Dem 50
image description
GOP 50
image description
New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2020: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2020 : (None)
Political Wire logo Life in the Conway Home
Quote of the Day
Southern Baptists Refused to Act on Abuse
Giuliani Calls Spectator a ‘Brainwashed Asshole’
How a Book About Trump and Evangelicals Became a Hit
Another Lockdown Feared in Beijing

Note: We're going to be taking another day off today. In part, because it's been a long week. In part, because we want to think about different ways of working with the feedback we got this week. Sorry for the late notice.

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Saturday Q&A

Saturday Q&A

We're back to a more eclectic mix today.

Current Events

F.F. in London, England, UK, asks: On my first viewing of the Bush gaffe, I missed that following the gaffe and after correcting himself, he intentionally doubles down with "Iraq too." I picked this up through the Colbert segment on this. Do you see this as a mea culpa, and if so, is this the first time he's admitted the Iraq war was unjustified?

V & Z answer: Here is the clip from The Late Show, if anyone is interested. To see the specific portion that deals with the "correction," you have to jump to 3:18:

We do not think this was an admission of error or of guilt; if it was, it would be a major international news story as opposed to a funny meme.

Our best guess is that it was a byproduct of how public speaking works. Whenever a person is delivering a speech/lecture, they're thinking about what they are saying in the moment, but also what they're going to say next. What's already been said gets considerably less processing power. Bush got an inadvertent laugh and, as public speakers are wont to do in those circumstances, he went with it and improvised. He must have lost track of what he'd already said, and how incriminating it was to add that "Iraq, too" bit at that point.

Bush was a famously poor public speaker as president, and often said things where he seemed to be unaware of the context his previous words had created. For example, he once (in August 2004) said: "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

F.L. in Denton, TX, asks: Let's say Russia loses or just gives up in their "special military operation" in Ukraine. Maybe Putin is "removed" or resigns or has a blinding revelation or... will there be war reparations that Russia will have to pay? Will there be a "Nuremberg" for the (surviving) officers and soldiers? Could Crimea be returned to Ukraine? Maybe it's wishful thinking, but Russia's actions are so egregious, I think all of these are a possibility. One Russian soldier has already pleaded guilty to war crimes.

V & Z answer: Let's start with two bits of information from U.S. history. The first is that one of the reasons the framers of the Constitution gave the president the pardon power was so that he might end insurrections quickly and painlessly by offering amnesty to the leaders. They specifically had the recent (1786-87) Shays' Rebellion in mind.

The second bit of information is that some people, usually those who don't know what they're talking about, claim that if Abraham Lincoln had lived, he would have been very lenient to the South. And the evidence they point to is the very lenient terms he offered to Southern states if they agreed to lay down arms and rejoin the Union voluntarily. This claim ignores the fact that he did not live long enough to develop and enunciate a plan for non-voluntary returns to the Union by defeated Southern states.

Perhaps you see where we're going with this. In times of war or other armed conflict, the preferred option is generally to end things as quickly and painlessly as possible, often by granting lenient terms to the losing side in order to get them to voluntarily capitulate. By contrast, the imposition of various forms of victors' justice—reparations, territorial cessions, war crimes trials—can really only happen if the losing side is utterly defeated, and has no negotiating leverage left.

Things could change, of course, but we do not foresee the utter defeat of the Russians. It is likely that long before it gets to that point, both sides will decide it's best to end things as painlessly as is possible. Since Russia would still have leverage in that scenario, the imposition of harsh terms is improbable.

B.J. in Boston, MA, asks: How does a country "apply" to NATO? What does the application look like? I am imagining something like private school applications for my second-grader:

We are so excited to have you applying to our military security alliance!

1. What are the first three words that come to mind to describe your country?

2. How would you describe your country's particular strengths and special aptitudes?

3. How would you describe your country's struggles and weaknesses?

4. Describe how you see NATO meeting the needs of your country and how they are not being met in their current security situation.

5. What are your long-term security goals for your country?

V & Z answer: You forgot "6. Please provide the names of three countries that can serve as references. Sorry, no Canada—they just say polite things about EVERYONE."

To answer your question, the appropriate official from the country in question just writes a letter to NATO requesting membership. In Finland, for example, that was Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto. He actually had to borrow a reporter's pen to sign the letter and, in an interesting turn of events, that style of pen has been flying off the shelves as a result.

