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Walker’s Education

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Chidike Okeem argues that of course Scott Walker’s lack of a college degree matters:

The notion that America should accept a president in the 21st century who does not possess a baccalaureate degree is beyond absurdity. The fact that some conservatives are trying to make criticisms of Walker’s lack of a college degree about snobbery and elitism, rather than him not meeting a perfunctory expectation of the Leader of the Free World, only goes to show the embarrassing way in which anti-intellectualism is treated as a sought-after virtue within mainstream conservatism.

There is an alarming number of people in America with graduate degrees who are incapable of finding jobs commensurate with their educational attainment and, in some cases, finding jobs at all. At a time when this is occurring, it would be monumentally absurd to elect someone who couldn’t be bothered to finish college to the highest office in the land. If the highest office in the land, and indeed the most important job in the world, can be whimsically occupied by someone who couldn’t be bothered to find the time to finish his undergraduate education, then what is the point of anyone slogging through college and earning a degree? Are those who suggest that college dropouts should be routinely considered for the office of President of the United States arguing that the presidency is less tasking or important than the plurality of jobs listed on Craigslist that specify only holders of a baccalaureate degree should apply?

Deroy Murdock has an alternative view:

“Scott Walker, were he to become president, would be the first president in many generations that [sic] did not have a college degree,” former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, M.D., fretted on MSNBC on February 12. Dean called Walker “unknowledgeable” and added: “The issue is how well educated is this guy? And that’s a problem. . . . I think there are going to be a lot of people who worry about that.”

One thing driving this sentiment is the sense among the well-insulated ruling class that “everyone graduated from college.” True, everyone we know did. However, this is not true nationally. Without a college degree, Walker may look like a space alien among those who frequent Amtrak’s high-speed Acela train. However, his education level makes him a remarkably typical American.

There are two related questions here. The first is whether it is politically smart to emphasize the lack of a college degree. It isn’t, and I think the Murdock piece lays out the reason why. Sure, he’s a Republican writing on a Republican platform, but most liberals (Dean aside) seem to recognize this insofar as they haven’t been emphasizing the issue as much as Republicans might hope. This has been one of those cases where I’ve seen backlash to the argument in far greater proportion than I’ve seen the argument itself. The criticisms of Walker I’ve seen revolve more around the circumstances of his departure from Marquette. But despite nebulous “questions being asked”, it appears that it is more or less what Walker says it is. He was a lackluster student, but not a failing one, who had a job opportunity and felt safe moving on.

The second question is, regardless of whether it is politically correct to bring it up, whether there is any merit to the argument. Just because bringing something up is bad politics doesn’t make it meritless any more than the inverse is true.

I cited Okeem’s argument because it is the most full-throated I’ve seen, and one that’s not coming from a purely partisan place (Okeem’s politics aren’t easy to nail down). It’s a better-made argument than Murdock’s and a lot of the arguments I’ve seen that his college degree matters. Ultimately, however, I find it unconvincing.

Okeem says the following:

It is not elitism to suggest that the President of the United States should have the basic international educational requirement for an entry professional position today: a baccalaureate degree.

There are a lot of professional positions that do not require a college degree. Ultimately, most don’t, because if they did, they would go unfilled. There is also an argument to be made that a lot of jobs that do require college degrees probably shouldn’t, though no doubt Okeem would disagree with that.

To be sure, there are jobs where college degrees matter a great deal. If I’m going under a scalpel, I probably want the scalpel-wielder to have either an MD or a DO or its equivalent. Engineers should demonstrate formal training in engineering. With rare except, teachers and professors should have their appropriate degrees. There is nothing elitist or snobbish about saying so.

It is perhaps ironic that executive positions are not always among that. He mentions, but dismisses the Bill Gates example. But after becoming an entrepreneur, Bill Gates did represent a gargantuan enterprise. Nobody thought that Microsoft’s Board ought to have replaced him so that their company could be represented by someone with a degree. And if Bill Gates were to want to get back into the business world, he would be (and should be) judged entirely on what he accomplished in business. As far as hiring goes, the importance of a college degree is that it gives employers a greater degree of confidence that you can achieve. If you have already achieved, then it’s beside the point.

I would argue that the presidency falls into this category. What is required to be president overwhelmingly occurs after college. There is no “President of the United States” degree offered. Its training is inherently on-the-job. So we look towards as equivalent experience as we can find. They have experience running a state, as an executive in the private sector, or serving at the highest echelons of the federal government. And that’s what ultimately matters.

When dealing with someone of limited experience, then you might look at such things as a proxy for intellectual curiosity. Sarah Palin graduated from college, though took a long and winding road to get there. She is, if not dumb, intellectually limited. Palin’s resume was sufficiently limited that maybe her unimpressive college career took on more importance. Even then, George W Bush had the right degrees from the right places and was also considered by many to be similarly intellectually limited. But the more of a record someone has, the more you can draw on that record. Bush had more than Palin. Walker (I believe, anyway), has more of a record than Bush.

However well or poorly he has done at that job, Walker is the thrice-elected governor of a mid-sized state, having worked as a state legislator and county executive before that. In terms of resume, he may be less qualified than Rick Perry or Jerry Brown, but arguably moreso than the last three presidents at their first election and almost certainly more qualified than the man who currently holds that office was when he was initially elected. In light of this, fixating on formal education twenty years ago is counterproductive. There is more relevant data to draw on.

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300 thoughts on “Walker’s Education

  1. Eh, I’m not convinced that a college degree is necessary to be President and I’m very happy that most of the Democratic Party recognizes the subject as the land mine it is and are walking wide around it.

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    • I’m not sure Democrats can walk around this subject. Its going to come up if Walker wins the GOP nomination. The Republicans are going to bring it up that he is one of the people and Hillary Clinton, who is going to be the Democratic nominee barring some unforeseen event, is an elitist egghead. Any other Democratic politician would have a similar issue though. Clinton or the Democratic nominee will have to confront it when Walker brings it up.

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      • Well obviously some Democrat somewhere will take the bait. Probably a back-bencher in the house, a consultant or campaign flack, a liberal columnist, or a local party chair. Absolutely Bill Maher will say something about it. I don’t know that that’s enough to get the issue out of twitter and into the real world, but it will absolutely happen at some level if he’s nominated.

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  2. Nice piece, Will. I generally agree (though I’m not particularly fond of Walker). I’d want to know a bit more about why he didn’t complete his degree because there may be useful information in there. In the same way that a college degree “signals” things beyond the courses taken and work completed, a lack of degree or incomplete pursuit of a degree also “signals” things. Given that the course he took to running for the Presidency is atypical (relative to others taking the same course), it seems reasonable to ask about these deviations and how they might influence what he does if/when he assumes the role. That said, if his story is as he says it was, it would answer my questions. I’d be concerned if he dropped out because he couldn’t manage to work under others’ directions or be part of a team or keep up with the academic rigor, especially if there wasn’t evidence from his post-college career of gaining the ability to do those things.

    So count me among those who think this largely doesn’t matter and, if you are correct that the backlash outweighs the initial objection (I can’t comment on this as this is literally the first I’ve heard of his education history), it is frustrating that it is being deliberately exploited for more culture war bullshit.

    I also hope this puts to rest Republican criticism of Obama as not being a real Columbia grad because he began his education at Occidental.

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    • How he left seems important, if there was some misbehaviour on his part or he gave up because he didn’t want to put in the work that would signal something quite different to leaving to support a family member through a crisis or being offered a job part way through that was better than he expected to get on graduating.

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  3. I am still not fully convinced that Scott Walker is going to be able to beat the Jeb Bush operation but he certainly does seem to be a favorite among hard-core Republicans right now and he certainly knows how to throw red-meat to the GOP base via culture war and resentment stuff and has the benefit of not being a less than one-term politician like Sarah Palin. He has proven his merit to survive battle.

    From what I understand, his base in Wisconsin is the Millwaukee suburbs and Millwaukee is an interesting case because it did not get a significant African-American population until well after WWII and “white flight” happened much much later in Millwaukee. Basically Millwaukee is where many other cities were 30 or so years ago and gentrification is not yet a thing there. My Wisconsin liberal friends say that he generally runs against the “scary scary city” and against “liberal, hippie Madison”.

    League alum Jamelle Bouie thinks that Walker poses a lot of dangerous traps for the Democratic Party:

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2015/02/scott_walker_cuts_university_of_wisconsin_funding_the_republican_governor.html

    The last President without a college degree was Truman. The last President without a graduate degree was Bush I. The last President whose college was not considered elite was Reagan (what I think we are seeing with people like Walker and Ryan is the advancement of people whose political awakenings were during the Reagan years. I was too young for this. My political awareness started with Clinton in 1992 and the various ways in which the GOP embarrassed itself during the Impeachment trial and Bush II years. It will be interesting to see if in 20-30 years we see people who are as partisanly liberal as Walker and Ryan are conservative because of the events of their youth.)

    I wouldn’t vote for Walker if he was a world-class scholar with impeccable credentials because I disagree with his politics strongly. But I do wonder if the Democratic Party would ever nominate or elect someone whose credentials were less than elite. I am not sure on this. I do agree with the point about Walker playing into anti-Intellectual resentments though and this can be dangerous for the Democratic Party. Though I think Walker could potentially walk into a lot of sexist landmines if he were to go against HRC or Elizabeth Warren. And if what is true about late-white flight in Millwaukee, the culture war stuff could damn him in a general election. Jeb Bush can appeal to moderates and hispanics more.

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    • Odd, Saul, unlike you I consider Walker the greater threat than Bush though I am happily pretty confident that the GOP will give Bush the nod.
      Walker is younger and fresher seeming that Hillary and has no problematic background. He could very much ride the whole Obama train of a fresh new start and can do that (absolutely enraging) thing Paul Ryan does of peddling old GOP tripe but saying “Aww shucks you’re just a mean partisan if you call this the same old GOP tripe also I visited a soup kitchen and am Midwestern earnest so this must be reasonable stuff”.

      Bush on the other hand is as old as Hillary and can’t use that fresh line at all. Also I think America is subconsciously hoping for a chance to vote against a Bush and truly repudiate his brother. Also Jeb seems policy wise, to be indistinguishable from W and he’s even doing the same compassionate conservative nonsense. I honestly believe (hope) Hillary could absolutely flatten Jeb.

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    • It’s easy enough to argue that Truman doesn’t count, he had military experience and officer’s school which were seen as college equivalent especially during the WW1-WW2 timeframe.

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      • Heh, if only one could get the equivalent of a BA for actually being Governor.

        If played correctly, this could actually win (some) Democratic votes for Walker and would be particularly painful for Clinton; Now, I’m not especially convinced that the Republican party (were he to get so far as to be the nominee) would know how to play it correctly at all; but, as some have already noted up-thread and down, the Democrats shouldn’t touch this. Sometimes the best strategy is to just put down the shovel and stop digging.

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      • No, that’s not how it worked then or now. OCS* in any of the services has always been a bare bones “knife and fork” operation, nowhere near a bachelor degree equivalent. What was more common then were direct field commissions (like we saw Donnie Wahlberg get in Band of Brothers), but that’s not really what Truman got either. He got elected by the (fellow enlisted) members of his guard unit when they mustered upon activation for Dubya Dubya One. Truman’s experience is actually a lot like Walker’s in that he took a position without the normal credentials and made the most of it.

        *which is also different than the officer school docs & lawyers go to, and there is yet another school for long serving noncommissioned officers who get a warrant or a limited-duty officer commission.

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    • I would vote for a worldclass scholar with totally different politics than me, provided they did not have a personal vendetta against anyone I care about.

      I won’t vote for Walker because he’s a worldclass idiot. And I won’t vote for someone without a sense of humor to speak of, and a vote for Walker is a vote for Koch.

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  4. I don’t know enough about the how individual’s positions on this matter map to the political spectrum, so I will refrain from making any generalizations about what progressives believe or what conservatives believe.

    I will, however, say thank you to Will for introducing me to that gem of a piece by Okeem.

