CONGRESSIONAL hearings and presidential wranglings with a special prosecutor will continue for months over the various issues (campaign finance; Whitewater) that embroil the White House in matters of law, but already the proceedings have brought to light thousands of pages of mundane documents from the executive branch.
One curious revelation concerns the extent to which the acronym POTUS, meaning "President of the United States," has ascended into the realm of the workaday Washington vocabulary. In 1994 the White House deputy chief of staff, Harold M. Ickes, discussed who might be able to persuade Hillary Clinton to accept the need for a special prosecutor: "POTUS can't. Staff can't. Christopher to talk to FLOTUS." FLOTUS, of course, stands for "First Lady of the United States." A subsequent scheduling memorandum read "Requests potus and vpotus to meet with committee of 100 to discuss China relations. Also invites potus to Indonesia Culture Night." "Vpotus," obviously, is the Vice President.
certainly has a contemporary sound. However, Franklin D. Roosevelt (who began signing himself "FDR" at the age of nine) is said to have assumed the designation POTUS in his wartime correspondence with the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. (Churchill, for his part, used the code name "Former Naval Person." Roosevelt and Churchill both jokingly referred to Josef Stalin, the Soviet dictator, as "UJ," for "Uncle Joe.") POTUS was adopted by the White House staff and the Secret Service; it was creatively employed as the pet name favored by Buffie, the lover of President Ericson, in the 1977 novel by William Safire, a former speechwriter for Richard Nixon. ("First-naming a President struck her as awkward and their intimacy made 'Mr. President' ludicrous.") In an age that offers an Internet site for almost everything, it should come as no surprise that something called POTUS can today be found on the Web (http://www.ipl.org/ref/POTUS/). It is a database of research on Presidents maintained by the University of Michigan.