K.C. in Portland, OR, asks: If Turkey blocks Finland and Sweden from joining NATO, what is to stop the other 29 existing members plus Finland and Sweden from forming a new "NATO 2.0" alliance with the same charter? NATO and NATO 2.0 would exist concurrently. The only impact here versus having all 32 nations in the same NATO is that if Turkey were attacked, Finland and Sweden would not need to come to its defense, and vice versa.

V & Z answer: We are extremely skeptical that Turkey will actually object. This looks an awful lot like Recep Tayyip Erdoğan trying to squeeze a few billion dollars in aid, or other concessions, out of the United States.

And if Turkey really does object, well, NATO has no formal rules about exactly what it takes for membership to be approved. So, in that circumstance, we suspect that Joe Biden, Emmanuel Macron, Boris Johnson, Olaf Scholz, etc. would quickly "discover" that it takes a 2/3 majority to approve new members. In that scenario, Turkey would have the choice to accept it, or else to quit NATO. But while NATO needs Turkey, Turkey also needs NATO. That means the Turks are unlikely to take their ball and go home.

T.M. in Downers Grove, IL, asks: Could you explain why 192 House Republicans would vote against the Infant Formula Supplemental Appropriations Act? This strikes me as another reason why "pro birth" would be a more accurate description of most Republicans' views on abortion rather than "pro life." What am I missing?

V & Z answer: Their explanations are all over the place. The most common ones are:

  • This should have been solved 3 months ago, not now.
  • The Democrats are just throwing money at the problem to deflect attention from their shortcomings.
  • The bill is not bipartisan.
  • Giving more money to the FDA isn't going to solve the problem.

And then there is this from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL):

That tweet is willfully dishonest, as the $28 million is meant to help the FDA resolve SUPPLY issues by getting formula production plants safe and in working order as soon as is possible.

In our judgment, many of these explanations are unpersuasive, sometimes bordering on incoherent. For example, even if you agree that the problem should have been solved 3 months ago, how is that an argument against solving it now? That's like saying "I should have gotten my broken arm set back in February, but I didn't, and now that it's May, well... what're ya gonna do?"

So, it sure looks to us like many Republicans would prefer to be able to continue harping on this problem as opposed to doing something that might actually solve it and/or giving the Biden administration a "win." Of course, readers can reach their own conclusions.

P.Y. in New York City, NY, asks: You guys are both professors and write now and then about the student loan crisis in the U.S. As professors—though (V) is retired--and in Europe!—you do have some interest in the flow of cash to students to pay your employers. My question is this: Are you familiar with all the student loan repayment options offered today? For example, the "pay as you earn" option limits payment to 10% of the student's "discretionary income" for a max of 20 years and then, poof!—any remaining balance is gone. Do I understand that correctly?

Is a college education worth 10% of one's discretionary income for 20 years? If yes, shouldn't the students all pay? If not, shouldn't we stop making student loans? Maybe we should make colleges responsible for non-payment of loans so that professors have some skin in the game and make sure they give students good value for money?

V & Z answer: We are familiar with the basic student loan repayment options, and you do have that particular one correct (it's called Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan, or REPAYE). For those who would like to see the wide range of options, you can read about them here.

As to the proposition that there is, or there should be, some connection between loans and college professors, that is not how it works. Nor could it ever work that way. With only a few very specific exceptions (e.g., academic senates, professors who accept promotion to dean/vice president/provost), the faculty has very little to do with university governance, while the people responsible for university governance have little input into the content of classes or the research being conducted. This is how it should be, as faculty are not experts in administration, and administration is generally not expert in teaching or in research. Even if an administrator is a past (and possibly future) faculty member, they will only know the field they came from (e.g., history) and not the others under their purview. Further, there are all kinds of conflicts of interest that would emerge if the faculty are the ones deciding how to spend the money, or the money people are the ones deciding how classes should be taught.

That brings us to your proposition that professors "make sure they give students good value for money." Most professors already do that, as best they know how. If a graduate is unable to secure the type of job they need to pay their loans, it is almost certainly not because their professors were not good enough, or didn't teach "the right way." Considerably more likely options: (1) the student did not prioritize their education, half-assed their coursework, and did not leave school with a well-honed skill set; (2) the student chose to major in a field where there are relatively few jobs (e.g., art history or philosophy); or (3) the market does not have enough good-paying jobs for college graduates, perhaps because of offshoring of jobs or the consolidation of wealth at the very top of the pyramid.

