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      •  Saturday Q&A

Saturday Q&A

It's not every Q&A where the largest number of questions is in the civics section.

Current Events

A.H. in Espoo, Finland, asks: I'm curious to know which senators proposed to Joe Biden not to sell F-16s to Türkiye before Finland's and Sweden's joining the NATO has been ratified. I can't find it anywhere.

(V) & (Z) answer: The letter was signed by 19 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus and 8 members of the Senate Republican Conference. It is a little impractical to list 27 names in the text of a news story, which is why most articles list none of them. A few identify the two main instigators of the letter, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Thom Tillis (R-NC).

Anyhow, if you want to see the whole list(s) for yourself, the letter is here.

H.F. in Pittsburgh, PA, asks: The Biden vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, DE, has just been searched for missing classified material, with nothing found. When the Feds searched Mar-a-Lago for missing classified documents, why didn't they also search Donald Trump's other offices and residences in Manhattan and Bedminster, NJ? Granted, on Inauguration Day he went directly to Florida from the White House, but he had plenty of time to transfer some of the material before and after that date.

(V) & (Z) answer: To do a search, the DoJ must have either probable cause or else permission from the owner of the premises. Biden, through his lawyers, gave permission for his residences to be searched, in part to show he has nothing to hide, and in part because it would look bad if the DoJ ultimately did go and get a warrant to search the premises. In Trump's case, he did not give permission and, unless there is something that is not publicly known, there was not enough evidence to get a warrant for his non-Mar-a-Lago properties.

D.V. in Columbus, OH, asks: In your item "Iowa Republicans Have Introduced a Bill Banning Mifepristone," you guys used a term I've seen many times on the site which has always perplexed me. Is "medical abortion" the right word here, or would it be "medicinal abortion" in this instance, since medications/pills/capsules are involved? I actually am completely unsure, and I forget if you guys have something like a "Staff Grammar Policeman" for this kind of thing. Regardless, curious and OCD-ridden minds would love to know which is correct!

(V) & (Z) answer: We have a number of Grammar Policemen and Policewomen, in fact.

And it is the usual usage to write/say "medical abortion," as it is meant to indicate "not a surgical abortion." We are far from the only people to render things in this way. And when an alternate term is used, it's actually not "medicinal abortion," it's "medication abortion."

We do not know this for sure, but we suspect that medical professionals have avoided "medicinal abortion" because "medicinal" is something of a synonym for "curative" or "healing," and those who provide the procedure don't want to be accused of propagandizing or "selling" women on its health benefits.

M.A. in Knoxville, TN, asks: As you've noted many times, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is a very frightening man. If he manages to win the presidency in 2024, but Democrats gain control of both chambers of Congress, what kind of damage could he do? What about if Congress is split, with Republicans in control of the Senate? And just how bad would it be if he becomes president with Republicans having the trifecta?

(V) & (Z) answer: Well, if it's DeSantis and a Republican Senate, then of course there will be dozens or hundreds of new judges who make Clarence Thomas look like a bleeding-heart liberal. And if it's a DeSantis-led trifecta, we could envision legislation that bans all abortions nationwide, or that forbids mandatory vaccinations, or the like.

However, we think that Congress would largely be irrelevant to the worst potential abuses of a DeSantis administration. Many powers of the executive exist in gray areas, and are primarily constrained by custom and by fear of political blowback. DeSantis has shown himself to be plenty ruthless in doing what he wants, custom be damned, and he's thus far been rewarded for that. So, we think there is relatively little that is off the table if he becomes president. Sending the national guard to the border to shoot any border crosser on sight in the name of national defense? Announcing that he is impounding all funding for blue-state universities because they are too "woke"? Decreeing that anyone who performs an abortion in any state is violating the federal murder statute, and will be arrested by federal marshals? We are not prone to Chicken Little behavior, and to believing that the sky is falling when it isn't. But given DeSantis' track record, these things are all within the realm of possibility. And while none of these things would be a legal use of presidential power, he would presumably be enabled by a Supreme Court that is unlikely to say "nay," and a Senate that is unlikely to remove him from office.

J.K. in Bergen, Norway, asks: Could you explain for us readers across the pond what an AP course is?

Also, from your item "DeSantis 1, College Board 0," I understand that the AP course in question was supposed to include critical race theory. However, you pointed out many times that CRT is only taught in graduate lectures or possibly in some advanced college lectures. So what happened? Was this the first course at the high-school level (if that's where an AP course is located) to include CRT, or have all the efforts to ban CRT from high schools caused high schools to adopt the topic?

