The Man or the Office?  Which Do We Respect?


Hardly a day goes by that I don’t wonder whether I should call him Chump, Asshole or Mr. President.  There are many decrying the use of my pejorative adjectives to describe our new president.  They say “Even if you do not respect the man, you must respect the office.”  This rule (I know not where it began) seems to have taken the form of “common knowledge” as though there was some ancient prescription that admonished us to always respect an elected or appointed official.

Ironically, the man in office now gave no respect to his predecessor.  Beginning with the birther conspiracy before Obama even took office and continuing right up until his election, the man now in office took every opportunity to denigrate and insult President Barack Obama.  Nevertheless, I am not using this as an argument to insult our new President.  It fails the test of morality in that we all know “two wrongs do not make a right.”

My dilemma stems from my difficulty with understanding whether we should assign respect to an office regardless of the character of the individual that might be in it.  Perhaps history could shed some light on this issue for us.  What does history tell us about this question?  Is it really a universal law that we must respect the office even if we do not respect the man?  Have people in the past always respected the office even when they disliked the office holder?  Should we respect the office or the office holder?

Let us go back to the time of Israel under the Roman occupation when Herod was king.  What did they say about Herod?

“On an appointed day, Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them.  And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!”  Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. …” — Acts 12:19-24 

king-georgeMarching forward in time to the period of the Revolutionary war when George the III was ruler of the American Colonies, what did they think of King George?  Here is what is written in the Declaration of Independence:

“A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

Our second President John Adams was called a “hideous hermaphroditical character which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” By James Callender, a supporter of Thomas Jefferson.

The insults were returned by Adams supporters who called Jefferson a “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”

President Abraham Lincoln who is today revered by many as either the greatest or second greatest president in American history received even more scorn than Jefferson or Adams from his contemporaries:


“George Templeton Strong, a prominent New York lawyer and diarist, wrote that Lincoln was “a barbarian, Scythian, yahoo, or gorilla.”  Henry Ward Beecher, the Connecticut-born preacher and abolitionist, often ridiculed Lincoln in his newspaper, The Independent (New York), rebuking him for his lack of refinement and calling him “an unshapely man.”  Other Northern newspapers openly called for his assassination long before John Wilkes Booth pulled the trigger. He was called a coward, “an idiot,” and “the original gorilla” by none other than the commanding general of his armies, George McClellan.” —- Knowledge Nuts

I could cite pages of examples such as the above.  History is full of examples of insults levied against Presidents, Kings and many other office holders.  I listed only a few to show that insults against an office are nothing new.  However, does this make it right or are these insults simply a lack of character?  What are our obligations to an “office?”   This question might be posed in one of two ways:

  1. We should respect an office even if the office holder is not worthy of our respect.

Yes!  We should respect an office because it represents an agreed upon authority.  If offices had no authority, institutions would break down and there would be no rule of order.   Democracy is based on the acceptance of authority emanating from the will of the masses.  No one person is above the masses in a democracy.

No!  An office has no intrinsic entitlement to respect.  The respect for an office comes from the office holder and not the other way around.  To simply respect a title because it is a title is both illogical and dangerous.  One can think of the harm that was caused by the respect that the Fuhrer had in Germany because he was the leader even when many disagreed with his policies and his behavior.


  1. We should only respect an office when the office holder is worthy of respect.

Yes!  People can only remain free and independent absent of an authority that comes solely from titles, ranks and names.  If we obey or show respect for an office that is in violation of ethics or morality, we give away our free will.  Massacres, murders and other atrocities often arise from a group mentality or an unwarranted willingness to acquiesce to authority.  An office is not entitled to respect unless the office holder imbues the office with respect.

No!  People must show respect to the institution or office regardless of who the office holder is.  We must recognize that in the case of Trump, millions of Americans chose him over Hillary.  To disrespect Trump is to disrespect the millions of citizens in this country who following the laws of the land duly elected him to the office of POTUS.


Well, there you have it.  I think I have laid out the “two sides of the coin.”   Now it is time for you to weigh in with your opinions.  Do not sit this one out.  Put your opinions in the comments section and let me hear from you.

Time for Questions:

What do you think? How would you answer these questions?

Life is just beginning.

“In a few days, I will lay down my official responsibilities in this office, to take up once more the only title in our democracy superior to that of President: the title of Citizen.” — Farewell Address, President Jimmy Carter.

For another opinion on this issue, see the article by Jonathan Chait.

Must We Respect the Office of the Presidency?






8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. davidprosser
    Feb 07, 2017 @ 02:28:00

    The argument that the Office of the President deserves respect even if the President himself doesn’t is hard to take when in this instance no-one offers the Office more disrespect than the current holder. Not just the Office but also the system seems to be unworthy of respect since he can sign his decrees without reference to the Senate where his side have the majority.
    From his ridiculous appointments through to his decision to declare a virtual state of emergency have caused great offence and brought the office under the greatest derision it’s ever faced.
    The Countries that supplied and no doubt financed the terrorists of 9/11 have not faced the ban imposed by Trump recently and yet Countries that have not had terrorists commit atrocities in America are banned. It’s odd that Trump has business interests in the ones that are untouched and yet no interest at all in the proscribed ones.
    To offer as Ambassador to the EU a man who has stated that it should be broken up is ridiculous but when that same man has also insulted he President of the EU directly, to consider him is untenable.
    Trump offers insult to the very Office he holds and should expect no less from the people and other Countries. Here in the UK he invites derision with everything he does.



  2. jeanine
    Feb 10, 2017 @ 23:08:13

    Growing up I was taught that you respect your elders, even if they did not warrant that respect. When I had my own child I vowed that I would let her voice her opinion and taught her that no matter who the person, regardless of age or stature in life, if they did not show her respect she did not have to show them respect back. I respect the office of Presidency, but not the fool occupying it now.



  3. johnpersico
    Feb 13, 2017 @ 21:00:19

    Thanks Jeanine, I appreciate your taking the time to read and reply.



  4. Nancy Simmons
    Oct 04, 2020 @ 15:34:08

    You say that in the case of Trump, millions of Americans chose him over Hillary. No, the electoral college chose him. Millions of Americans chose Hillary over Trump. Your reasoning is generally cogent. What happened here?



    • Dr. John Persico Jr.
      Oct 04, 2020 @ 21:10:44

      Depends on how you look at it Nancy. I meant to say that 29 percent of Americans chose Chump over Hillary and still choose Chump if the polls are correct. Hillary won 3 million more votes than Chump but neither person won a majority of the electorate. Only 61 percent of eligible people voted in the 2016 election. Thus if Hillary won 51% of the votes, she still only received 31 percent of the possible voters and Chump won with his 29 percent but as you rightly noted the electoral college chose him. That was because of the gerrymandering which the Republicans have been doing for the past 20 years to rig the voting to favor the rural mostly white areas of America. I should probably note the voter suppression they have been doing but it is not cut and dried as to how many votes they managed to kill because of voter suppression. Anyway, thanks for the comment



      • Nancy Simmons
        Oct 05, 2020 @ 02:01:12

        Because you both think and investigate, google “Spread-sheet Patriot” by Jack Hitt (for Wired Mag.) for the current nitty-gritty on voter-suppression. Thanks for your response and for choosing to function as an autonomous human being!!!



        • Dr. John Persico Jr.
          Oct 05, 2020 @ 07:21:19

          Thanks Nancy for the reference. I am going to look him up right now. Thanks for the comments and compliment as well. I appreciate them very much.



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    Apr 12, 2021 @ 12:44:20

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