Now, there are certainly things professors could do to make students into happier "customers." Perhaps 90% of students would like their coursework to be easier—less reading, less writing, less lecture time, less studying. Roughly 100% of students want an "A." So, a reduced workload and easier grading would both make students happier. But it would also make them less educated, and thus less marketable, while also cheapening the value of their degrees. So, this would actually exacerbate the "can't pay my loans" problem, long-term, not make it better.

And finally, exactly how much students should pay for their education is a choice that a society must make. Clearly, you feel that 10% of discretionary income for 20 years is a pretty fair price tag for an education. We are not saying you are wrong, or that you are right, but you should keep in mind that it's a little more complicated than that. For the program you allude to, REPAYE, "discretionary income" is defined pretty broadly, such that rent/mortgage and a few other things are excluded from your income, but things like food and utilities are not. So, that 10% may be something more like 20% or 30% or 40% of the money that a person has after paying basic living expenses. And while it's true that some people might spend their "spare" money on something unnecessary, like designer shoes or fancy vacations, others would put that money into some sort of retirement account. If they can't do that, then they lose out on 20 years of savings, plus interest (compounded). And that, in turn, increases the likelihood of their needing the social safety net in middle age or in retirement.

Further, also on the subject of kicking the can down the road, if a person participates in one of these student loan forgiveness programs for 10 or 20 years, then the amount forgiven at the end is treated as taxable income, and can come with a big tax bill. Sure, paying $8,000 in taxes is better than paying $40,000 in loans, but there are plenty of people for whom, even in their 40s or 50s, an $8,000 tax bill would be a killer (note that the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 exempts all loan forgiveness from taxation though January 1, 2026, for this very reason).

Again, all of this is not to say that these various student loan forgiveness programs are inadequate, or that they are adequate, merely that it's complicated. We will point out one other thing. After World War II, the U.S. government decided to give generous help to its veterans if they wanted an education—even the well-to-do ones who did not need the help. This program, properly known as the Serviceman's Readjustment Act, but popularly known as the GI Bill, helped propel the country to the most legendarily prosperous decade in its history. Similarly, most European nations have decided that a highly educated citizenry pays many dividends, and so those nations have made a university education free, or very cheap, even for the well-to-do. And, as far as we can tell, it seems to be working out pretty well for Germany, Austria, France, the Netherlands, Norway, etc.

J.K. in Freehold, NJ, asks: Correct me if I am wrong, but it is my understanding that the bank's side of college loans are guaranteed by the Federal government and not forgivable for the student. Assuming this is true, doesn't this significantly affect the rise in college tuition? If the banks are guaranteed their principal and profit, what does it matter to them what the colleges charge, allowing colleges to charge whatever they want, resulting in a high degree of inflation for higher education? Why is this form of bank loan treated differently from any other kind of bank loan? What am I missing here?

V & Z answer: You are correct that, in most circumstances (e.g., bankruptcy), student loans cannot be discharged. Why is that? Well, nearly all other loans are either secured (e.g., a mortgage on a house) or are based on credit worthiness. Student loans are not secured, and—by their nature—often go to those who are least credit worthy. That means the risks of recipients declaring bankruptcy, if they were allowed to do so, would be substantial. Someone for whom $50,000 or $100,000 is a vast amount of money could go bankrupt shortly after graduating and, indeed, might be foolish not to do so. They'd still have their diploma, the debt would be wiped off the ledger, and the bankruptcy would disappear from their credit around the time they turned 30. So, that has to be prohibited.

As to the guarantor for loans, that's a little complicated. Many students used to receive Federal Family Education Loans (FFELs), a blanket term for several different kinds of loans that were indeed issued by private banks and guaranteed by the federal government. However, it became clear over time that it was cheaper for the government to issue loans itself, rather than to work through third parties. So, the FFELs ended June 30, 2010, and now the government issues loans directly, and only uses third-party contractors to service the loans (as opposed to using them to make the loans). There are also loans that come from private banks and/or from the universities themselves, and those are not federally guaranteed.

And finally, it is true that the relatively easy credit available to students allows universities to increase tuition. However, there are limits to this. Students are only able to borrow a certain amount of money, not "whatever amount the university wants to charge." Further, enough students are sensitive to tuition costs—either because they are well aware they have to pay the loans back, or they're only funding part of their education with loans, or they're not taking out loans at all—that a university that pushes its luck too far is going to get blowback (and, very likely, reduced enrollment).


