I have never met him, but Doug Emhoff looks like a good guy, and by all accounts he is a capable attorney, a wonderful husband and father whose family adores him.
For all of those reasons Mr. Emhoff deserves a lot better than what he got when he was “elevated” to his new position with the inauguration of his wife Kamala Harris, vice president of the United States.
He is now “Second Gentleman.” Ugh!
It is like getting an honorable mention, which is the same as getting a fourth or fifth place prize, a “close but no cigar” or medal for participation.
It wasn’t until President Joe Biden revealed he would choose a woman for his vice president that folks began to buzz about wondering what the yet-unannounced woman’s husband, if she had one, would be referred to within the White House hierarchy.
In Mr.Emhoff’s case, Second Gentleman, is recognition for having the good sense to have fallen in love and married a handsome woman possessed of spectacular smarts and a sturdy bloodline that looks like America, as her boss President Biden might put it.
Can’t you just see it? State dinners and there he is with a paper label stuck to his lapel. “Hi, I’m Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff.” I’m sure they don’t wear paper labels at those things, but you know what I’m saying. Its demeaning.
Second Gentleman sounds like a downstairs character out of Downton Abbey. Or some vague designation for a not-quite-best man but better-than-a-groomsman designee in a society wedding party.
We’ve tried to coin something more dignified but have failed. Vice Husband is just as bad and has a ring of scandal to it.
It’s a shame Mr. Emhoff’s parents could know that one day he would marry a vice president or that they might have considered naming him Roy so that he could be referred to as Vice Roy with its hint of royalty.
We wondered what protocol genius came up with the title Second Gentleman and found it came about curiously enough through one Jennie Tuttle Hobart, wife of Garret Hobart, 24th vice president under William McKinley.
There is no way to get inside Mrs. Hobart’s head to ask why she anointed herself “Second Lady.” Perhaps she was covetous of Ida Saxton McKinley’s “first lady” title. But at some point during her husband’s two years as vice president – he died of heart disease while in office – she began referring to herself that way.
The title continued forward for the wives of succeeding vice presidents but never had wide use or the gravitas of the “first lady” title, which goes all the way back to Martha Washington.
“Second Gentleman” was the ill-conceived extrapolation of “Second Lady.”
Not to muddy the waters here, but did you know “First Gentleman” was the label they were going to stick on Bill Clinton had Hillary won the presidency?
This is presumptuous since Mr. Clinton already carries a quite serviceable title since he, as you may recall, was president of the United States for two terms beginning in 1993. All former U.S. presidents keep their title.
To suddenly demote him to First Gentleman would have been unseemly unless it was meant as a demotion, punishment for his dalliances while in office and impeachment. We’ll never know.
And I digress.
Who else is infavor of retiring the titled “Second Gentleman” before it starts?
It has bad juju, invented by perhaps an envious wife or a short-term vice president who, after her husband’s death, returned home to organize the New Jersey Association opposed to Woman’s Suffrage.
Oh, the irony. Even Jennie Tuttle Hobart – the anti-suffragist – would object to the notion that any male would ever have the chance to be a “Second Gentleman.”