    The fact that some conservatives are trying to make criticisms of Walker’s lack of a college degree about snobbery and elitism, rather than him not meeting a perfunctory expectation…

    There is an alarming number of people in America with graduate degrees who are incapable of finding jobs commensurate with their educational attainment and, in some cases, finding jobs at all…

    Okeem is saying that he is not making a snobbish or elitist argument. He just simply believes that people with degrees are more capable than people without and that people with advanced degrees deserve better or more opportunities than everyone else…

    One of my favorite forms of argumentation: I’m not an X, I’m just someone who believes a bunch of things that are synonymous with X.

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  5. The running of this country is so incredibly complicated that no one is really smart enough or educated enough to do it, so I don’t think this should, by itself, be an issue. If it turns out that he’s intellectually incurious and makes poor decisions, then his intelligence becomes an issue, but we’re still not really talking about his education.

    What a God awful 2 years we have ahead of us, though. Seriously. Is it OK if I say that I’m going to move to Canada not after the election but 2 years before it, because I don’t want to deal with American politics over that period?

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    • “If it turns out that that he’s intellectually incurious and makes poor decisions, then his intelligence becomes an issue, but we’re still not really talking about his education. ”

      Not to dredge it up again, but I still don’t believe that W. was “stupid”, in the way we usually use that term.

      But he certainly fits the other description (“intellectually incurious” was a term I used for him at the time, and let’s not forget “inarticulate”).

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      • Yeah, I don’t think W. was particularly bright, but I don’t think he was at all stupid. He was a guy with above average but not way above average intelligence who was, as a great Texan said, born on third base. He was also a very good politician, not a very good business man, and a terrible president. I suspect the last had less to do with his absolute intelligence than with the folks with whom he chose to surround himself, who were in many cases almost cartoonishly awful.

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      • My stepfather knew Bush personally, having attended Yale at the same time as him and playing on the baseball team together. He’s a hardcore conservative now (after being a draft-dodging pinko before and everything else in between) but he always described Bush as a party boy who was bright but nothing special. They didn’t run in similar circles, but effectively navigating the “party boy” world often requires a high degree of social intellect, which is what Bush seemed to be best at (hence what made him a good politician and appealing candidate).

        An increasingly common phrase in education circles is, “Stop asking, “Are you smart?’ and starting asking, ‘How are you smart?'” The idea is recognizing that intellect comes in a myriad of forms and most people possess a high degree of at least one type. So, saying someone is brilliant or stupid usually oversimplifies and is based upon a fairly narrow definition of intellect.

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      • In any conversation about IQ, we will *IMMEDIATELY* start questioning methodology, discuss what is *REALLY* being measured by the test, and discuss all of the different intelligences that the IQ test will totally fail to measure at all, let alone accurately.

        But when it comes to discussing credentials, for some reason, our mood shifts.

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      • That isn’t necessarily inappropriate. Credentials are — or should be — specific to the task. I have plenty of credentials that suggest I’m a competent teacher. I have zero credentials suggesting I’m a competent (or even passable or not an absolutely dangerous) mechanic. So, the question of, “Does he have the proper credentials?” should be answered with, “To do what?”

        I have the proper credentials for teaching. And probably some other things. I don’t have the proper credentials to be a mechanic. And probably some other things.

        Now, how good are we at identifying which credentials matter for which tasks? Probably not all that good.

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      • I regret using the term “credentials”, especially when the debate is over whether or not a degree can be taken as a credential in itself.

        I’d easily say that “degrees equal credentials” was probably an easier argument to make when Walker dropped out than it would be to make today, though. That’s a different argument, however.

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      • Oh, yes. In my initial comment, I debated saying something to the effect of “Degree =\= educated and educated =\= smart and…” but there were too many possible inequalities…

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      • do you have a link to point to regarding Walker’s academic performance? I’ve seen plenty of articles indicating that he dropped out during his fourth year at Marquette, but none saying he was washed out, or was washing out, for poor grades. Maybe that’s right, but I just haven’t seen it anywhere.

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      • That’s, like, no bar at all.

        If you get bad enough grades do schools kick you out with your good standing wiped out, so that you couldn’t return to complete your degee if you wanted to? I wasn’t aware that that is a thing.

        And even if it is, that it didn’t happen to Walker doesn’t really say much at all. He could have been sort of on his way to it, and dropped out in time because of, “Screw it, I’ve got better options than this.”

        Now for my part, I don’t expect this grades were all that bad. He looks like no worse than a C- student to me, maybe better. That’s passing.

        I’ve expressed where my concerns with it lie. Why did he enroll in an expensive private college if he wasn’t interested in school enough to finish? And where did he build a base of knowledge of the world outside of Wisconsin if not in school? (And the latter is a true question; I’ll be listening for an answer.)

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      • That’s part of why I’m asking for a source. Sincerely, I don’t know one way or another. If he dropped out before he washed out, that would color my evaluation of his failure to complete the degree, as opposed to the story he’s been giving the media.

        If it’s true that he had an opportunity to take a political job and chose to follow his chosen profession immediately rather than complete the degree, and wasn’t effectively forced out of college, that’s something I can understand. We don’t think much less of college athletes dropping out of school to declare eligibility for pro sports drafts when they sense their opportunities are ripe; why should we hold it against a college student aspiring to another kind of career to grab an opportunity when it arises?

        But if he was looking at some academic problems — either the cheating hinted at earlier or the poor grades hinted at earlier in this comment thread — then that looks a little bit different, and much less admirable. Thing is, before this thread I hadn’t head or read any suggestion that these sort of academic issues were in play. I’d prefer to form my opinion of Walker based on information with substantial indicia of reliability.

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      • I recall reading that he had a 2.5 GPA, for whatever that’s worth, though I can’t remember where. I mention Marquette’s statement because it undermines ACIS’s that he “had to leave.” (There are circumstances in which one can have “had to leave” even with that, but it’s not the most obvious interpretation of that statement.) There is no indication that he was really being pushed out the door, despite a lot of people having a lot of motivation to be able to find one.

        His lack of active foreign policy experience is a negative. I don’t think that getting 35 more credits and graduation would resolve the issue. I’m not even sure an undergraduate degree in political science with some study in international relations would resolve the issue (might help a little bit). But really, for that, I would look to the foreign policy team he assembles and his ability to read up on and discuss those issues on the campaign trail.

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      • do you have a link to point to regarding Walker’s academic performance?

        According to his own campaign staff’s 2010 account, he spent 4 years as a full time student and yet only had 94 credit hours applicable to graduation with a GPA of 2.5. He needed 34 more to actually graduate if he had a single major but His credit total is 34 short of the 128 minimum needed to graduate in one major, a total that requires an average of 16 per semester. Walker told the 1990 yearbook interviewer he was triple majoring in political science, philosophy and economics; that likely would have meant an even heavier load..

        It’s mathematically impossible that he didn’t fail a good number of courses.

        http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/article/2013/dec/18/scott-walker-early-years/

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      • I should probably also point out that by his own account he failed out as an economics major. That puts a giant red X across the idea of letting him manage even a state’s economy let alone the national economy.

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      • “In any conversation about IQ…”

        Great point. (Heh, I typed that first in all caps. I’ll stand by “great point”, but I can’t quite give you “GREAT POINT”.)

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      • No, understood. I too would like more specifics on it.

        Maybe he was doing a international relations degree and dropped out after significant coursework. That would be better from my perspective. If it was a business degree, though, then, right. Just finishing wouldn’t make that much difference. It would mean a little, but not a lot.

        And, yes, I strongly agree that the whole experience question only goes so far. I do want a demonstrated interest in foreign affairs. But you can actually undo that qualification by things like your choice of advisors or a record of bad judgement or just terrible positions. I would opt for vote for Martin O’Malley over John Bolton just on foreign policy despite Bolton being so much more experienced and O’Malley, that I can see, having none of the demonstrated interest I’m talking about other than a BA and a JD (which, however, aren’t nothing).

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      • From the article linked above by :

        Let’s start with “forced out” of school.
        Mike Tate, chairman of the state Democrats, told us the party based its post on unnamed sources who he said had privately passed on information about possible “nefarious activity” that Tate did not describe.
        Those parties would be reluctant to talk to a reporter, he said. The allegation is defensible, said Tate, because the party is trying to raise questions about the “mystery” of Walker’s departure.
        That’s a flimsy case, at best. At worst, it suggests a possible fictional smear.
        Others who have publicly pushed theories of a cheating scandal or of Walker flunking out also provide no proof or admit they have only questions.
        * * *
        “Gov. Scott Walker was a student at Marquette from fall of 1986 until spring 1990 and was a senior in good standing when he voluntarily withdrew from Marquette,” the university said in a statement.
        That means that no conduct issues, academic or otherwise, blocked Walker from continuing in school at the time of his departure, MU spokesman Brian Dorrington told [Politifact] in early December 2013.

        Most of the article is about a bruising election for student body president that Walker lost, apparently bruising his ego quite badly. Frankly, I found the topic insipid and unilluminating; YMMV. But I don’t find support in the article for the proposition that Walker’s grades were poor or for the proposition that he “must have” failed some classes. The most I get is journalistic frustration with Walker’s decision to not waive his privacy rights under FERPA, something which smells a little bit like anti-Obama Trutherism. I see no reason to think that Walker was performing below at least at an acceptable level academically. Maybe he wasn’t an honors student, because if he was he’d probably have bragged about it at some point, but “not making the Dean’s List” is a far cry from “teetering on the edge of academic probation” and the people most motivated on Earth to discredit Walker have been unable to come up with anything more than seemingly unfounded rumors to call him a collegiate cheater.

        So it seems to me that any criticism of Walker of significance needs to be aimed at his performance and decisions made as Governor, rather than his academic career. His critics can surely find sufficient material to work with there.

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      • According to his own campaign staff’s 2010 account, he spent 4 years as a full time student and yet only had 94 credit hours applicable to graduation with a GPA of 2.5.

        Marquette is on the semester system, and most of their core classes are 3 credits per class.

        That means he averaged 11.75 credits awarded per term, or he was given credit for almost 4 classes taken each term. Full time student at Marquette is 12-18 credits for the purposes of defining “full time”. In four years, you can accomplish this by taking 4 classes a term (a full load by institutional standards) and failing two classes over those four years… you can also be taking 18 credits a term and failing more than two of them each term.

        Walker told the 1990 yearbook interviewer he was triple majoring in political science, philosophy and economics; that likely would have meant an even heavier load..

        It’s mathematically impossible that he didn’t fail a good number of courses.

        This presupposes that he planned to graduate in 4 years, which is not a given, particularly for someone with three majors. It also assumes he was carrying much closer to 18 units than 12. It finally assumes that he didn’t start each term with 18 units and drop a class or two per term.

        (I know folks who routinely registered for 18 units and dropped a class before the add/drop date)

        As to leaving in good standing, Caltech accepts about 300 students every academic year from the absolute cream of the “measurable metric” crop. Our four year graduation rate is under 80%; you don’t get into the 90%tile until you expand graduating criteria to include folks on the six-year plan (let alone 5).

        So.

        Given the information provided, all we know for sure about Mr. Walker’s academic career is that he wasn’t a college success story.

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      • 1257pm

        The idea is recognizing that intellect comes in a myriad of forms and most people possess a high degree of at least one type.

        One type of intellect recognizes that “myriad” is an adjective, not a noun.

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      • Gaelen,

        I’ve never been fond of the “a myriad of” locution. But I realize that myriad people don’t know how to use the word properly and, being an American who loves his country, I grant their God-given right to continue to speak incorrectly.

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      • My love of America includes the mistakes of the British. Poor souls. Without them, I’d not have a love that allows me to forgive others!

        Wait, that’s not right. I’m American. They think “myriad” can be used as a noun? My compassion isn’t limitless, ya know. F*** those a**ho**s.

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      • For whatever it is worth…

        “Recent criticism of the use of myriad as a noun, both in the plural form myriads and in the phrase a myriad of, seems to reflect a mistaken belief that the word was originally and is still properly only an adjective. As the entries here show, however, the noun is in fact the older form, dating to the 16th century. The noun myriad has appeared in the works of such writers as Milton (plural myriads) and Thoreau (a myriad of), and it continues to occur frequently in reputable English. There is no reason to avoid it.”