S.K. in Buda, TX, asks: This week, I voted in the Republican primary runoff here in Texas, specifically to vote for George P. Bush over Ken Paxton. I have zero intention of voting for the Republican in November, but just wanted to poke Trump in the eye on this one (and oust a terrible AG). This type of cross-party ratfu**ing has been discussed on this site before, but has there ever been a demonstrably proven high-profile case where this has ousted an incumbent?

V & Z answer: In states like Texas, which are open primary, it's possible to make educated guesses as to when this has happened, but it's almost impossible to prove. The first problem is that the states cannot collect data on the ballots (e.g., 10,000 people registered as Democrats voted for George P. Bush), which means that all we have are exit polls. The second is that even if we have exit poll data (and we often don't for primaries), you can't easily separate out different kinds of voters. Did Democrats who voted for George P. Bush do it to rat**ck Paxton? Or did they do it because they thought Bush was legitimately the best candidate? Exit pollsters don't ask those questions, and even if they did, respondents might not tell the truth.

Paradoxically, the states where the strongest case can be built are those with closed primaries. That is because states can and do collect data on people who switch party registration, and so it's fairly reasonable to infer intent from long-time voters of one party who suddenly switch to the other party right before the deadline. For example, there is pretty strong evidence that about 2,000 Democrats switched parties in NC-11 so they could vote against Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC). And once all the ballots are counted, he's going to end up losing by about 1,300 votes. So, he's almost certainly a high-profile case of an incumbent being ousted by ratfu**ing.

J.D. in Robert Park, CA, asks: Why do you think Mo Brooks is doing so poorly in the Senate race in Alabama? As a prominent Trump supporter and elected official from a strong Trump state, I would have thought he would at least be competitive. Why isn't he?

V & Z answer: Actually, and we'll have an item about this week, he's become considerably more competitive since Trump yanked the endorsement.

That said, there is no guarantee that someone who has what it takes to get elected as a representative also has what it takes to get elected as a senator. Conor Lamb apparently didn't. Nor did Loretta Sanchez, Joe Kennedy III, or Mark Walker. So, it may be that Brooks doesn't excite enough people, just like these others didn't excite enough people.

That said, we would guess he has two particular liabilities. The first is that he's kind of a phony, like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who says one thing today and the exact opposite a week later. Politicians often shift positions, of course, but Brooks is obvious and unconvincing when he does so.

The second problem is that Brooks has been in office since 1982. That's 40 years. Many Southerners have a deep and abiding distrust of politicians, particularly "career politicians." And Brooks is most certainly a career politician, in contrast to Trump, who was (and still kinda is) an outsider and an amateur.

S.S. in West Hollywood, CA, asks: Why did Oregon gubernatorial candidate Betsy Johnson leave the Democratic Party last year? Was that a strategic decision or did her politics change? What are the chances she will take enough Democratic votes to hand a safe Democratic Governor's seat to Republican Christine Drazan? (I'm already having PTSD flashbacks to 2000 and Ralph Nader spoiling what would have otherwise been Al Gore's victory.) Is there a realistic chance she could win and, if she does, will she be governing as a Democrat, a Republican, or someplace in-between, leaving nobody happy?

V & Z answer: No politician has ever publicly announced "I changed my party registration to improve my chances of winning the election." They always have a stated reason, and Johnson's is that she was tired of partisanship. Maybe she really was, but being elected as an independent is hardly a solution. That does not generally mean "both parties will work with me!", it generally means "neither party wants any part of me!"

There's almost 6 months of campaigning ahead, and anything could happen, especially since the Democrats ended up with a progressive that could scare some moderates away. That said, polls with "generic Democrat," "generic Republican" and Johnson generally give about 35% to the Democrat, 25% to the Republican and 10% to Johnson, with around 30% undecided. That means that Johnson has a pretty tall hill to climb.

If Johnson does win election, she will govern—as best she can—as a Blue Dog Democrat. She was already known for throwing her lot in with the Republicans on regular occasions, and is particularly friendly to the interests of corporations (while the local labor unions dislike her). At the same time, in view of the Supreme Court's upcoming decision, she's building her campaign around being pro-choice, which is going to be the defining policy position of Democrats this cycle.


R.C. in Des Moines, IA, asks: What happens to a bill passed by Congress awaiting the president's signature if the president dies before signing the bill into law? Can the newly-sworn-in president sign it immediately or does a new bill have to be passed through Congress?