(V) & (Z) answer: AP, which stands for "Advanced Placement," is a program wherein students can begin to earn college credits while at the high school level. The students study whatever subject it is for a year, and then sign up for and take a test administered by a private company called The College Board (which also administers the SATs). The test is scored on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being best, and most universities will waive some course requirements if a student's score is high enough (usually a 3 is good enough; sometimes it takes a 4). There are AP tests for nearly any discipline, so a student could plausibly arrive at college having already "passed" introductory physics, calculus, U.S. history, introductory literature, music theory, etc.

Because they are de facto college classes, AP courses often do touch on subject matter that is college-level. Meanwhile, because CRT has become such a hot potato, it's moved from graduate level seminars and law-school courses to undergraduate-level courses. An undergrad course does not get into the subject nearly as deeply as a grad course does, but more often than not these days, CRT does get a mention in undergrad African-American studies survey courses, and maybe a day or two of lecture.

Note that most AP courses also give the student high-school course credit. So, the students can potentially make progress on both their high school diploma and their college degree at the same time. Further, many schools grant an extra GPA point for grades in AP classes, making possible an overall GPA of better than 4.0. For example, if a student took AP English, AP Calculus, AP Civics, ceramics and theatre, and got an A in all five, their GPA would be 4.6 (5.0, 5.0, 5.0, 4.0, 4.0). And that is not a hypothetical example, incidentally, that's a 100% accurate rendering of (Z)'s senior year of high school. It's kind of a stupid system, but those are the rules you gotta play by if you want to go to a good college.


R.L. in Alameda, CA, asks: Is there data available on college applications? I'm curious if the Dobbs decision is having an impact, with an increase in applications to schools in states with legal abortion and a decrease in the not-legal abortion states. I figure if I'm a person who can get pregnant, and I have a choice between, say the University of Oklahoma and Kansas State, access to abortion services might put K State over the top. I might not even apply to a school in Oklahoma, Texas, or other surrounding not-legal abortion states. This is certainly how I would advise my daughter (or trans son).

What do you know? Is Dobbs impacting college choices?

(V) & (Z) answer: Your initial question is easy: Yes, colleges and universities report both the number of applications they received and the number they accepted. (For those who would like a trivia question, can you guess the only university that regularly exceeds 100,000 applications in a year? Answer at the bottom of the page.)

The rest of your question is much harder. Both the leaked decision (May 2) and the final decision (June 24) came well after the 2022 application cycle. So, the 2023 cycle would be the first one to potentially be affected by this consideration, and those numbers have not been released yet (because the cycle is in process). Even once we have the 2023 numbers, it will be tough to draw firm conclusions. Application rates change for many reasons, and the only way to make a compelling statistical case for the impact of Dobbs would be to take several years of pre-Dobbs admission data and compare it to several years of post-Dobbs admission data. Those analyses will be written, but probably not until 2027 or so.

S.P. in Harrisburg, PA, asks: Do you see the race for the 2024 Republican nomination really becoming a race between anyone other than Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis? Does anyone else like Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, Liz Cheney, or Larry Hogan really have a chance?

Also, some commentators speculate that Biden will not run in 2024 due to his age, classified documents in the garage, etc. If he decided not to run, when would he need to announce it? It's common for candidates to start announcing a run for president in April/May/June of the year prior to the election year, so wouldn't he need to decide soon to allow for others to enter the race if he did decide not to run?

(V) & (Z) answer: If we were betting, and our choice was "Trump/DeSantis" or "The Field," we would certainly choose "Trump/DeSantis." However, it is definitely not impossible that some other Republican could end up as the nominee. Trump could end up indicted, or even in prison. He could also keel over from a heart attack. DeSantis has yet to be put under the microscope, and he might wilt, or the non-Florida portion of the country might decide they really don't like what they see. Remember how inevitable President Al, President Rudy, President Hillary, and President Jeb! once seemed.

And if Biden decides not to run, and desires a wide-open Democratic primary, then he'd probably need to make his plans known by September. That would give would-be candidates roughly 6 months before the primaries begin.

However, there's no particular reason to think that Biden desires a wide-open Democratic primary. He's a party man, and has been one for more than half a century. He would likely conclude that the party is best off if there is as little division in the primaries as is possible. In that case, it would behoove him to announce his plan to stand down in December or January, which would only be enough time for very-high-profile candidates to make a run at it. Recall that the last sitting president to withdraw was Lyndon Johnson (though he waited until March). That timing left only enough oxygen for the sitting VP (Hubert Humphrey) and two of the most famous senators in the land (Robert F. Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy).