        From: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/myriad

        Pedantic, table of one…

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      • Yes, and that it was originally intended to refer to the number 10,000…. So what? It’s stylistically UnAmerican to use “myriad” as a noun. We’re all about grace and the subtle use of force, yes? And sometimes, reluctantly, the overt use of force to get what we want. That’s why it’s gotta be an adjective.

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      • Less snarkily, the problem I have with using it as a noun is that doing so includes superfluous words, ones that make a sentence ugly: “a” and “of”. In most cases, simply eliminating those words doesn’t effect the meaning of the sentence while increasing (a million-fold!) the elegance.

        That may be the one word I’m a snob about, actually. I was reading some Pratchett a few days ago and he used the “a myriad of” construction, and I physically slumped. I couldn’t believe it. “Et tu, Pratchett?”

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      • It’s a word that used to confuse the hell out of me when I was small. Achilles commanded these ant-people warriors who were called Myrmidons. They were his minions and also there were lots of them (so, myriads). Way too many words that look almost the same.

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    • No need to go to Canada. I pretty much gave up American politics in 2007 and I was living in DC and going to grad school for policy at the time. And then I spent five years working for the government. At no point was I ever tempted to seriously start caring about electoral politics again.

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      • If you don’t mind my prying …. what did you study? What did you do in gummint? I’m curious about this on more than just a personal level – tho that’s interesting enough – since you’ve shown you’re an incredibly intelligent person with some very well thought out views based on more than theoretical commitments. I’d love to hear about it, if you’re willing to share.

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    • ” Is it OK if I say that I’m going to move to Canada not after the election but 2 years before it, because I don’t want to deal with American politics over that period?”

      Sure, come on up.

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  6. Though I do find the GOP relation to elite colleges and educations interesting. They love having politicians like Tom Cotton who can go to Harvard and Harvard and not come out a liberal but they generally dislike elite credentials in liberals and Salem had an interesting piece on how upper-middle class liberals are really the people destroying America:

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2015/01/the_upper_middle_class_is_ruining_all_that_is_great_about_america.html

    This is a rather strange piece because it seems to be saying that there should be really welathy people like the Koch brothers and then everyone else should make much much less. I am not sure why it is good to have a world where a few people have with in the millions and billions and then everyone else has income in the 5 figure or less range and no one makes money in the 6 figure range.

    I’ve always been perplexed by social conservative rage at upper-middle class liberals in Brooklyn, SF, and inner-ring suburbs. This has been going on a long time. Bush I (who always had an air of Patrician and never tried to hide it) went after liberals for being cheese-eating, wine-drinking, elitists.

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    • They love having politicians like Tom Cotton who can go to Harvard and Harvard and not come out a liberal but they generally dislike elite credentials in liberals…

      You’re doing that thing where you ascribe a set of particular beliefs to a wide swath of people united only by their general political leaning without offering anything but the slimmest anecdotal evidence that it might be the case. Partisans accuse wealthy educated people on the other side of being elitists and poor uneducated people on the other side of being uneducated cretins; that’s the way the game is played. What evidence do you have that there is more to this characterization than that?

      And that Salam piece is much more the case of him putting on his Slate hat than it is him putting on his conservative hat. That is a classic SlatePitch.

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      • You’re doing that thing where you ascribe a set of particular beliefs to a wide swath of people united only by their general political leaning without offering anything but the slimmest anecdotal evidence that it might be the case.

        Oh man, thank you.

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    • My feeling is that Republicans hate upper-class liberals the most because they tend to live genuinely conservative lifestyles without having conservative beliefs. To have an upper-middle class life style in a major metropolitan city or really anywhere, you need to be able to delay gratification, have at least some work ethic and discipline, etc. All the ills associated with modern society or liberalism seem absent. Upper-class liberals tend to maintain the nuclear family ideal better than anybody else. Marriages might be latter but divorce rates are lower, etc. This infuriates Republicans for obvious reason because disproves a lot of their beliefs on liberalism.

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      • To have an upper-middle class life style in a major metropolitan city or really anywhere, you need to be able to delay gratification, have at least some work ethic and discipline, etc.

        Or, have wealthy parents.

        That pretty much works no matter your political persuasion.

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      • I think we have substantially different definitions of the upper-middle class.

        When I think of the upper-middle class, I think of people who are income-wealthy but not investment or inheritance wealthy. These are not people who live off the interest of trust funds established a long time ago. When I think of the upper-middle class, I usually think of people with professional degrees: Lawyers, doctors, MBAs, CPAs, Engineers, Professors (assuming they can get tenure and are not in adjunct hell), etc.

        Many of these people might have grown up upper-middle class and they probably did enjoy substantial privileges including connections, networking, and being able to graduate from college debt free. They are also often the children of professionals. I know a lot of children of lawyers who became lawyers, children of doctors who became doctors, children of professors who became professors, etc.

        When you talk about people inheriting wealth, that sounds more upper-class than upper-middle class to me.

        I think your definition of upper-middle class is pretty far off base.

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      • The difference between the role of inheritance for the rich vs. the upper middle class is this:

        The rich inherit money and assets. The upper middle inherit parents who, by and large, will provide them with generous safety nets so that they never really have to live much below an upper middle class standard, even as they start careers (which very often are obtained through parental connections) that don’t pay upper middle class wages for the first few years. You know, the kids whose parents pay for their education, so they are not saddled with student loans, who give or loan them money for cars and housing, who buy them furniture and other necessities and luxuries, and so on. I’ve seen it many times both with acquaintances and with the many, many UT students.

        The result is that even as these kids are making in the tens of thousands per year (instead of hundreds, which is what they’ll be making before long), they live extremely comfortable lives and are able to do things that many of their less privileged peers are unable to do, like save money, build really strong credit, go on expensive vacations, etc.

        That’s what I mean when I say they inherited it.

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    • I’ve always been perplexed by social conservative rage at upper-middle class liberals in Brooklyn, SF, and inner-ring suburbs. This has been going on a long time. Bush I (who always had an air of Patrician and never tried to hide it) went after liberals for being cheese-eating, wine-drinking, elitists.

      Have you considered that it has to do with the way the attitudes of the upper middle class?

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    • Though I do find the GOP relation to elite colleges and educations interesting.

      Ignoring their politics, three of the four Koch brothers are pretty much your sort of people, Saul. All four have degrees from elite eastern schools — Harvard and MIT. Two have Masters degrees, one has a PhD (and I’ve always figured that anyone who can get an advanced degree in Chem E is a better student than I am, or ever was). Three of the four live in New York and Massachusetts. The ones who live on the East Coast are well-known as patrons of the fine arts. One is an America’s Cup racer.

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      • I know the Koch Brothers are very well-educated.

        One of the things that struck me as odd about some or many of the conservative elite or punditry is how their aesthetic and lifestyle choices are pretty much substantially similar to the Brooklyn and San Francisco liberals that they decry. A former OTer described this as Cognitive Dissonance Conservatism.

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      • I also think that they can sincerely enjoy a lot of the allegedly elitist stuff like good restaurants, wine, art, etc. There is a kind of running joke in the art market about how much allegedly transgressive and shocking art is actually bought by really rich Republicans. A lot of museum-going liberals like me simply can’t afford the prices on a lot of contemporary art’s best sellers.

        Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin strike me as true believers. So does Scott Walker and Paul Ryan in their anti-Brooklyn/SF social conservatism. I think a lot of really wealthy conservatives and politicians are much more cosmopolitan and urbane in their tastes than they let on and many conservative rank and file would be shocked by their tastes.

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      • One of the things that struck me as odd about some or many of the conservative elite…. A former OTer described this as Cognitive Dissonance Conservatism.

        You find it odd, because you’ve decided that aesthetic preferences of many upper and upper middle class liberals are something more robust than aesthetic preferences. That is a faulty assumption.

        I have an advanced degree and a professional job and I live in a city (had to move from Brooklyn to Harlem for a job, but I miss Brooklyn) and I hate suburbs and I’ve only owned a car for about 18 months in my life and I buy grass-fed beef and dairy and… you get the picture. All of that and my politics are probably fairly comparable to the Kochs (although without the inclination to actually involve myself in politics). There is no cognitive dissonance, because the two things don’t entail any contradictions.

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      • The Kochs have never been nor ever pretended to be movement conservatives of the social-con variety. They give money to people that will support their interests in the fossil fuel industry, corporate deregulation, tax cuts, and dinosaurs, but the recipients can be as pro-gay marriage and anti-war as however the recipients want to be.

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  7. The level of raw and vitriolic hatred that Walker shows for educational institutions is something entirely relatable to his failing out of Marquette. It may also be relevant that his circumstances of leaving came soon after being caught cheating in a student body election and relevant to his coming indictment for campaign finance fraud.

    In terms of resume, he may be less qualified than Rick Perry or Jerry Brown, but arguably moreso than the last three presidents at their first election and almost certainly more qualified than the man who currently holds that office was when he was initially elected.

    I keep hearing this from the right-wing bigots and I can’t understand this claim. The POTUS had numerous things on his resume when elected in 2008.

    B.A. in Political Science & International Relations
    Juris Doctorate from Harvard
    President, Harvard Law Review
    Teaching experience as a lecturer in law, University of Chicago, 1992-2004
    Bar-certified attorney at Davis, Miner & Barnhill; litigation included civil rights cases, employment & housing discrimination cases 1993-2002.
    Elected State Senator, 1997-2004
    Elected Senator, 2004-2008

    Explain to me how this is somehow a less impressive resume than Walker a college fail-out who cheated in a school election, slunk off in disgrace to a job his family arranged, slunk into a noncompetitive local election, and has not held a respectable nongovernmental job since?

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    • The level of raw and vitriolic hatred that Walker shows for educational institutions is something entirely relatable to his failing out of Marquette.

      Does you ability to offer remote diagnoses extend to physical conditions, or do you only do psychological and mental ones? And do you have a web site? Cause I find WebMD to be a bit cumbersome.

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      • I don’t think shrugging it off is ridiculous

        Not to be annoyingly repetitive about this, but my position doesn’t require me to disagree. You can totally acknowledge it as preparation of some kind and still shrug it off as an important quantum or kind of preparation that you value; you can just say that other kinds of preparation massively swamp it for you.

        All I’m saying is ridiculous is to deny that a degree in an area related to national or international policy is any kind of preparation at all.

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      • Things I do not consider ridiculous:

        BA and JD don’t particularly interest me at the presidential level

        and

        In this complex world, how can having a BA and JD not be significant if not sufficient preparation for a job running affairs of state, enforcing laws, deciding hat laws will be good to sign, and which are inconsistent with the constitution so they cannot be signed? That’s ridiculous.

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      • Lincoln did not attain a degree, but his study of the law, passage of the bar, and outstanding work as an attorney on the Illinois judicial circuit are credentials of intellectual (and professional) accomplishment that Scott Walker simply doesn’t have.

        Elsewhere in this thread, the conservatives are poo-poohing things like “getting a JD”, “passing the bar”, and “outstanding work as an attorney.” The same people who insist that the current POTUS wasn’t qualified (despite having a record similar to Abe, plus JD and a teaching record) are trying to lower the bar for a college failure and career politician of the type they usually deride for having “no real world experience.”

        The level of cognitive dissonance is astounding.

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      • I got a deal for you. Show me one place on this thread where anyone (well, anyone who isn’t @notme) was insisting that Obama was unqualified and I’ll give you a $100. I’ll PayPal it to one of the mods and they can send it to you. If you can’t do that, maybe you should consider toning down the whole shtick that you’ve got going on and stick to interacting with what people are actually saying and now what you think that they are saying.

        The level of cognitive dissonance is astounding.

        Also, when more than one person is saying things that you find contradictory, that’s not cognitive dissonance. That’s you slapping unfounded labels on people and pretending that it means something.

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    • BA and JD don’t particularly interest me at the presidential level, nor does being a lecturer. I don’t give as much weight to the lawyer part as I would in other pursuits, but YMMV. Less experience as a state senator than Walker has. Governor trumps senator, in my view, and 4-6 years as governor (elected thrice) trumps 2-4 years as senator (elected once in a cleared path).

