that title, so I'd appreciate it." To his credit, Walsh didn't reply: "Yeah, you did raise a lot of campaign contributions, Senator." Later, a Boxer aide said she and the general were pals.

Maybe, but Boxer had better forget about a campaign contribution from Miss Manners. As bloggers have pointed out, "Ma'am" is a term of respect comparable to "Sir," which is the way military officers address the president. It's also a contraction of "Madam," as in "Madame Secretary Hillary Clinton." (Walsh began his testimony by addressing Boxer as "Madam Chair.")  If "Ma'am" is good enough for the Queen of England, it ought to be good enough for Boxer. Yet it was the senator, not the monarch, who was not amused.

What's really galling about Boxer's snit is her refusal to give the general the benefit of the doubt. My mother taught her children that if someone knocks you over on a bus, assume it's an accident even if you suspect otherwise. There's no evidence that Walsh was deliberately belittling Boxer, but she flamed him anyway -- before TV cameras. That would be gauche even if Walsh were in the habit of referring to male senators by their proper title but not female senators. But Boxer didn't make that accusation.

Correcting the way someone addresses you almost always makes the other person uncomfortable. Reporters covering the Supreme Court cringed when the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist would correct a nervous lawyer who addressed him as just plain "Justice Rehnquist." Pointing out an error can be awkward even when you're demoting yourself -- which is why I no longer object to being called "Professor" by students who don't realize I'm a lowly adjunct instructor. Cardinal Newman (or maybe it was my mother) said that a gentleman never offends. Neither does a lady senator.

* Photo of Sen. Barbara Boxer by Rich Pedroncelli / AP

 

Comments () | Archives (6)

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Recall this broad!

Boxer treats her Senate seat like a throne. It's all about having power for her, not about working for the people. Lucky for Barbie, there are enough morons in this state who will keep electing this windbag into office. She is an arrogant, self-absorbant disgrace. And what hard work has she done? The General has done more for our great country than she ever has, and ever will. Too bad we cant send her back to the Brooklyn sewer she came from.

David

Boxer is a great senator -- I'm glad to be represented by somebody who has strong opinions and acts on them. As for Walsh, does he constantly refer to male senators as "sir" (the equivalent of "ma'am") or does he call them "senator"? I bet he calls them "senator." And if he calls the males "senator," and the female "ma'am," then Boxer is on solid ground in asking to be called the same.

Democrat against Boxer!

"Boxer is a great senator"…David, you must work on her staff. I'm a Democrat and cant stand her, and there are many Democrats in my circle of friends who feel the same. I'm very anti-war as well, but I have more respect for our military than any politician. I hope the party runs somebody strong against her in the Democratic primaries next year, otherwise I might have to plug my nose at the polls and vote for the Republican. It has been 8 days, and no apology. Even if she does apologize for this arrogance, it is probably because she was forced to, not because she wanted to. She does not get this Democrat's vote.

MN

Barbara Boxer is a horse's butt. Military men are ingrained to say Sir and Maam. Furthermore, had he hailed from the South, children in the South are taught manners from day one, and are ingrained with the same respectful term for both elders, and those in authority. Shame on her.

Andrew J. Gero

Barbara Boxer has been the least effective Senator this country has ever had. She has a track record of nothing.

Basically, I feel the General showed her more respect than she deserved. In most of her public speaches it is difficult to understand where she is coming from.

Hopefully, we can eliminate her in the next election.

EM Jackson

Customs and courtesies dictate the General's comments and behavior .. surely she didn't expect him to raise the visor on his helmet!


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