F.F. in London, England, UK, asks: You noted in the last Q&A that Mississippi receives $2.60 in federal spending for every dollar of federal taxes it pays.

If you were to list U.S. states by their net federal taxes vs. federal receipts accounts, would it be fair to say that coastal, Democratic states are balanced or in surplus, and red states more in deficit?

If that is a valid statement, are the Democrats doing enough to highlight the hypocrisy of these states' representatives fighting against spending in general and the debt ceiling in particular? Why don't the Democratic states say OK, you want to cut welfare/Social Security/Medicare, etc., let's do it, and everyone can establish their own state-level programs?

(V) & (Z) answer: It is generally true that red states take more and that blue states give more. But it is not universally true. Among the states that give the most per capita are Utah and Nebraska, which are both red. And the state that takes the most per capita is actually blue; it's New Mexico, which gets a staggering $3.69 back for every $1 it sends to Washington. Vermont and Maine are also in the top 10 takers, though the rest of the takers are red states.

Rank-and-file Democrats often do gripe about the apparent hypocrisy of many of the red states (i.e., "You take California's money, then you turn around and pi** on California!") However, it's impractical for politicians to make much hay out of this. It would be difficult to thread the needle and explain why it's OK for New Mexico, but not West Virginia or Mississippi. Further, bashing a bunch of states for taking more than their fair share of the pie would effectively be a direct attack on voters, and those don't generally go over well (see "deplorables").


J.D.Z. in St. Paul, MN, asks: You wrote: "[W]e must apologize, this time to those who would like to see Franklin D. Roosevelt added. He's ineligible [to be elected president] for the same reason Lincoln is."

I'm curious, is being dead the only reason they are ineligible? I know Roosevelt would also be ineligible due to having served two full terms, but what about Lincoln? He was elected to two terms but served less than 2 years of the second one. Of course, they both served as [resident prior to the passage of the Twenty-Second Amendment, so perhaps they are exempted from that clause?

(V) & (Z) answer: Lincoln not only failed to make it to 2 years of his second term, he failed to make it to 2 months, dying 1 month and 11 days after his second inauguration. So, he would clearly be eligible to run for president again, were it not for that whole "dead" thing.

As to term limits, the Twenty-Second Amendment says that it applies only to the sitting president (i.e., Harry S. Truman). They did that because Congress did not want to ex post facto change the eligibility rules for someone who had already been elected to the presidency. And there was no need to specify whether they were changing the rules for someone who was out of office and had already served two terms, as there was no living person at the time who fit those parameters.

In other words, there's a little bit of a gray area here. And if FDR (and Lincoln) were to overcome being dead, we suspect they could win an lawsuit arguing that the Twenty-Second Amendment does not apply to them as it is an ex post facto change to their eligibility.

D.E. in Ashburn, VA, asks: As President Biden seems increasingly likely to seek a second term, it has me wondering: What would/could Democrats do if he suddenly became disabled after the convention? What options would there be for elevating another candidate who would be viable?

(V) & (Z) answer: Well, if he were to become disabled or otherwise unavailable soon after the convention, DNC rules allow the party to convene another meeting and to choose a new candidate. RNC rules allow the same.

However, if a major-party nominee became suddenly unavailable late in the process, then it would not be possible to change all the ballots, and the election would likely go forward with the dead/disabled candidate's name (Congress could legally change the election date, but they probably wouldn't do so). At that point, supporters of the dead/disabled candidate's party would vote for that candidate with the assumption that their VP would assume the presidency on Inauguration Day.

Whether the VP would actually ascend, however, is not so certain. First, there is the Electoral College, where some state delegations are legally bound to vote for the chosen candidate, dead or alive, but most would be able to become free agents. Maybe the electors would still vote for the dead/disabled candidate, to make sure not to drop below 270 (assuming the dead/disabled candidate had won). Maybe the electors would line up behind the VP, so as to create as clean a claim on the presidency for that person as is possible. Maybe the electors would split their vote among a dozen candidates. Who knows?