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      • So you’re falling back to radio nonsense while pumping up Walker’s and you didn’t even familiarize yourself with Walker’s resume? That’s sad.

        Less experience as a state senator than Walker has.
        Lost in 1990, ran in a gerrymandered special election (there’s your CLEARED PATH that you complain about above for Walker) in 1993. Sat on his butt in the seat for nearly a decade not doing beans in the State Assembly.

        Walker was never a state senator.

        4-6 years as governor (elected thrice)

        Surviving a recall election with boatloads of out of state money is an accomplishment? It looks more like a for-sale sign to me.

        Show me on his resume where Walker has any of this real-world experience you anti-education conservatives love so much, please?

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      • I no longer think governor trumps senator. You need to have been a particularly good governor, otherwise to me the experience with national policymaking trumps being bogged down in the affairs of just one state. Or at least it’s a wash.

        The conventional wisdom that governor trumps senator in my view stems from the observation that that has seemed to be the more helpful for getting elected in recent decades. If that has actually been the case, in my view the public has gotten that assessment wrong.

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      • …Also, BA and JD “don’t interest you much”? What does that even mean? If two people with identical service records in government (just in terms of years of service in the same jobs) are running, and one has a BA and A JD, and the other has neither, there’s just no additional amount of qualification that the one with an education has for the office, or vanishingly little?

        In this complex world, how can having a BA and JD not be significant if not sufficient preparation for a job running affairs of state, enforcing laws, deciding hat laws will be good to sign, and which are inconsistent with the constitution so they cannot be signed? That’s ridiculous.

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      • I apologize for my tone above, it was probably uncalled for. I was irritated by the clear lack of knowledge Mr. Truman showed about Walker’s record while flippantly dismissing superior experience, including work as a civil right’s attorney, on the part of the POTUS.

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      • ACIS, You are correct about senator/assembleyman. My bad.

        As for the rest, you seem to wish to be arguing with someone who is not me. Carry on, though, as my participation is not likely necessary.

        Drew, it’s not nothing, but if I’m looking at a presidential resume, where they went to law school doesn’t matter much at all if at all. That they got a JD a couple decades ago is a plus, but not a particularly big one.

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      • You’ll forgive me if perhaps not being a conservative I take as good recommendation for the post of President a Juris Doctorate followed by a decade-long career in both applying through litigation civil rights law AND teaching the next generation of lawyers about civil rights law as showing that the candidate understands, respects, and will stand up for the civil rights of Americans in the highest office of our government?

        It’s certainly better than Walker’s gubernatorial record in routinely violating the voting rights law every chance he could find and proving he has no respect for either the federal constitution or his own state’s constitution.

        http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/10/09/supreme-court-wisconsin-voter-id/16985963/

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      • Semi-OT: A bunch of my non-lawyer friends once posted a meme of Neil Degrasse Tyson complaining about how many lawyers were in Congress.

        My thought at that was “Why is it shocking that people who wanted to make the law their profession would be interested in actually being part of the legislative process and making laws themselves?”

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      • It certainly makes sense that most legislators are lawyers. I’d consider being a lawyer to be a plus when running for a legislative position. Though a variety of experience is also good. I have no complaints about the number of lawyers in congress (which appears to be about 20% in the House and 35-40% in the Senate).

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      • @will-truman

        Also, why is it shocking that so few members of more technical professions enter government as lawmakers when they are so commonly heard running down the professions of politician and lawyer alike? Physicists and engineers and doctors have such demonstrated low regard for politicians and lawyers that it’s hardly any surprise that those two professions tend to overlap very significantly. Engineers don’t need to go to law school to be politicians, but they do have to get over their disdain for politicians enough to accept being one if it’s going to be the case that… they’re going to be them in greater numbers. And likewise for other professions. If engineers (for example) don’t themselves wnat to be politicians, and also don’t want lawyers to be politicians, and further, disdain lawyers and politicians alike anyway (in part apparently because so many of the latter are the former), who is it exactly that they expect to be politicians?

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      • “My thought at that was ‘Why is it shocking that people who wanted to make the law their profession would be interested in actually being part of the legislative process and making laws themselves?'”

        It has less to do with them being lawyers per se than it does it with the fact that the statistic interrupts our shared mythology that congress is made up of a wide cross section of regular folk.

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      • Technical experts frequently put in some time as regulators and draft rules and legislation affecting the areas in which they have subject matter expertise. It’s not like engineers are excluded from the process of making rules that affect engineering — indeed, engineers are typically the actual substantive authors of bills, laws, and regulations that address engineering concerns.

        Holding the actual legislative or higher-level executive political positions may actually be better-suited for a policy generalist than a subject matter specialist, because those positions frequently involve balancing conflicts between competing interests and a variety of qualitatively different stakeholders. The academic and professional training lawyers receive is pretty good at giving a decision-maker the ability to weigh and balancing qualitatively different but competing subject matter interests, as well as a familiarity with the creation of legal rules.

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      • I think your friends have a point. Other legislatures draw from a wider selection of society than the U.S. Congress. Most of this is because how nominations and elections work in other countries though.

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      • Oh I don’t disagree. We could certainly use more diversity in the professions. That being said:

        1. It shouldn’t be shocking that lawyers are also likely to be interested in running for office.

        2. There are plenty of non-lawyers in government and they are not always liberal. Some of them are very conservative. I think this would displease my Degrasse Tyson quoting friends. Dr. Tyson seems to be the Dawkins replacement for atheists who realize that Dawkins and Hitchens are big jerks.

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      • In this complex world, how can having a BA and JD not be significant if not sufficient preparation for a job running affairs of state, enforcing laws, deciding hat laws will be good to sign, and which are inconsistent with the constitution so they cannot be signed? That’s ridiculous.

        Exactly why is it ridiculous?

        If I were hiring an entry level analyst to work under me at my job, I would be looking for a Bachelors Degree, because someone who spent the last four years studying economics and finance would be more useful to me than someone who spent the last four years working in a non-relevant field. I look for the degree, because it is one of the only useful signals that I have to assess qualification and fit.

        At higher levels, however, I don’t have to look to the degree as a signal, because the person has a whole work history for me to assess. Obviously, I wouldn’t hire someone who had spent the last five years as an electrician to be a VP, but if someone who didn’t have a degree managed to break into the industry and had years of relevant work experience, why should I care about the degree anymore?

        Let’s look at an area like journalism. Every day I consume a wide swath of writing on a myriad of topics from economics to policy to arts and letters and so on. Most of the people getting paid to write these things have fancy credentials from fancy schools and most of them are putting out schlock. Most of these typists sound like they are regurgitating points from some sophomore identity studies seminar or are badly botching the basic elements of economics and statistics. For my money, one of the best, if not the best, guys doing it right now is Ta Nehisi Coates, someone who does not have a degree?

        If you were starting some kind of publication and you had the chance to hire TNC, would you balk because he did not finish college?

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      • I didn’t say they were requisite; I said they were significant preparation, especially so long as they are in subject matter areas relevant to the subject matter of being president. To deny that is ridiculous. But to deny that is not to claim that other experience couldn’t provide the same level of preparation. But of two people with the same experience in government, but one with a BA in international relations and a JD with a focus on public law or international law, or military law (but even just corporate law), the one with the degrees is facially more prepared.

        The other’s experience may, while being indistinguishable in quantity, may in its specifics make him more qualified. But just depends on the nature of the experience. All else being equal, the degrees indicate greater preparation, because no job or series of jobs can give a person the breadth of knowledge to be fully prepared for being president. Especially not jobs that people commonly ascend to without college degrees, or at least very significant college attendance. There may be outliers in that regard, but they will be quite rare. Greater exposure to the body of knowledge of international politics, geography, cultures, economics, etc., outside of that gained during a career gives a person who has invested in that education a greater base of knowledge from which to operate. A person without a degree or significant time in college may have gained such exposure through private study, but there’s not much of a way to determine that publicly that rivals having earned two degrees though courses of study in those kinds of subjects. That’s what makes a degree a credential.

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      • A shorter response tailored to you analogy: because unlike hiring for higher and higher positions in a given field, being prepared for the presidency requires broad awareness of national and world politics, culture, and economics. A person can be distinguished in a narrow field, but we’d still want her to have a breadth of understanding of the world before we hire her to be president. And the presidency is unique in how important that breadth of knowledge is.

        This is unlike hiring for a range of positions within companies, where one can look at the experience that a candidate has and make a judgement about whether he has the experience that qualifies him for the specific position. And the more the position being hired for resembles the presidency in terms of requiring broad knowledge of the world, the more a college degree (possibly in a subject other than business!) will be seen as an important qualification for a candidate to have.

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      • Since Walker *did* go to college for 3 or so years, he *did* take the courses that comprise the broad based non-major ‘core curriculum’ that any given B.S. and B.A. from an accredited degree granting institution in the US of the late 20the century would include. So, like they say, I don’t think this is your true rejection.

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      • I said they were significant preparation, especially so long as they are in subject matter areas relevant to the subject matter of being president. To deny that is ridiculous.

        You can use the word ridiculous, but it does not make your argument any better. I can honestly say, as a potential voter, I put almost no importance on where or whether a candidate went to college. If anything is ridiculous, it’s the idea that there are college courses that prepare you to be president. A person’s college degree, or lack of one, tells you an awful lot about who a person was at 17, but it may or may not tell you something useful about who they are at 50.

        There may be outliers in that regard, but they will be quite rare. Greater exposure to the body of knowledge of international politics, geography, cultures, economics, etc., outside of that gained during a career gives a person who has invested in that education a greater base of knowledge from which to operate. A person without a degree or significant time in college may have gained such exposure through private study, but there’s not much of a way to determine that publicly that rivals having earned two degrees though courses of study in those kinds of subjects.

        And I just gave you a perfect example of a person who exhibits all of those characteristics and to a greater degree than lots of other people without the credential working in that field. If anything, if I am judging a group of people who have managed to make it to the level of national prominence necessary to make a credible run at the presidency, the person without the degree becomes more interesting to me. I know that person had to overcome an extra set of hurdles to get where they are.

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      • Well, we can table the word ridiculous if it’s hanging you up.

        Studying international affairs, economics, history, national politics, etc. prepares you to be president. Not alone and not completely, but it is relevant and important preparation. To deny that is …incorrect.

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      • From over here, I spend more time wondering about the different things that we agree we want in a president and I’m guessing that it’s a list of about tenish things and it seems that we want 7 or 8 of those things.

        Foreign Policy is definitely on there, but I don’t know that “Foreign Policy Experience” necessarily is. I’m thinking about Reagan and his “I’m gonna take it to the Ruskies!” statements that resonated a lot more than, say, Carter’s foreign policy experience.

        All that to say, in any hypothetical Walker/Clinton confrontation, it’s easy to imagine a portrayal of Clinton’s experiences as mistakes and Walker saying something to the effect of “I wouldn’t make those mistakes! PRESS THE RESET BUTTON ON AMERICA!”

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      • Not getting a degree froma school that may have had a basic core curriculum that touched on some of the subject matter I am interested in doesn’t establish squat. And there’s evidence he may not have been very interested in the classes he took anyway.

        Clinton graduated summa cum laude from the Walsh School and was a Rhodes Scholar; Obama wrote a senior thesis on nuclear nonproliferation. That is evidence of engagement with the issues I am interested in. Maybe Walker can provide that evidence, but attending Marquette for three years and dropping out and then serving in Wisconsin state government for twenty years doesn’t do that.

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      • Pretty much. Lincoln didn’t have much experience. Neither did Jimmy Carter. Experience matters, but not a whole lot, and it’s incredibly difficult to tell beforehand how experience or lack thereof will play out. So in the context of picking between candidates, it’s a silly game where motivated reasoning, hypocrisy, and post-hoc justifications are rampant.

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      • A shorter response tailored to you analogy: because unlike hiring for higher and higher positions in a given field, being prepared for the presidency requires broad awareness of national and world politics, culture, and economics. A person can be distinguished in a narrow field, but we’d still want her to have a breadth of understanding of the world before we hire her to be president.

