It’s actually a temper tantrum, not surprisingly:
I don’t know how else to read this except as a gratuitous slur that he’s refusing to acknowledge her title because she’s a woman, as though he’s Col. Jessep in “A Few Good Men” or something. What are the odds that a guy who’s spent decades addressing his superiors as “sir” would address a woman senator as “ma’am”? I actually went back and skipped around in the video of the rest of the hearing to see how he interacted with male senators and caught him answering Vitter’s questions with “yes, sir” a number of times. Is Boxer’s ego so fragile and her method so imperious that she’d publicly humiliate a guy whom she has no reason to believe is being anything less than respectful?
Answer: Given the power trip she once pulled on Inhofe at a hearing with Al Gore, yeah. She’s that imperious.
Hey, she was simply speaking truth to power…