Then there is the question of certification of the result by Congress. Nobody knows what Congress would do, or what it should do, if the Electoral College sends them the name of a dead/disabled candidate. And that's before we consider any Republican shenanigans of the sort that took place in 2020. Even murkier is what would happen if a dead/disabled candidate got a plurality, but not a majority of the EVs, thus throwing the election to the House. It's not at all clear that the House is allowed to bestow the presidency on someone who is dead/disabled (and then to let the line of succession take its course), since being dead/disabled theoretically means one is not eligible to serve as president.

The upshot is that all major-party candidates need to make sure to stay healthy from September through January, so as to avoid a potential constitutional crisis.

S.J. in Taipei City, Taiwan, asks: Could the president legally and constitutionally appoint their VP to a Cabinet role? Kamala Harris was reportedly an effective California AG and then member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Could the president have asked her to do double-duty as VP and AG? It seems like a good method of giving real power to a position that's often likened to being worth a bucket of warm spit.

By way of comparison, the UK Deputy Prime Minister, a position also seen as a sinecure with little to do, is usually given a substantive Cabinet role. Current DPM Dominic Raab is concurrently Justice Secretary while his predecessor as DPM, Therese Coffey, was Health Secretary. And famously, PM Winston Churchill (who, incidentally, appointed himself Defence Secretary during World War II), let his deputy, Clement Atlee, handle all domestic matters while he prosecuted the war.

What's stopping U.S. Presidents from giving their veeps some real power?

(V) & (Z) answer: The Constitution does not explicitly mention the Cabinet, much less laying out qualifications for secretaries, so it would be constitutional. And while there has never been a VP-Cabinet secretary, there has been someone who served in multiple Cabinet posts simultaneously. That would be James Monroe, who was both secretary of state and secretary of war during the War of 1812. So, there is precedent for having someone occupy two Cabinet-level posts at the same time.

These things being the case, there are only two things stopping this from happening, as far as we can see. The first is that the VP may not have much in the way of official powers, but today they tend to take on a lot of unofficial duties. And it would be tough to do those and to run an executive department. The second is that all secretaries have to be approved by the Senate, and the senators might balk at approving a dual VP-Cabinet officer.

J.K. in Freehold, NJ, asks: Considering that the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles can let Tr***p off the hook should he be indicted in Georgia, do you have any idea of the political leanings of its current members?

(V) & (Z) answer: They are all appointees of Republican governors. However, by all indications, they take their jobs seriously. There is little chance that, if he is indicted and convicted, Trump will be corruptly pardoned in Georgia.

L.B. in Savannah, GA, asks: In your answer to J.H. in Boston last week, you mentioned that Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii and Texas have resign-to-run laws. Does this mean if Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Ron DeSantis, Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA), Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA), or Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) decide to run for president, they will have to resign their offices first? Why didn't Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) have to resign his Senate seat to run for President in 2016 if Texas has a resign-to-run law?

(V) & (Z) answer: As a general rule, resign-to-run laws only apply to running for other offices within the state. Many resign-to-run states do not forbid runs for federal office, and among those who do, it's not entirely clear that's constitutional (in at least one case, the Supreme Court suggested it's not, though that was not the main issue of the case in question).

As to the candidates/states you asked about, Texas and Georgia explicitly exclude presidential and vice-presidential runs from their resign-to-run laws. DeSantis would probably have to resign under current Florida law, but the state legislature has already said they'll change the rules for him. That means the only person who faces a tough decision is Kelly, though again, he could go to court to challenge the law.

L.S. in Greensboro, NC, asks: OK, now I'm intrigued. Do the Dakotas and Wyoming even have any urban areas? I've visited both South Dakota and Wyoming and was not aware of the existence of any places I'd consider urban there. Maybe some large-ish small towns, but that's about it. So what exactly is the definition of urban? Is a town of 10,000 considered to be an urban area?

(V) & (Z) answer: The definition used by the U.S. Census Bureau is:

For the 2020 Census, an urban area will comprise a densely settled core of census blocks that meet minimum housing unit density and/or population density requirements. This includes adjacent territory containing non-residential urban land uses. To qualify as an urban area, the territory identified according to criteria must encompass at least 2,000 housing units or a population of at least 5,000.

So yes, a town of 10,000 is considered to be an urban area.

If you really want to get into the weeds, you can download an Excel spreadsheet listing the urban areas in the country here. By the Bureau's count, there are 11 urban areas in North Dakota, 20 in South Dakota, and 18 in Wyoming. For comparison purposes, the state with the most is Texas, with 195, followed by California, with 188, and then Ohio with 104. You might think Florida, but they only have 78, which will obviously make it easier to burn all the books that need to be burned. In total, the U.S. and its territories have 2,646 Census Bureau-defined urban areas.