        This is just wrong. There is no course of study that prepares someone to be president. And even if there were, knowledge fades and credentials become out of date. There are only a few qualifications for being president. You have to be over 35. You have to be be a natural born citizen, with at least 14 years of residency. And you have to not have been elected to the office more than one time before. All the other talk about presidential qualifications are people expressing their preferences, which is fine. However, if your argument is that the presidency, as a general principle, ought to be off limits to anyone who doesn’t have a Bachelors Degree, then you are making an elitist argument. That’s it. End of story.

        At the end of the day, the field of people who have any shot of being elected president is very small. We could be talking about a person who enlisted in the Army and managed to get a commission without a degree and rose to the rank of a flag officer. Or we could be talking about someone who took a manufacturing job, worked his way up to foreman, become a union official and segued into politics. Or someone who started her own business, built the business into something notable and used that notoriety to run for senator. The idea that any of those people ought to be removed from serious contention or ought to be perceived as less qualified for an elected position in a democratic government, because they don’t have a degree, that is ridiculous.

        Plus, to get the rest of the finish line, that person would have to put together a campaign organization and maintain it through primaries and a general election. Anyone who can do that successfully, is de facto qualified to be president.

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      • As I’ve said repeatedly, no course of study by itself is full preparation for the presidency. But a rigorous course of study in international relations, economics, history, government, politics, military affairs, etc. (not necessarily all, and even just one or two of those) are preparation for it. A person who has completed such a course of study with distinction and has exactly the same other experiences as another person is more prepared for the presidency, at least facially. Maybe not hugely more, but more.

        To deny that is ridiculous.

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      • Eh, I’m unconvinced. I more think that there are so very many things that we want in a president that the best we can hope for is a good chunk of them and we’re going to pick the chunks according to our temperment and/or what our team dictates our temperment ought to be this time.

        I’m just hoping that whomever gets elected has a good head of hair.

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      • raises a point worth considering:

        [T]o get the rest of the finish line, that person would have to put together a campaign organization and maintain it through primaries and a general election. Anyone who can do that successfully, is de facto qualified to be president.

        Mostly, I agree with this. The logistics of a Congressional district election are formidable. The logistics of a Presidential campaign are mind-boggling. Making that happen is an achievement in terms of leadership and organizational skill, and a demonstration of part of what we’re looking for in a President.

        Other aspects of campaigning also help refine and test what it is that Presidents actually do; the debates, for instance, force the candidates to understand and articulate the spectrum of policies they wish to pursue, if only in broad strokes. Running mate and campaign staff selection tells us something about the candidate’s ability to assess and deploy people as part of an organization.

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      • but in the context of a presidential election, the pool of candidates is so small and made up of such abnormal, exceptional people that other things will never be equal. Beyond that, it’s quite hard to measure the difference between a credential that gives a real additional skillset and an empty credential at this level, whereas there will be lots of available information about how good a given candidate is at all sorts of other skillsets relevant to Presidenting. So there’s obvious some non-zero value here, but it’s hard to imagine a situation where this criteria should actually make the difference between two candidates.

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      • I don’t really see how any of that is inconsistent with what I’ve said. I’ve just said that such a course of study is one factor of preparation. You can still want all the other things that you may not know what they are yet. And you can even not care about him having such a a course of study even while such a course of study contributes to overall preparation. I’m not saying it’s ridiculous not to care about that aspect of preparation. I’m just saying it’s ridiculous to deny that such a course of study contributes to overall preparation, all else being equal.

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      • A person who has completed such a course of study with distinction and has exactly the same other experiences as another person is more prepared for the presidency, at least facially. Maybe not hugely more, but more.

        To deny that is ridiculous.

        There is the ridiculous again. So, how about this. Show me one piece of external evidence that supports this position. Were Truman or Lincoln worse presidents because they didn’t have this “rigorous course of study?” Show me one supporting fact that demonstrates this is the case, that a credential earned decades in the past is at all meaningful, aside from pure signalling value, when you have years of work experience and accomplishments to go by.

        The only thing that makes this ridiculous us that have decided that it must be so. If you want to say, “I personally value a four-year college degree and what it means,” that’s perfectly fine. You’re free to value what you want. If, however, you are going to contend that there is some objective reason to value the degree, you’re going to have to offer some supporting evidence.

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      • I apologize for my tone above, it was probably uncalled for. I was irritated by the clear lack of knowledge Mr. Truman showed about Walker’s record while flippantly dismissing superior experience, including work as a civil right’s attorney, on the part of the POTUS.

        You apologize for your tone and then go and pull that sort of pompous ass shit? That has to be one of the worst apologies in the history of bad apologies here at OT. And you accused jr of trolling?

        Got any more jokes? Holy hot sauce.

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      • Well, I’d say that we need to hammer out what the top, oh, three or five biggest problems we, as a country, are going to be wrestling with over the course of the next few years.

        Folks who say “THE ECONOMY, STUPID!” are probably going to be looking for different things than people who say “Israel/Palestine, Russia, and The Middle East. Stupid.”

        What are the top three/five?

        I’m inclined to say “Domestic Issue, Different Domestic Issue, followed by Yet Another Domestic Issue” but, hey. I would.

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      • It’s a different world from Lincoln’s and Truman’s, certainly from Lincoln’s. And other than them, we don’t have any non-college grad presidents to compare from the modern era.

        Furthermore, I consider combat service abroad in the Marine Corps to be something to provides international policy experience equivalent to a college degree, not to mention the Vice Presidency or being a Senator. Remember, for the Xth time, I’m not saying that no one can be prepared for the presidency without a college degree. I’m just saying that it’s ridiculous to deny that a course of study in relevant topics that’s actually taken seriously itself contributes to preparation for the presidency.

        Now, here’s a thought on Truman. A lot of assessment of the performance of presidents is inextricably bound up in an assessment of the substantive value of what they did, which is can be contested, rather than objective. It’s very difficult to objectively say what actions have made a president better or worse. But consider the decision to drop the atom bomb on Japan. I would personally consider whatever decision was made on that question to be a better decision if it was made by a person who could apply a degree of knowledge of world cultures to it, and who had spent time considering moral philosophy. Now, it’s almost surely the case that Truman applied those to his decision to some degree or other. I’m sure he consulted with moral philosophers of one sort or another (I suspect of the sectarian kind, but they count) before making his decision. I’m sure he had some familiarity with the Japanese people, having been at war with them for four years. But I think it also would have been a contribution to his overall preparation for the decision if he had studied Japanese culture or moral philosophy in college. (Even this is a poor example, as the world is so different now, or at the time when a Bill Clinton or Scott Walker attended college; in those days college just wasn’t something that was for someone who grew up in the social position Harry truman grew up in.But regardless, treating this counterfactually in that sense.) I realize that those might have been somewhat unlikely things for him to have happened to study. But the point is that, if you have a broad base of knowledge that was pursued with the idea of preparing for the kinds of demands that a job like the presidency imposes, it’s likely that at least some of them will leave you better prepared than if you didn’t seek tp prepare through a course of study at all.

        Again, this need not be a claim that Truman made the wrong decision because he had not gone to college. The only question is whether having gone to college would have made the decisions he made somewhat better-informed. It think it’s ridiculous to deny that they would have, or at leas that it would on average have made it somewhat more likely. And that’s what preparation is all about. You can never be assured you all be prepared for literally everything that could ever come your way. Preparation is about improving the odds that you’ll happen to be ready for what in the event does come your way. It’s a numbers game.

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      • …’Scuse me, in the National Guard. I could have sworn he was Marine.

        He was also denied an appointment at West Point, which had been his childhood dream, on account of poor eyesight. That to me is also an indication in its way that is typical of that time, of an independent interest in U.S. foreign policy and international affairs.

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      • For what it’s worth, even though it was in response to me* that Drew made his “ridiculous” comment, I don’t entirely think he’s wrong. While if I am trying to list the qualifications for being president, I don’t really consider “Has a college degree in political science and international relations” impressive enough for real consideration, it’s not nothing. And while I don’t think shrugging it off is ridiculous, I can see why someone would think it matters more than I do. (The point of the OP wasn’t so much “This** clearly doesn’t matter and anyone who thinks it does is a snob” but rather “This is not a line of attack that resonates with me much at all.”)

        * – I do stand by my original comment about the comparative resume qualifications of Obama and Walker.

        ** – The lack of a college degree specifically, or that he had a lackluster college degree. It is possible to tie it in as a part of some greater narrative, such as a lack of foreign policy experience or an unwillingess to stick around when things get tough or a lack of intellectual curiosity. But for those, for me, the college thing can’t succeed as more than a support for an argument made primarily with other evidence.

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      • Were Truman or Lincoln worse presidents because they didn’t have this “rigorous course of study?”

        Lincoln studied law, passed the bar, and simultaneously served as a congressman.
        Truman we’ve already discussed.

        Tell me again how Walker’s resume remotely compares? He sounds like one of those “career politicians” with zero real-world work experience that Republicans usually deride. Oh and he’s so mismanaged his state that they’re now defaulting on their debts to pay for his tax cuts so any claims that he’s fiscally responsible or economically smart will fall on deaf ears.

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      • I don’t think shrugging it off is ridiculous

        Not to be annoyingly repetitive about this, but my position doesn’t require me to disagree. You can totally acknowledge it as preparation of some kind and still shrug it off as an important quantum or kind of preparation that you value; you can just say that other kinds of preparation massively swamp it for you.

        All I’m saying is ridiculous is to deny that a degree in an area related to national or international policy is any kind of preparation at all.

        I did initially say that it’s ridiculous not to think that it’s “significant preparation.” I can come off of that. To me, what’s significant is if there is no evidence of interest in a major aspect of the job until such time as a person actually realizes they could have a shot at the White House. In that sense, to me it is significant for that interest to be established through a course of study. More broadly, I think it’s a significant quantum of preparation for the presidency to complete a degree in a topic related to it. It seems to me that it’s ridiculous to think that we’d want someone to wake office not having been exposed to a good amount of that material; ipso facto it’s ridiculous not to think that being exposed to it in college isn’t significant preparation, so long as the exposure was rigorous and in depth enough. I don’t really understand not thinking that denying that is ridiculous. But all I’m really committed to is that it’s ridiculous to deny that it’s any kind of preparation at all to take a rigorous course of study in relevant topics.

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      • but in the context of a presidential election, the pool of candidates is so small and made up of such abnormal, exceptional people that other things will never be equal. Beyond that, it’s quite hard to measure the difference between a credential that gives a real additional skillset and an empty credential at this level, whereas there will be lots of available information about how good a given candidate is at all sorts of other skillsets relevant to Presidenting. So there’s obvious some non-zero value here, but it’s hard to imagine a situation where this criteria should actually make the difference between two candidates.

        I agree with this, and I need to emphasize that all of this is circumscribed within the “experience/qualifications” part of deciding how to vote, which is a relatively small part. In my view it’s perfectly appropriate that we mostly vote on policy not qualification. Though that’s in part because the parties have in general done a good job of winnowing candidates based on qualification before we have been asked to make the final choice, which is why candidates like Palin or Walker to me raise alarm bells.

        I will say that you are right that you can’t tell much from the simple fact of a degree. That’s why I put stock in other indicators of what that degree was all about. A senior thesis ona topic related to foreign affairs; a degree with high honors from the top foreign service school in the country and a Rhodes Scholarship: these things indicate that the degree was not an empty credential. So I guess when those are not there, I don’t just take a mere degree as sufficient evidence, but I do take things like that as evidence of interest in the issue areas I am concerned that presidential candidates be interested in.

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      • Insofar as being a Governor requires some amount of Executive skills, is it relevant to ask if about his skillset there? Working with the State Legislative Branch, cajoling the Judiciary, talking to the press, meeting with other State Governors, going to Canada and getting pictures of eating poutine, that sort of thing?

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      • Lincoln studied law, passed the bar, and simultaneously served as a congressman.
        Truman we’ve already discussed.