Also, what are some good resources to find out what the vote totals have been for past presidential vote certifications in the Congress?

V & Z answer: The Constitution merely specifies that "the president" must sign a bill, not "the president who was in office when the bill was passed." And so, if the president dies after a bill is passed, then his successor can sign it, as long as it's within the 10-day limit. The most recent president to die in office, of course, was John F. Kennedy. And here and here are two examples of bills that were passed while Kennedy was alive, but were signed into law by Lyndon B. Johnson.

As to your second question, we think you might be misunderstanding the process. As each state's votes are entered into the record, the members of Congress have the right to object. This requires a letter signed by at least one member of the House and one member of the Senate. If the objection is backed by a majority of both chambers, it is sustained, and the electoral votes are tossed out. Otherwise, the electoral votes are sustained and become official. There is no "final" vote at the end.

Formal objections have happened three times. There was an objection to North Carolina's electoral votes in 1969, there was one to Ohio's electoral votes in 2005, and there were a bunch in 2021, of course. None of these were sustained. There have also been instances where members of one chamber objected—e.g., Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) objected to Florida's electoral votes in 2000—but could not find a taker in the other chamber in order to make the objection official.

E.W. in Skaneateles, NY, asks: If independent Evan McMullin wins in Utah over Sen. Mike Lee (R), who might McMullin caucus with? What if, besides him, the Senate ends up 50-49 (either way)? Does he have to caucus with either side, and what would happen if he didn't? Have there been other members of Congress who didn't caucus?

V & Z answer: It is not required for a senator to join a caucus, though if they don't, they don't get committee assignments. Usually, if a senator is caucusless, it is because they were appointed as a placeholder and will only be serving for a short time. The most recent example is Dean Barkley (I-MN), who was chosen by Jesse Ventura to finish the last 2 months of Paul Wellstone's (D) term (Nov. 2002 - Jan. 2003) after Wellstone died in a plane crash.

It is unlikely McMullin would choose this path, given that he can demand a king's ransom worth of pork if he is the senator who makes a majority, either at the start of his term, or sometime during the 6 years thereafter. Further, it is unlikely he can make it through this election without committing to one side or the other. And there's also the committees, where an enormous portion of the real work gets done. When Angus King (I-ME) was first elected to the Senate, he said that he had no real choice, because if he did not join a caucus, "it would severely compromise my effectiveness on behalf of Maine."

That said, if Mullin decided to be truly independent, then that would mean abstaining from any votes about which party gets to run the Senate. So, in that case, the 50 would be the majority in a 50-49-1 Senate.


P.R. in Arvada, CO, asks: Sorry, guys. You don't just get to drop insults to Pittsburgh and the British Army with no explanation.

What was the story around Pittsburgh partially because where it is because some pongos (a term of "endearment" for the army by Royal Marines) are a sandwich short of a picnic.

V & Z answer: We didn't regard it as insulting, especially to Pittsburgh. When Fort Pitt was first founded, in the mid-eighteenth century, the art of mapmaking was still a work in progress. Further, there were often different maps that relied on different mapmakers' judgments, or on different systems of measurement. For example, at that time, an inch, a foot, and a mile were all longer in France at that time than they were in England. When there could be guerrilla soldiers hiding, well, anywhere, it is not great for troops to spend extra time wandering around at all.

Putting Fort Pitt at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers solved this problem, since those rivers are easy to find, and they can be navigated by boat, meaning no need to do any wandering around. There are other benefits to building a fort in such a location, but reduced reliance on mediocre maps was certainly one of the advantages.

(Z) learned of this in an academic job talk by Paul Mapp, whose dissertation and subsequent book were about the impact of poor maps on the race to control North America (particularly western North America).

S.F. in Zurich, Switzerland, asks: In 1944, Wendell Willkie and Charles McNary, who had run together for the GOP in the 1940 presidential election, both died. It's the only time that both the presidential candidate and the vice-presidential candidate from the same party died during the term they ran for. As far as I know, the line of succession at that time excluded members of congress, so the next in line would have been the Secretary of State. Are there any hints, who Willkie intended to give the job, if he had won the election?

V & Z answer: We know of no comment by Willkie on this question, nor is it likely he would have said anything, as it would be too constraining to make a commitment before the election and it would be inappropriate to comment afterward. That said, we think we can speculate to a near-certainty who would have gotten the nod: Secretary of State Cordell Hull.