D.C. in Chicago, IL, asks: Is it true, as it is depicted in The West Wing, that the president has to go outside to get from the Oval Office to the residence?

(V) & (Z) answer: There are other ways to do it, but that is far and away the easiest route. He walks along the West Colonnade, which is also known as the "45-second commute." Here is a picture of Barack Obama walking from the executive residence to the Oval Office:

The executive residence is three
stories, the colonnade is only one story


R.M.S. in Lebanon CT, asks: I have been looking online and at the library for books lately and I haven't been able to find any written exclusively about the events of 1/6 and the consequences therein. There are plenty of books about the Trump administration generally, but I cannot find any explicitly focused on 1/6. Even the librarians in my area have no suggestions. There is one I found by former Capitol Police Officer Michael Fannone, but it is more an autobiography and an eyewitness account than an analysis of it. In comparison to 9/11, it hasn't generated nearly as much writing.

Why is this, and do you have any suggestions for books about it?

(V) & (Z) answer: First, to write a proper book takes a long time, and 2 years is on the short side. Second, the story isn't over yet, at least until we learn if Donald Trump or any members of Congress pay a price for their actions on that day. Once there is resolution there, the number of books will go up a lot.

That said, there are already Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth, and the Trials of American Democracy, by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show, by Jonathan Karl, and Operation Chaos: The Capitol Attack and the Campaign to Erode Democracy, by Kevin James Shay. Raskin is a former constitutional law professor, so his book is probably the most analytical, though any of the three might be to your liking.

J.B. in Williamsburg, VA, asks: I was wondering if you had looked into the Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch book about a failed assassination attempt on Franklin D. Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill. The book describes a plot by Hitler to kill all three of the Allied leaders while they were summiting in Tehran. I was wondering what the professional historian's view of the events described in this book might be. Is there any real historical data that supports this book or is this mostly fiction with little (or not enough) verifiable data that historians would need to accept the events as described?

(V) & (Z) answer: The professional historian, (Z), would never, ever bother with a book by Brad Meltzer. He is not a scholar, he's an entertainer, and he embraces conspiratorial thinking, misrepresentation of facts, inventing historical "truths" out of thin air, and a host of other practices that would get him tossed out of the historical profession, if he were a professional historian. He's much, much closer to Dan Brown (of The Da Vinci Code) than he is to, say, Robert Caro or David McCullough.

As to the underlying claim, the name for the assassination plot was Operation Long Jump, and there probably was something to it, in the sense that the Nazis toyed around with the idea. But you have to appreciate how very many ideas are bandied about during a war, without ever getting beyond the discussion stage. And there is no evidence that the Nazis ever tried to actually move forward with the plan. Nor is it particularly plausible that they could have done so, since they did not have the resources or the local operatives needed by the time of the Tehran Conference (in 1943).

The reason that the scheme is remembered at all is that the Russians discovered what was going on, and turned their alleged "defeat" of the plot into a massive victory for Soviet intelligence services. In other words, they turned it into propaganda (and it's still remembered fondly today as a high point in Russian history). This makes it even harder to discern the actual facts of the matter. It's kind of like the U.S. taking undue credit for the success of the "Canadian Caper" (subject of the Best Picture-winning Argo), though at least the Canadian Caper actually happened.

M.F. in Oakville, ON, asks: There have been speculation, sometimes reported on your site, about Kamala Harris being replaced on the ticket, assuming Joe Biden is the Democratic candidate again in 2024.

I gather it used to be relatively common, but the last time a President ran for reelection without the same running mate was 1944. The last time before that a VP candidate was dropped was 1900. Before that, it happened several times in the 19th century.

Surely, changing the VP candidate calls into question the presidential candidate's judgment, since picking their Number One was the first major decision the candidate has to make. To replace their running mate says they got that first decision wrong.

So why did something that was, if not common, at least common enough, effectively stop happening?

(V) & (Z) answer: First, not to be nitpicky, but you referred to Harris as Biden's Number Two. In the naval parlance that you're presumably borrowing from, the second-in-command is called Number One, so we changed it.

Anyhow, you've hit upon the answer to your question. Up through the 1950s, give or take, it was the party big-wigs (and sometimes the convention delegates) who picked the VP. And they generally picked the VP with an eye towards appealing to some key constituency. Everyone knew this was how it worked, and that the presidential candidate generally had relatively little to do with it. So, if the party functionaries decided to toss a VP overboard in order to reposition the ticket a little better, it was not a reflection on the president's decision-making skills.