        Yes, we have already discussed Truman. You made an unsourced passive voice claim about OCS that corrected. And the fact that Lincoln passed the bar doesn’t negate that he had almost no formal schooling and learned the law by studying on his own. The whole point of this thread is that not having the degree is not a clear signal that the person is intellectually curious and competent enough to perform the duties of office.

        As for all the other stuff about Walker, it’s completely irrelevant to this thread. I could care less about Walker and there is almost no chance that I would ever cast a vote for him, but the reasons have absolutely nothing to do with him not having a degree.

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      • The whole point of this thread is that not having the degree is not a clear signal that the person is intellectually curious and competent enough to perform the duties of office.

        No, the whole point of the thread is that not having the credential of substantive learning might indicate that the person is not intellectually curious and competent enough to perform the duties of the office of president.

        Passing the bar is a credential of the ability to learn complex subject matter related to the work of the presidency, and of interest in learning it. Repeatedly getting elected to local or even state office is just proof that you can please an electorate enough for them not to reject you in a political environment where the single greatest advantage any candidate can ever hold is incumbency. And that you may be able to choose electorates in such a way as to make election easier for yourself. And that you may have had some good fortune along the way, as Scott Walker most assuredly did in 2010. And that it helps to have gained support from big-money political donors from outside the state when, after having angered your state through early, impetuous, and highly divisive acts in office, you manage to get the state to activate the recall law against a governor for the first time is X years. That’s not actually record of successfully executing the duets of governor, but I digress.

        There is no way to compare Scott Walker’s record – credentials – of intellectual accomplishment and curiosity with Abraham Lincoln’s they are night and day. And that’s using conventional credentials of intellectual accomplishment, of which bar passage is certainly one. Lincoln did not attain a degree, but his study of the law, passage of the bar, and outstanding work as an attorney on the Illinois judicial circuit are credentials of intellectual (and professional) accomplishment that Scott Walker simply doesn’t have.

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      • No, the whole point of the thread is that not having the credential of substantive learning might indicate that the person is not intellectually curious and competent enough to perform the duties of the office of president.

        Sure, it might mean that. And seeing that someone is 6’5 might mean that they are very good at basketball, but it might also mean that they are just tall and are actually rather unathletic.

        There are two problems with your argument. One is that it is a might masquerading as an is. Like above, you speculate that had Truman had a degree, he might have made a different decision on dropping the bomb. It’s certainly an interesting supposition, but it’s just that: a supposition. Frankly, I find it unconvincing that had Truman taken Introduction to Ethics or some freshman survey course on East Asian history, it would have magically transformed him into a greater humanitarian. FDR was the editor-in-chief of the Harvard Crimson and active in politics before earning his degree and that guy oversaw more civilian deaths throughout the war than resulted from bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

        Maybe I’m wrong, but we don’t know, because, again, this is a supposition.

        There is no way to compare Scott Walker’s record – credentials – of intellectual accomplishment and curiosity with Abraham Lincoln’s they are night and day. And that’s using conventional credentials of intellectual accomplishment, of which bar passage is certainly one. Lincoln did not attain a degree, but his study of the law, passage of the bar, and outstanding work as an attorney on the Illinois judicial circuit are credentials of intellectual (and professional) accomplishment that Scott Walker simply doesn’t have.

        The second problem is that you are trying to pass off your subjective judgments of what does and does not qualify someone as some set of rigorous standards. There is nothing wrong with your preferences. You are entitled to them. But you’ve offered no proof that your preferences equate to any robust conception of objective reality.

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      • How is it a might masquerading as an is, when it’s a might? It’s a might. That’s what I’m saying; that’s what I’m saying is the point of the thread. All credentials are indications of a might, not a sure thing. That’s how credentials work.

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      • …And, as I’ve already said on the thread, preparation is itself about a might, at least when the body of potential scenarios being prepared for is large enough, which the presidency certainly is. Preparation is about increasing the chances that you’ll be better- rather than worse-able to handle the problems you confront. The specific preparation you do might not in the end do much to make you better able to handle any problem. But if it legitimately might have, then by virtue of that possibility, so long as it was a real possibility, then it was preparation. And the better the chance that it might have aided you, the better preparation it was.

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  8. The anti-intellecualism thing doesn’t wash, since he was hoity-toity enough to enroll in one of the state’s most prestigious private colleges and attend for three-plus years (and mostly focus on campus politics).

    It obviously wasn’t much of an issue in getting elected governor. But I actually do think that college attendance is pretty important for being president these days, and not just college attendance, but a demonstrated interest in the subject matter of the job, especially in national and international policy questions. In that vein, I actually regard the current holder of the office as being as qualified as this candidate, having written a thesis in college on nuclear nonproliferation, been elected to state-wide national office (i.e. Senator) and engaged in national policy making, as well as being engaged in state policymaking about as long as Walker has been. (It probably doesn’t help that Walker in my eyes has essentially negated the experiential value of his time in office by the way he’s conducted himself, but I stand by that assessment even giving him credit for his one term).

    I admit it doesn’t seem like a full term that he’s been governor to me, and it now looks like he’s been using the state government of Wisconsin as essentially an advertising agency to try to position himself well for the Republican nomination next year all along. In other words, looking on to the next thing rather than focusing on doing this thing well. He’s admitted in a Wisconsin sports radio interview to that being his problem in his early forays into campus politics, and though he claimed in that interview to have learned the lesson not to do that, his career suggest otherwise to me. It looks to me like that’s how he treated his time at Marquette, and that that’s how he’s conceptualized his time as governor. I can’t really judge whether his time as a legislator and the Milwaukee County executive are similar.

    So that’s how I view the fact that he enrolled in and attended Marquette for three years but didn’t complete the degree. It fits with a self-described pattern of always having his eye on the next thing. What I would want to ask him would be, if it was worth it to him to enroll in an expensive private college and attend for three years, why wasn’t it worth it to him to complete his degree? Is that how he believes other students in Wisconsin should approach their studies at the state’s colleges? And, despite not earning his degree, what did he learn at Marquette that h believes will help him confront especially the international challenges of being president in the 21st century? Are we to believe that he had time to immerse himself in study of international affairs while running local and state governments in Wisconsin? Or did his substantive preparation for those aspects of the job effectively start roughly when it became apparent that his status in the party was such that winning the nomination is a realistic possibility?

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    • “I admit it doesn’t seem like a full term that he’s been governor to me, and it now looks like he’s been using the state government of Wisconsin as essentially an advertising agency to try to position himself well for the Republican nomination next year all along.”

      Totes unlike what Barack Obama did in his Senate career, of course. Or what Hillary Clinton did with hers.

      Say what you will about Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich, they kept the main thing the main thing, and only ran for Prez later.

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      • You can’t do as much damage to a specific body of people (or any body of people) by hanging out in the Senate for a few years as by taking over the state government of one particular state and making major structural changes to it that are designed to raise your national profile and appeal to ideologues in your party.

        That’s why I’d prefer that political climbers seeking state office try to get elected Senator. You can’t screw over your state on the way to running for president, and you might learn something about national government and international affairs while you’re there.

        I would certainly apply this critique to Bill Clinton, however. Although Bill Clinton was elected, served his term, lost re-election, ran again, and then served more than eight more years before running for president. And he didn’t engage in the most divisive blitzkrieg of ideological reforms designed to raise his national proflile in a short period of time that his state had seen in a hundred years during his first term in office. So, now that I think about it, maybe not.

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      • You can’t do as much damage to a specific body of people (or any body of people) by hanging out in the Senate for a few years…

        I understand why you would say that, but in these days there are times when it’s not true. Suppose Ted Kennedy had died six months earlier, and Sen. Scott Brown arrived in July 2009 rather than January 2010 — the PPACA fails to break the Republican filibuster in the Senate. Sometime this year the Senate will introduce a bill to force Yucca Mountain to open — one person, just hanging out, may be the difference in overriding a veto or not, or attaching the provision to something momentous enough that the President doesn’t veto it (regardless of whether anyone else thinks it’s a good idea, the people of Nevada oppose it by a 2:1 margin).

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  9. I actually think Walker is a great test-case for the notion of governorships and other government executive experience or corporate executive experience (though I suppose he not so much a test-case for that, and I actually might hold that experience in higher regard at this point given what we’ve seen recently – I certainly would prefer Mitt Romney to Scott Walker) as sort of the first-best kind of experience that qualifies someone to be president.

    If that metric produces a Scott Walker as a more qualified candidate for the presidency in 2016 than Barack Obama in 2008, then you can just have that metric. I’ll look to other things, even if I don’t know what they are right now.

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    • I don’t put as much weight on governorships as do some people. Governor vs Senator depends on various factors, including the size of the state and the duration of the tenure. A senator of 10-12 years probably trumps a governor of a mid-size state for 4-6, but not 2-4 years. Cabinet secretary trumps governor (year for year), except for a handful of states. Senator trumps Representative, but I’d consider Paul Ryan more resume-qualified than a lot of senators.
      Experience isn’t the only thing to consider, of course. There’s ideology. Above a certain threshold, I don’t think quantity of experience really matters that much unless you are just tremendously experienced (someone who has served as a governor, senator, and secretary would have my attention).

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      • Clearing the level of experience points I give freshman senators is not difficult. I might even give it to a rep of over ten years who lacked chairmanships or a leadership position… except insofar as I would wonder if there is a reason that they haven’t. Also, not all chairmanships are created equal. Budget Committee is a pretty good one, Rules or Natural Resource would count for less.

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      • It just seems like you’re kind of trolling given the subject of the OP and who you’re talking to to pull Paul Ryan out of hat like that, is all, Will. There are a ton of experienced members of the House.

        I don’t actually have a strong preference for Senate over House at all. If a full-term senator and three-term Congressman were running, I’d look at them roughly equally. Also, a certain amount of congressional experience is good enough for me. Check the box, and I’m moving on to your positions and how competent you seem. That’s the sense in which a really accomplished tenure as a governor stands out to me – you can really show results in that office. But you have to do it. Straight up just on numbers, I’ll take a short time as a Senator or even a House member over a short time as a governor ni which you didn’t do much or did bad things.

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      • Well, with 20 major committees, its more like 5% of the House. But sure, that 5% could be assumed to be better qualified than any given newly minted Senator – if one is just using shorthand hierarchy as Will is doing above.

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      • The chairmanships are doled out on a party basis. And there have been two party changeovers in the last ten years. So a significant number of members with 10+ years experience will have literally been chairmen of important committees in the past. Then there are current ranking members on the committees (significant overlap with the past chairmen, but not total), who in my view should be seen as gaining equivalent leadership experience in Congress to chairmen. It’s only party control that determines that they are ranking members and not chairmen, not the merit of their service. And ranking members are significantly involved in the running of the committees.

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      • Not trolling. I mention Paul Ryan because he is the only congressman for whom a relevant run for presidency has been seriously discussed in recent memory other than Newt Gingrich. That’s it.

        The “did bad things” points to one of two things, neither of which I am thinking of when I talk about resume-qualified. If “did bad things” is a reference to promoting policies that you disagree with, that’s a very sound basis to decide who to vote for but is also ideologically subjective. If “did bad things” is a reference to misconduct, the resume-qualification is beside the point because I care a lot more about misconduct than I do a thin resume.

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      • I think that being a member of the Senate or the House stacks up similarly, but running for the Senate successfulyl says much more about a candidate than running for the House does, particularly in a medium-to-big state.

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      • Would it be interesting to look at numbers for the whole Governor/Congressman/Senator thing?

        Obama-Senator
        Dubya-Governor
        Clinton-Governor
        Bush-Vice President
        Reagan-Governor
        Carter-Governor
        Nixon-Congressman/Senator/Vice-President
        LBJ-Congressman/Senator/Vice-President
        JFK-Congressman/Senator
        Eisenhower-General
        Truman-Senator/Vice-President
        FDR-Senate/Governor
        Hoover-Cabinet Position
        Coolidge-Governor/Vice-President
        Harding-Senator/Lt. Governor

        I don’t know when to stop but there is a point at which we move from “relevant data” to “trivia” and I think we hit it a handful of names up…

        Would it be more interesting to compare who they defeated? We could see if there’s a Rock/Paper/Scissors thing going on?