Why? Well, to start, World War II was already underway when the Election of 1940 took place, and the middle of a world war is a bad time to be remaking the whole diplomatic corps, particularly if you believe the U.S. is likely to jump in, sooner or later. Hull was experienced, having been on the job since 1933. And he was pretty good, as he lasted longer than any other Secretary of State (almost 13 years).

Further, Willkie was really a Democrat who just reregistered as a Republican to run for president. So, he would have had no strong ideological objection to keeping Hull around. Importantly, Willkie was (unlike most Republicans of his day), a big proponent of international alliances. And Hull was in agreement; indeed, the Secretary would ultimately win the Nobel Prize for helping to create the United Nations.

Because the two men were so much in tune, they actually worked together on diplomatic projects after the election of 1940, with Willkie serving as an emissary whom Hull could send abroad to act as his eyes and ears. Here's a newspaper story about one of their strategy meetings prior to a Willkie trip abroad:

The headline is 
'Willkie Sees Hull,' and the story is about how Willkie is going to be let in on the secrets of American foreign policy

In short, keeping Hull on the job just makes sense, particularly for a man with a reputation for pragmatism like Willkie.

R.K. in Fort Myers, FL, asks: What does the resident historian think of the catchphrase that HBO is using for the House of the Dragon prequel to Game of Thrones? "History does not remember blood. It remembers names."

V & Z answer: Many Americans know about the Battle of Gettysburg. Few of them could name the general who won that battle (George Gordon Meade) or, for that matter, anyone who fought on the Union side in that particular engagement (maybe Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain or Winfield Scott Hancock).

Similarly, many Americans know about the D-Day invasion. But few of them could give the name of an actual soldier who participated in combat on that day. Dwight D. Eisenhower planned it, yes, but was not a combat commander. And the Band of Brothers was a group, and unless people watched that miniseries multiple times, they are unlikely to be able to name the individual members. Star Trek fans might know that James Doohan was there, and lost a couple of fingers, but that is because of his post-war acting career, and not his military service, per se. Perhaps others might know that Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt III was there, given his famous name and his Medal of Honor. But still, the Americans who could name a Brother from the Band, or Doohan, or Roosevelt are surely in the minority.

It seems to (Z), then, that history remembers blood quite well, often ahead of names.


M.U. in Seattle, WA, asks: It was just reported that Taylor Swift was awarded an honorary doctorate of fine arts from New York University. I've always been curious of this custom awarding honorary degrees. What exactly is an honorary degree besides a piece of paper and what is its main purpose? How long has the custom been going on? Why do the recipients almost always seem famous or well-known? And could someone not as stratospherically famous as Taylor Swift actually list this "accomplishment" on a résumé or C.V. for personal gain?

V & Z answer: An honorary degree is roughly equivalent to being awarded "the key to the city." It's a way of honoring someone who has accomplished something notable, and signalling approval of whatever it was that they did.

The custom dates back at least 500 years, and was initially used as a means of honoring royal or noble visitors to a university. These days, the degrees are generally a "thank you" and an inducement to persuade notable visitors to come to campus for a guest lecture or, very commonly, a commencement speech. This has the added benefit of making it appropriate for them to wear academic regalia, which fits in better with the overall scene. Note that if the person already has a Ph.D., it is expected they will wear the regalia of the university that conferred their actual degree. This is also what the faculty does, which is why you will see very different costumes at a college graduation. For example:

A bunch of professors wearing gowns that
are black, or black with colored trim, or green, or purple, or crimson, or light blue

We aren't experts in regalia design, but we can tell you the two crimson-wearers on the left went to the University of Texas, the green is the University of Virginia, the purple is the University of Washington, and the light blue on the right is Columbia. There's also a Penn grad (red gown, blue chevron) hiding in the back, which is what we would do too if we'd gone to the school that graduated Donald Trump. Anyhow, if the recipient of the honorary degree does not have a Ph.D., they wear the regalia of whichever university is conferring the honorary degree or they wear generic black robes.

When universities award such degrees to celebrity visitors, it's fine for the person to treat the degree as an award they've gotten, just like a Grammy or a Pulitzer or an award for community service. The universities strongly discourage the use of the title Dr., though they can't outright forbid it, so some recipients do assume the title. Famously, Maya Angelou required people to address her as Dr., despite having only honorary degrees.