Since the 1960s, the anointment of the running mate is largely entrusted to the presumptive nominee, and is an important occasion for them, one that makes a statement about that candidate's priorities. So, it is much harder to jettison a bad VP now, as that would indeed say something about the president's decision making.

D.R. in Unalakleet, AK, asks: Former Alaska village librarian here, and a bit of a political junkie, I have read a number of articles which satirically speculate about a Trump Library, but I have not seen any real news about this. Has the Trump team made any serious plans to create a Trump Presidential Library? If not, why?

(V) & (Z) answer: There are no plans, as yet, and there are at least three reasons for that. First, working on one's presidential library is a de facto concession that one's presidential career is over. Trump does not want to admit that yet (and probably never will admit it). Second, a president (or a former president) can only raise so much money, and a library is an expensive proposition (nine figures). Most presidents prefer to leave a permanent monument to themselves, but Trump prefers to redirect those available donations to... other places. And third, Trump ran as an opponent of pointy-headed know-it-alls. Building a library would be off-brand for him, and would displease some of his base, since libraries are for pointy-headed know-it-alls.

It's also possible Trump doesn't know how to spell "library," but that's just speculation. The other three, we're sure about.


Z.K. in Los Angeles, CA, asks: I seem to remember a website a while back that predicted presidential elections from primaries right to the general election. They would tell who won each primary and then Super Tuesday and also who dropped out and was the nominee for each party. Then it would end with "And the next president will be... [whoever they predicted]. I always liked to see who they picked. Any idea of whatever happened to that?

(V) & (Z) answer: It sounds like you are describing It's still around, but it's entered into something of a death spiral. The creator, Scott Elliott, didn't produce all that much content, and so was competing against the now-numerous sites that offer more stuff on a daily basis. He started to lose readership, which meant revenues went down, which in turn meant that he spent even less time (since he always viewed it as a for-profit venture). Now, the site advertises quite plainly that it's for sale, which makes it rather hard for readers to get invested in it.

S.K. in New Haven, CT, asks: Just what are your pen names anyway? Sometimes you refer to yourselves as "V & Z" and other times "(V) & (Z)". Consider this snippet (including the end of one answer, and then the start of another, all merely a few lines apart) from Saturday's posting: "(V) & (Z) would like to think of themselves as pundits in the first sense, but not the second."

Later, that was followed by this:

"J.C. in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, asks: Having lived in Hawaii for two years, I was surprised that you listed it as an urban state. The vast majority of Hawaii, outside of Honolulu and perhaps Hilo, is rural. How is an urban vs. rural state determined? Is it because the vast majority of Hawaiian citizens are residents of Honolulu?

"V & Z answer: Pretty much."

So which is it? Are the parentheses part of the names, or not?

(V) & (Z) answer: We use the parentheses in any context where our signature might plausibly be confused for the letters V and/or Z, and we don't use them when there's no chance of that happening. That said, there's no reason not to be consistent, so we've switched over the non-parentheses versions, starting with today's post.

K.M. in Tacoma, WA, asks: A few months ago, one of you had a knee problem. Around the same time I had a very similar issue with my knee, which was diagnosed as a meniscus tear. I have seen several doctors, and the recommendations are: total knee replacement (I also have mild osteoarthritis, but that is not really causing symptoms); to physical therapy, to injections of hyaluronic acid and/or platelet rich plasma. I am getting physical therapy and the knee is much improved, but still not back to my normal activity. How is your knee and what did you do?

(V) & (Z) answer: That was (Z), who is considerably better now. The multiple doctors he saw advised strongly against any sort of intervention, as the knee is not bad enough to justify it. So, they prescribed that old standby, physical therapy. (Z) consulted with a few knowledgeable folks thereafter, and is unpersuaded that PT is all that efficacious here. Plus, it takes forever to get a PT appointment in Los Angeles. So, his primary approach has been to avoid doing things that might aggravate the knee, like traversing a lot of stairs all at once, or taking on more than four people in a bar fight (once you get to five or more, you really have to start in with the roundhouse kicks). So far, it's working out fine.

Reader Question of the Week

Here is the question we put before readers last week:

M.G. in Boulder, CO, asks: Which current members of Congress who are likely to make it into the history books for real contributions, and why do you say so?