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      • @jaybird

        I think both of your comments indicate that there is an extent to which these discussions of preparation have their roots in horse-race discussions of what kind of experience has in fact aided men in their quest to become president. Indeed, getting elected statewide in a large or medium-large state that is generally fairly closely contested by both parties does, I think, tend to indicate stronger political stock.

        OTOH, in my view the candidate with in my view the best qualifications to be president in the last fifty years or so only got elected on the basis of being vice-president of a popular president, and then failed to win re-election. He was never elected to statewide office. He never ran a local, state, or federal government as an executive before being president. He was, however, a WWII veteran, a college graduate, a congressman, a foreign ambassador, and CIA Director before being vice president.

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      • I think that’s right, and I meant to mention something to that effect. The feedback loop for House elections is kind of broken in comparison to the senate, and that matters. First-term senators have not yet had any feedback elections, but being a senator elected and re-elected says something more positive than getting re-elected repeatedly to the House. Contingent on state size and competitiveness.

        The election aspect is only a small part of the experience-bonus from having served in congress, though.

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      • I do think that the qualifications issue is best thought of in terms of a minimum threshold that a candidate needs to clear, not an issue where the more experienced candidate, other things being equal, is the better one. POTUS is so distinct from almost any other imaginable job that the correlation between experience and effectiveness in the office is very small, or perhaps zero or negative.

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    • IMO, the corporate boardroom is a severely limited training grounds for politics. Political government is deliberately designed with check and balances, to force deliberation and compromise between opposing points of view. Corporate governance, particularly at a high level, is structured with rules that the incumbents can effectively change at will to minimize the degree to which they must subject their decisions to forces outside of the hierarchy.

      Now, with that said, there is still ample room for corporate actors to build skills at forming consensus, gathering and integrating different points of view, persuasion, skill set and personality compatibility identification, and team building. These are important skills that political actors must have, too. But learning how to exercise them in a strictly hierarchical setting as opposed to dealing with autonomous, differently-motivated actors, requires directing those skills in a different direction.

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      • I am inclined to agree. I’d have a lot of difficulty voting for a businessperson without actual government experience. I am typically not thrilled about voting for a businessperson for governor without experience, but I wouldn’t have to hold my nose.

        I would consider business experience relevant as a compliment to government service, though.

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      • Corporate governance, particularly at a high level, is structured with rules that the incumbents can effectively change at will to minimize the degree to which they must subject their decisions to forces outside of the hierarchy.

        You mean like gerrymandering districts so that the incumbents pick their voters instead of the other way around, which distorts the relative representative makeup of the elected bodies? Sometimes I think the worst mistake the US Founding Fathers made was having voting districts instead of having parliamentary representation.

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      • This is why, “I’m a great CEO, and I’ll run the government like a CEO,” makes me shudder. The President is not the CEO of the government. He doesn’t just get to tell everybody what to do and fire anybody he doesn’t like. He’s more like a senior manager in a company with a lot of interdepartmental sabotage, structural dysfunction, and employees with a strong union.

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      • It’s also worth keeping in mind that a business owner or operator is more likely to have an understanding of how government policies are actually implemented, as opposed to a career political worker who’s never actually been affected by the decisions they make.

        But that’s rather more a selling point for Republicans than it is for Democrats, I’d think.

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      • I know there is and always has been a desire to see ordinary citizens as superior to professional courtiers and politicians.
        Except its mostly self-aggrandizing mythology. It rests on the idea that somehow the problems of governance are simple and easy (like that scene in the movie Dave where he solved the budget dilemma in 5 minutes flat).

        But of course it isn’t- saying that someone who is not well versed in government or law can solve things by dint of common sense is about like me saying because I have no financial degree, no background or experience in financial banking or business management, and heck, can’t even balance a checkbook, so I am therefore the perfect candidate to become the CEO of Citibank.
        Having said that- as much as I dislike Walker, I don’t know that the lack of a college credential is a strike against him. We have a lot to hit him with than that.

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  10. This is a hard one for me to think through for a couple reasons.

    1. I would never vote for Walker anyway, so my instinct that this is a disqualifier is hard to separate from the myriad policy positions he has that are also disqualifiers.

    2. I have that education, and have benefitted both from getting and having it, so it is hard to know whether this is just my bias.

    But, in the end, a college degree is part of a spectrum from HS to Grad school that shows a person has spent effort learning. The specific things they learned may not end up being relevant (I get very little mileage from my knowledge about medieval popes, for example), but by doing that learning you learn how to learn. And if there is any job on earth that requires a person to know how to learn, it’s POTUS. So I do think education level matters (though more in the sense of who I would support in a primary than who I would support in the general if the parties stay as far apart as they currently are).

    To those saying this is snobbery, I would ask whether their opinion changes if he had taken a job before graduating from high school instead of from college. I would also ask whether his lack of success as a student (independent of his failure to graduate) bothers them.

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    • “But, in the end, a college degree is part of a spectrum from HS to Grad school that shows a person has spent effort learning. The specific things they learned may not end up being relevant (I get very little mileage from my knowledge about medieval popes, for example), but by doing that learning you learn how to learn.”

      But doesn’t this assume that this is the only spectrum for learning? Aren’t there other avenues folks can take to not only learn, but to learn how to learn? Schooling is certainly the most common one and some might argue the most effective one, but it is hardly the only one.

      In fact, some argue it is one of the worst ways to learn how to learn: http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity?language=en

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  11. Great piece, . My instinct is to agree, to point out that of all of the kinds of tests and refinements of a skill set available to become President of the USA, the office of Governor of a state is about as close to the sort of training as can really exist.

    Wisconsin, like every state, has its own peculiarities but they include a relatively complex state governmental bureaucracy, a significant disparity between its urban and rural areas which are also closely balanced in terms of political strength, and a multi-campus university system of high political prominence and only subject to indirect gubernatorial control (analogous in many ways to the military).

    Now, with that said, Okeem does have something of a point — a baccalaureate degree is considered to be the entry-level qualification for most positions of any degree of professionalism. In practice, it doesn’t always work out that way, but especially in this era of online job applications, an incomplete college degree will usually shut down the HR bot right away no matter how qualified you actually are for the position and no human being will ever get to evaluate you. The idea that the President wouldn’t be able to get a job as, say, an intelligence analyst at the CIA or a statistician at the Department of Labor seems … odd.

    But I guess on balance, I think it’s good that voters aren’t HR bots.

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    • What about… substantive engagement with the issue of how the United States conducts its affairs in the international arena?

      There are lots of ways to learn about how the federal government governs the country. There are fewer ways to lean how it relates to the world. There are a variety of jobs that can give a person that experience, but governor of a state isn’t really one of them, for the most part. Absent experience in that arena, to me the most important qualification for the presidency is a demonstrated interest in those issues, whether from postsecondary or graduate studies, or some evidence of private study.

      It doesn’t seem to me that experience running a state government necessarily gives a person particularly great famialirity with running the federal government. Frankly I’d rather have a Senator or even a House member with the same number of yeas in office as a governor, though it’s not a strong preference. At least they have experience in the way the federal government works. (Obviously, being a governor is good experience for a presidential candidate to have, I agree with that much. But if we have to choose…) Ideally, a person would have local, federal, and international policy experience, or substantive knowledge.

      From my perspective, between two people I was choosing to be president all else roughly equal, to me I would want to choose the person with the least ignorance of international affairs before the person who had been a governor. You can leave lawmaking to lawmakers and rely on the established law enforcement bureaucracy to enforce the law while you learn those parts of the job in my view with less risk to the country than you can leave foreign relations and national security to their own devices while you get up to speed on them.

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      • A substantial amount of expertise and policy formulation can be delegated.

        Presidents are entitled to rely upon subject matter experts, protocol officers, and subordinate political actors (like the Secretary of State and professional diplomats) to put together a reasonable foreign policy. It may not be massively important that the President be able to rattle off trivia like correctly stating the capital of Kazakhstan on demand or identifying the Prime Minister of the Maldives by facial recognition alone.

        So if a President, or a Presidential candidate, can articulate a description of foreign policy in broad terms and the various dimensions of that policy are cohesive when examined as a whole, then that’s good enough for me. I’m okay with the President leaving not just the nuts and bolts but a lot of the structural elements to subject matter experts. That’s particularly true since I think that the economic and strategic forces that guide foreign policy are, with only a few exceptions, going to lead to substantially similar policies being enacted no matter what the personal preferences of the decision-makers are. In other words, it seems to me that Presidents don’t really have so much power or opportunity to meaningfully change the way the ship of state sails down the river of geopolitical history. (Again, there are exceptions: START and the Second Gulf War are among them, but they are aberrations rather than business as usual.)

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      • It may not be massively important that the President be able to rattle off trivia like correctly stating the capital of Kazakhstan on demand or identifying the Prime Minister of the Maldives by facial recognition alone.

        That’s a complete straw man to my argument.

        I guess even if there aren’t going to be major changes in direction in foreign policy, it’s still very important to me that the president be steeped in it. It’s the one part of the job that a path of city council -> state -> legislator -> governor doesn’t prepare you for at all, and it’s th one part where there aren’t two whole other branches of govrenment devoted to making policy. You may have delegates, but it’s ultimately primarily you making policy. I also think you underestimate the extent to which the president sets the direction in foreign policy, and the extent to which it changes over time.

        I don’t understand what it is about gubernatorial experience would trump ignorance of that whole area of policy that senatorial experience wouldn’t.

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      • Couldn’t disagree more that the white house can’t determine foreign policy. Take, for example, ISIS. Obama has charted a middle course of some bombing but no engagment. A different president could absolutely respond with considerably more or less force. Similarly, Obama wound down the two wars he inherited, despite spirited opposition from others who would have acted differently. I would say that “the way the ship of state sails down the river of geopolitical history” is the thing over which the president has the MOST influence.

        And, of course, you are right that he is entitled to rely on subject matter experts. He also need not know the facts on the ground in Moldova today. He does, however, need to be able to assess the relative merits of his various experts when they disagree and be able to quickly assimilate the facts on the ground in Moldova should some event make them relevant to the United States’ interests. Otherwise we might as well not bother electing a president at all.

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      • and I think you’re not looking at the foreign policy issues with the same longevity of perspective that I am. In the short run, all sorts of different shots can get called. We can bomb ISIS now, or later, or not at all. We can send boots on the ground now, or later, or in minimal numbers now and bigger numbers later, or not at all.

        Ten years from now, the decision we make in the next six months won’t matter all that much because we’ll have engaged in protracted, desultory mid-level ground and intense aerial warfare which ultimately will succeed or fail based not on how many people die but rather on the ability of ISIS to coalesce into a stable, if brutal, polity. That depends on factors beyond our ability to control: Will ISIS have a political line of succession to this al-Baghdadi creep, sufficient to keep control of the military, should al-Baghdadi die? (We’ve no evidence of this one way or another.) Will the Republic of Iraq’s military, the Assad government in Syria, or that of a breakaway Kurdish neo-state, be able to effectively contest ISIS for geographic control? (So far, we’ve no evidence at all that this will be the case.) And, will ISIS be able to continue generating large-scale revenue through petroleum sales whether licit or illicit? (This, in my mind, is the decisive question, because that’s what’s feeding the ISIS military.)

        Getting back to the point of Presidents: what decisions will President Barack Obama reasonably make substantially affecting these issues, which a hypothetical President Mitt Romney (or a hypothetical President John McCain, to retcon it that much harder) would not have made? I submit that the difference between the realistic differences in policy decisions that the hypothetical Republican President would have made, insofar as they tangible affect the critical issues upon which the defeat or survival of ISIS turn, will be so insubstantial as to be negligible.

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      • You’re not making the case for what having been a governor gets me in exchange for electing someone completely ignorant of international politics.