For an academic, it is entirely appropriate to list an honorary degree under "awards" on one's C.V., but it would be very unethical to list such a degree under "education." It's hard to imagine that anyone would even try, since the ruse wouldn't last long. A hiring or promotion committee would ask questions like: "Why did you get multiple doctorates?" And "Who did you work with on this second doctorate?" And "Where is the research you produced while earning this second doctorate?"

S.B. in Los Angeles, CA, asks: In commenting on Madison Cawthorn's demise (yea!) you let it slip you guys have a staff gigolo! A staff gigolo!? Cool!! Does he run with the drunken staff mathematician? Do they cruise for women over at RealClearPolitics?

V & Z answer: You've basically got the right of it, except you might be making a big assumption that they're both straight.

T.B. in Leon County, FL, asks: Which of you plays The New York Times' Wordle more? Your discerning readers need to know.

V & Z answer: This is not really (V)'s cup of tea, but here are (Z)'s Wordle stats as of today:

128 played, 100% win rate, most
of those wins (78) coming in four guesses out of a maximum of six

As you can see, (Z) is an adherent of the notion that the point is to win the game, not to use up as few guesses as is possible.

P.F. in Wixom, MI, asks: You wrote: "If you look at the current line of succession, for example, you will see that there are only 16 people in it because should-be #15 Jennifer Granholm and should-be #18 Alejandro Mayorkas are excluded, as having been born in Canada and Cuba, respectively, makes them ineligible. If it was up to us, of course, it wouldn't be this way. There's nothing wrong with having been born in Cuba."

Are you implying that there is nothing wrong with having been born in Cuba, but having been born in Canada is a strict no-no?

V & Z answer: Maaaaayyyybe...

If you wish to contact us, please use one of these addresses. For the first two, please include your initials and city.

To download a poster about the site to hang up, please click here.

Email a link to a friend or share:

---The Votemaster and Zenger
May20 Tuesday's Dust Is Still Settling
May20 Ukraine Funding Passes Senate
May20 Everyone Hates the Freedom Caucus
May20 Ted Cruz Wins
May20 This Week in Schadenfreude
May20 Guest Columnist: The High Price of Education
May19 The Day After
May19 Two Days After
May19 Biden Is Eastbound and Down
May19 Democrats Tackle Formulagate
May19 House Also Stages Some Show Votes
May19 Guest Columnist: Biblical Literalism and Abortion
May18 Na Na Na Na, Na Na Na Na, Hey Hey, Goodbye
May18 Guest Columnist: On the Front Lines in Pennsylvania
May17 Five States Will Hold Primaries Today
May17 Pennsylvania GOP Ticket Could Have Insurrectionist Tentpoles
May17 New York Has a New Map and It's a Doozy
May17 Blue Team Hits Red Team over White Replacement Theory
May17 Guest Columnist: Nose-Holding Trump Voter
May16 Mass Shooting Produces the Usual Responses
May16 Three Republican Responses to the Sinking of Roe
May16 Pennsylvania, Idaho and Kentucky Will Head to the Polls Tuesday
May16 Van Hollen Suffers Stroke
May16 Guest Columnist: Update from the Philippines
May15 Sunday Mailbag
May14 Saturday Q&A
May13 Biden Memorializes 1 Million COVID Dead
May13 Powell Will Serve Another Term
May13 The 1/6 Committee Throws Down the Gauntlet
May13 Ukraine Money Delayed By One Senator
May13 What's Going On... in Ukraine, Part V: Military Sources
May13 This Week in Judicial Activism
May13 This Week in Schadenfreude
May12 The United States Senate: A Farce in One Act
May12 Supreme Court Continues to Leak Like A Sieve
May12 NATO Likely to Get a Bit Bigger
May12 What's Going On... in Ukraine, Part IV: International Sources within Ukraine
May12 Pennsylvania Is the Gift That Just Keeps Giving
May12 DeSantis' District Map Is Partly Struck Down
May11 Sorry, Charlie
May11 Pennsylvania Is Getting Very Interesting
May11 $40 Billion On Tap for Ukraine
May11 What's Going On... in Ukraine, Part III: Sources within Ukraine
May11 Musk Wants to Restore Trump's Twitter Account
May11 Reed Makes It Official
May10 Putin Offers Bluster, But Little Else
May10 What's Going On... in Ukraine, Part II: Aggregators
May10 Do Republicans Really Want the Leaker Outed?
May10 Blue State Governors Seize Their Opportunity
May10 Biden Announces Internet Initiative