And here some of the answers we got in response:

L.D. in Bedford, MA: Speaking as a teacher of American history and U.S. Government and Politics, this is a confounding question, because it asks for not one but two hypotheticals. One, who will make it into the history books (historians' choice)? Who will the history book writers of 50 years hence determine qualifies (and let's not even consider how different states use different questions—would a red-state's Board of Education-approved textbooks include Democrats?) Consider that someone who is in the news a lot right now likely won't make it. For example, Joseph Cannon was a massively consequential Speaker of the House in the early 20th Century, so much so that he graced the first cover of Time magazine. He was notorious for blocking a lot of bipartisan Progressive legislation (!) from even coming up for a vote, in a time where people really wanted change, to the point that other Republicans in the House actually went to the White House and requested President William Howard Taft do something. Taft's refusal would lead to bipartisan action to reduce Cannon and the Speaker position's power, and also a factor in the upswell leading to Teddy Roosevelt's run in 1912. Yet you could ask the next 1,000 people who Joe Cannon was, and I would wager you get zero correct answers. (The most common wrong answer, I would also wager, would be "I dunno, Nick Cannon's latest child?")

Two, we don't yet know who will ultimately do something that will make it into the history books. We also don't know who moves on to greater pastures and fame—President Ted Cruz, or VP Lauren Boebert, for two far-fetched examples. We also don't know who gets their name permanently added to some critical piece of legislation yet to be passed or even dreamed up, such as the Wagner Act, or I dunno, Macon's Bill #2. (Ladies and Gentlemen, start your Wikipedias.) The Ocasio-Cortez Act which ended the use of gasoline-powered cars? The Taylor Greene law, which put the full power of the mighty U.S. military into action to fight the horrifying menace of Jewish space lasers? Your guess is as good as mine for this kind of thing.

That said, there is one obvious one: Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), for being the first female Speaker of the House and presiding over two impeachments. Two less-obvious ones: Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), for (hardly a bold prediction) being a feckless Speaker who got ejected by his own members, and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), for his role in the 1/6 impeachment and providing some nice sound bites that will fit well into a textbook coverage of the impeachment. (Speaking of impeachment, and because we'll need "both sides," my sarcastic pick is Sen. Josh Hawley, D-MO, with a picture of him giving the fist of solidarity salute to the 1/6 crew that would send him skittering for safety later that day, and if there's any justice, there's a still of that video in the textbook,too.)

After that....maybe "George Santos" (R-Brazil? NY? Atlantis?) as evidence for McCarthy's fecklessness, after he gets bounced (or resigns) for campaign finance violations (also hardly a bold prediction). Maybe Gym Jordan for his (yet another going out on limb prediction) embarrassing "leadership" of investigations into Biden's administration and Hunter Biden, leading to our grandchildren learning about stupid stuff that led to Democrats retaking the House in 2024 and helping Joe Biden get re-elected. (Oh yeah, getting the big-boy pundit shoes on now!)

I'm excited to see V Jr. and Z III resurrect this and give our progeny the Boldness/Accuracy scores for these in 50 years. Well, actually, I won't be here anymore, but you know what I mean.

A.J. in Highland Park, NJ: Nancy Pelosi will have a building or two named after her. There will be statues. Not only because she was the first female Speaker of the House, or because she led the House Democrats for two tumultuous decades, but because she provided the template for how political leadership is done. All without earmarks.

How did she manage to keep the Democrats together through the unravelling of the Iraq War, passing of Obamacare, impeachments, the 1/6 Committee... and without losing her grip? How did she corral the grandstanders, the contrarians who prefer self-sabotage to common sense? We may find out when she writes her memoirs. Imagine if some less capable person had been Democratic caucus leader during the first two years of the Trump administration.

The contrast with the current leadership of the House is stunning.

D.S. in Havertown, PA: This one is fairly easy. It's gotta be Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Schumer and Pelosi... Schulosi? Working with paper-thin majorities, in two years they passed COVID relief, the IIJA infrastructure bill, the first (albeit watered down) gun legislation in decades, the CHIPS Act, and capped it off by pulling a fast one and getting the Inflation Reduction Act over the finish line. After all, turtles are rarely caught napping. Not to mention the judges, the 1/6 Committee, and I could go on. Sure, it was mostly with Democratic-only support, but if you think it's easy to herd Democrats, you've never tried...

D.E. in Lancaster, PA: Again I think the answer to this one is obvious. There's already a member of the House who has been assured a spot in history. I think as time goes on this representative will be compared to great speakers of the House, like Cannon, Rayburn and O'Neil. In fact, one day might just get a Congressional office building named after her. Of course, I'm talking about Nancy Pelosi, whose skills as a politician are often overlooked. And if anyone was thinking I was alluding to Kevin McCarthy, then the only thing to do is to get nude and prepare to walk naked while I ring my "Shame" bell!

The only other on who might be mentioned in overview popular consumption history books would be Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), but only in the way Senator Richard Russell is discussed in regards to the passage of the Civil Rights Bills of 1964.

H.F. in Pittsburgh, PA: The most impactful current member of Congress without a doubt is Mitch McConnell, who twisted the rules to install radical young justices on the Supreme Court. Their votes will be felt for years, turning back the clock on a huge number of laws and policies. It's a mystery to me why Nancy Pelosi's first official act wasn't to impeach him for blocking the nomination of Merrick Garland. I realize there weren't enough votes in the Senate to remove McConnell, but it still would have shown everyone that he violated his duty under the Constitution to give a senatorial hearing and an up-or-down vote to a presidential nominee.

(V) & (Z) add: Members of Congress can't be impeached, only expelled by their own chamber.

F.R. in Berlin, Germany: If we consider influence on the political direction of the country, we could single out Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for reestablishing the perception that decidedly left-wing politics are a viable option on the national level. I vaguely remember that in the times of Clinton, Gore and Kerry, Democrats refused to call themselves liberal—because Ronald Reagan had successfully associated the term with weakness—and did not even look for an alternative like "progressive." Yes, there was talk of "the middle class" or "working families," but these are demographics not ideologies. Sanders did not become President or introduce popular multi-decade impact legislation (yet), but he reanimated a faction of a major party to the point that it has become independent from his personality, perhaps comparable to Barry Goldwater's influence on the so-called conservative movement.

B.H. in Frankfort, IL: I would say House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). He's young enough that he could be the Democratic leader for a decade or more. He'll have multiple opportunities to be Speaker, and with a Democratic trifecta, could usher through the House legislation which changes the course of the country. Lot of ifs there, but not that far-fetched. And being speaker, and a person of color, adds historical importance.

J.B. in Hutto, TX: I have a feeling Congressman Seth Moulton (D-MA) will be in the history books, though I am not sure why, as he hasn't done it yet.

E.R. in Irving, TX: "George Santos," already a well-established, leading historical figure in American politics, will make a real contribution towards campaign finance reform and better public vetting of candidates for office simply by getting elected.

T.C. in Stone Mountain, GA: Liz Cheney (R-In Exile) is a dark horse in a dark stable with no windows or doors on a "dark and stormy night." And yes, I know she is not a current member of Congress. But she has already done great service for the country on the House Select Committee on the January 6th Attack. She would like to lead the Republican party out of the mess the party is currently in. I believe the chance that she can accomplish this is very small. But if she can, she will have done a great service to the Congress and the country.

F.S. in Cologne, Germany: Currently there aren't any great members of Congress. I mean, great lawmakers make great laws. And how many great laws were passed by Congress during the last 50 years? Maybe Obamacare, but in my opinion it was only a good law and not a great law. So in my opinion there are currently no lawmakers who passed great laws, hence there currently aren't any great members of Congress.

Here is the question for next week:

J.B. in Seattle, WA, asks: I'm listening to the Bulwark podcast on Tuesday with two educators discussing the state of education and censorship. Got me thinking: Is there a format we may ever hear you both speak? Either on another podcast or even a periodic one of your own? I'm sure my $5/month contribution is going to seal the deal on this! Thanks for all you do guys!

(V) & (Z) answer: If you're just dying to hear us speak, there are lots of interviews on YouTube featuring (V), like this one, and you can also watch (Z)'s Ted Talk.

That said, we (and, in particular, Z) have pondered doing a podcast. The problem is coming up with something that wouldn't be redundant to what we write on the site. So, that's the real question of the week: If we were to explore this possibility, what suggestions do readers have for podcast content?

Submit your answers here!

It's UCLA, which received, for example, 149,779 applications in 2022. This is, in part, because UCLA is a desirable school. It is also in significant part because the UC system has a single application, and all one has to do to apply to multiple UC schools is check some extra boxes and pay a little extra money. So, the top seven schools in the country for applications received are all UCs. By contrast, to apply to USC, you are required to have rich parents and a BMW that is no more than 3 years old. So, that serves to keep the number of applications down.
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