        And from my perspective you’re not making much of a case at all that I shouldn’t care about knowledge of international affairs. Things might be roughly how they would have been under a Republican or a Democrat in ten years – or they might not. Also, both the Republican and the Democrat might have had some significant long-term interest in foreign affairs, as I think both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney did. What would be new, in my view, would be electing with no demonstrated knowledge in that area (new, I guess, other than GW Bush, though I guess I gave him some credit for at least some exposure to it given his family’s history).

        And again, I don’t understand what makes foreign policy different in this respect from domestic policy. I think the president makes important decisions in both, but it’s just as possible that things stay on roughly the same track if a Republican with more domestic experience in state government were elected, or if less were. So much of domestic policy depends on what politics dictates in Congress.

        What are you saying is at stake domestically that hinges on experience as a governor that so dwarfs what hinges on at least familiarity with the issues in foreign policy? From my perspective, a president without the right kind of knowledge of the world can do a lot more short-term damage to the nation’s international interests than a president who has not been a governor can do short-term to the country domestically.

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      • I disagree pretty vehemently with this view of foreign policy. You concede, for example, that Obama could put lots of boots on the ground, a few boots on the ground, or no boots on the ground to fight ISIS. I don’t see any world in which that decision has no long term implications (if we don’t fight them, it seems like they are likely either to (1) establish a new state; (2) be defeated by local states; or (3) remain a long-term source of instability by continuously gaining and losing territory in the region — if we do, we likely win the tactical battle but kill a lot more people in the region and lose a meaningful number of our soldiers. we also likely wind up with a continuing presence in the region). We certainly have some indication that the Kurds can defend their own territory, and if they ultimately succeed without our help their path to statehood is a lot clearer than it would be if we commit lots of troops. I don’t think there is any reason to doubt that if we decided the ISIS “caliphate” needed to stop existing, we could make that happen, though at likely unacceptable cost in blood/treasure. These aren’t small decisions, and they don’t just wash out a few years down the road.

        And it isn’t just in the middle east. The Russia/Ukraine thing could have gone about a million different ways (half the country was giving Putin blowies for being so “tough” when Obama decided to rely on serious sanctions, and there were plenty of decisions that others would have made differently). Engaging Russia (or ethnically Russian Ukrainians) directly would have created a dramatically different Eastern Europe than we currently see. It isn’t at all hard to imagine a world where the Ukrainian government fell and was replaced by a russian puppet.

        This stuff is hard, it is important, and it often comes down to decisions that the President must make in the face of conflicting advice. I’m not sure how you come away so convinced that it doesn’t matter who the president is. You named two major recent examples (START and Gulf II) but dismissed them as exceptions, I’ve named two more decisions Obama made that the entire GOP said should be handled dramatically differently. Hell, I suspect President Gore would have had more success in Afghanistan as well since there’s a 0% chance he invades Iraq to distract himself from the real problem.

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      • “What about… substantive engagement with the issue of how the United States conducts its affairs in the international arena?”

        Yes, now that the Clinton running for president is the one who’s the experienced foreign policy hand and not the one who’s only been a governor, let’s make this argument.

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      • If you look through Bill Clinton’s academic record I suspect you will find significant engagement with the substance of the conduct of U.S. foreign policy and in the topic of international relations and world affairs more generally. He attended the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. I think you will find he maintained a keen interest and maintained his knowledge base of international affairs throughout his adult life.

        That is, after all, the impetus for this discussion: what Walker’s lack of a degree might mean about his preparation, given that he has conventional professional qualifications that certainly do line up with what, for example, a Bill Clinton had when he ran.

        What does Walker seem to me to lack? Possibly a demonstrated interest in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy and in the topic of international relations and world affairs more generally. His lack of commitment to finishing college and subsequent lack of interest in pursuing such interest (that I am aware of; again, I’m open to hearing about how interested in them he has always been) suggest that to me.

        That is the kind of thing that having a college degree signals to me, and to me it’s significant for how I consider your preparation for the presidency – whether you have shown intellectual engagement with the substance of the responsibilities of the office over your life, and at least (but also especially) while you’re choosing what to study in school. To me, a record of interest in it through college is a significant indicator of that, because in practice it can be difficult to gain professional experience in that field. A record of interest in it is important to me, especially since it’s just a fact of politics that the people we elect to be president will tend to be people who have proved their commitment to bettering hte lives of Americans, which mostly involves focusing on domestic policy. But you can do that while developing a sound knowledge base of international affairs, or you can… not. The difference in how I view you as a presidential candidate whether you did or didn’t is significant.

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      • That’s not how Clinton himself sold it in 1992. The Cold War’s Over, We Won (Yay!), and now It’s the Economy, Stupid. Meanwhile, for the guy that was in the bridge, at the helm, on on the conn (and at the beginning, at the pointing end of the spear) for nearly every foreign policy decision made in his lifetime, that didn’t count for nothing (except for, of course, Iran-Contra, then it mattered a great deal)

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      • Why does it matter what he ran on? We’re discussion whether various candidates have sufficient demonstrated interest, knowledge, and ideally, experience in international affairs for me (but you can weigh in too) to deem them prepared for he presidency.

        As I’ve said in the thread, presidents run on what will get them elected. Which is primarily domestic issues. So in practice, people who get themselves elected president on their own merit will likely primarily focus on domestic issues throughout their career. Bush didn’t attend to that enough of in his life for his foreign policy experience to carry him through when the national concern tuned to the domestic economy in a big way.

        But that doesn’t speak to what I might want to see in a candidate to deem him qualified. Given that most candidates will be mostly focused on domestic issues, this leaves the question of whether they independently cultivate a serious interest in international affairs. It’s hard to tell exactly for what happens while politicians pursue careers as local or state politicians, but my impression is that Clinton was always interested in the topic. But regardless, a distinguished degree from the Georgetown Walsh School and a Rhodes scholarship to me indicates a serious interest as a young man. That’s important evidence of not failing to attend to the topic. Likewise Obama’s senior thesis at Columbia on nuclear nonproliferation.

        Dropping out of Marquette doesn’t establish an interest in the topic. And if he’s just getting going on it now with a few trips abroad, in my view it’s simply too late for me to take those attempts seriously.

        You don’t have to be as experienced in the area as Poppy, but you need to have demonstrated a serious independent commitment to being informed on it. Just getting started when you realize you might have a viable presidential candidacy on your hands indicates the opposite.

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      • So, basically, people should be more like Nixon, and spend their entire lives grasping at the Presidency so they can implement their life long dream of having full command of the diplomacy and geopolitics of the reigning superpower.

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      • I don’t think this

        You don’t have to be as experienced in the area as Poppy, but you need to have demonstrated a serious independent commitment to being informed on it.

        says that. That is not what I was trying to say.

        If you think it does, then ratchet down your reading of the word, seriously. I think Clinton’s and Obama’s levels of interest are sufficient.

        OTOH, I have no problem with that part of Nixon’s biography; I think it’s admirable that he was so interested in those problems, even if I disagree with how he approached them. I which more foreign service officers would run for president, though I understand that if they did it might raise questions about the neutrality of the service. That’s part of why we’re left with independent preparation for that part of the job; we lie to think of our diplomatic class as reasonably politically neutral. So a reasonable degree of study and preparation is important in candidates. And I want to see it start before they realize they might have a shot at being president, so they can form their own view of the world before being brought into the clutches of whatever school of thinkers holds sway in each major party at a given time, as it seems happened to GWB.

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      • Ok, then are you going to have a problem when Martin O’Malley throws his hat in the ring? (though it may not get past ‘exploratory committee since the Clinton machine already has most of O’Malley’s potential fundraisers lined up, and O’Malley doesn’t have Obama’s skill or pedigree to poach them the way Obama did)

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      • I don’t have a problem with anyone just running. Not at all.

        This is about what amounts to a small part of the overall consideration in whom to support for president. I think I said above that O’Malley would be a good example of someone I might have a hard time with, though I could support him over someone nominally more qualified in FP who disqualifies himself through sheer craziness (like a Bolton).

        O’Malley has a BA and a JD. To me that means he potentially took learning seriously and engaged at least somewhat deeply with international affairs issues in those years, but it’s not at all clear he did. For me to consider him strongly, I would need to hear him talk about what his studies involved, and what he’s done in the meantime to build his knowledge of subject matter pertinent to the presidency – well before arriving at the time when a presidential beid becomes a reality and he realizes he needs to huddle with his party;s FP poobahs. Which is the same exact position I have wrt to Scott Walker, I’d note.

        Of course, what would be at stake in the case of an O’Malley nomination would likely be my possibly not voting in a presidential election for the first time since I was eligible, or potentially voting third-party. But still, my support would be at stake in how he talked about his preparation since it’s not clearly there on the page.

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      • I disagree pretty vehemently with this view of foreign policy. You concede, for example, that Obama could put lots of boots on the ground, a few boots on the ground, or no boots on the ground to fight ISIS. I don’t see any world in which that decision has no long term implications….

        ….The Russia/Ukraine thing could have gone about a million different ways….

        ….This stuff is hard, it is important, and it often comes down to decisions that the President must make in the face of conflicting advice. I’m not sure how you come away so convinced that it doesn’t matter who the president is…..

        ….Hell, I suspect President Gore would have had more success in Afghanistan as well since there’s a 0% chance he invades Iraq to distract himself from the real problem….

        I think I disagree, but not as vehemently as you disagree with Burt. Of course it does matter who the president is and especially with foreign policy because he or she has so much more discretion. And the examples you cite illustrate that.

        But even in the foreign policy arena, with as much discretion as the president has, he/she is usually bound by certain constraints. Whoever is president ca. 2014 when ISIS commenced to be a nuisance would have had to deal with the extant powers in the region and with the extant civil war in Syria and with domestic (US) opposition to or wariness about another ground war in Western Asia. A different decision from Obama’s would have had (probably) very different effect, but I suspect even a full bore Bush II would make a similar decision to Obamas given the same circumstances.

        Russia/Ukraine could’ve gone differently, but whoever US president was in the hot seat in would have been dealing with a large power that has hundreds of nuclear weapons and a gaggle of advisors brushing off their copies of “Guns of August” and Chamberlain’s “Peace in our time” speech. Some reckless president might have precipitated World War III, but all the incentives would have worked toward some sort of less extreme response. Maybe not the same response as Obama’s. Maybe better, maybe worse. But probably less extreme than the nightmare scenario.

        Gore probably would not have been foolish enough to attack Iraq because of 9/11. He might have been drawn into some non-9/11 related conflict with Iraq anyway. The US had been on a collision course with that country about one-minute after the first gulf war ended. (Not that the conflict would have necessarily been a full on, regime changing invasion, but some reckoning might have happened. Or might not. I can’t really know the hypotheticals.)

        tl;dr: When you say “I’m not sure how you come away so convinced that it doesn’t matter who the president is,” I think you’re (inadvertently and in good faith) misconstruing what he’s arguing. If I read him right, he’s acknowledging many of the complexities you’re pointing out and claiming that outside of some dramatic decisions a president can make, they have strong incentives to act within a certain range of possibilities and only the long passage of time can tell us how those actions collectively shook out.

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      • That’s a fair cop, , and I certainly don’t think is arguing from a bad place. For a long time, I resisted this notion as well. I wanted to but it makes a very big difference in a lot of arenas who the president is and what policy preferences the president pursues. Over time, I came around to the idea that the incentives impelling policy making lead to pursuit of twin goals (a manageable constant level of regional discord to prevent emergence of a strategic rival like the old Soviet Union was, and opening of markets to economic and cultural commerce to foster goodwill and foreclose incentives to aggression) and that those goals seem to transcend partisanship in the White House.

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      • @nevermoor

        I think this ignores the reality of a number of those supposedly outlier consequential decisions over the last few terms, particularly the invasion of Iraq and the bombing of Libya. I think it’s reaching on stilts to rest the Iraq argument on the possibility that Gore might have done it too. At the outside, it’s possible that every single president’s foreign policy will be absolutely identical to any of the other possibilities for that term… we never see the actual counterfactual, and all presidents’ foreign policies are increased within the world formed by the choices of his predecessors. But of course, foreign policies do differ, and those differences are dictated by presidents’ decisions. If there was one decision that shaped nearly all of the major challenges we are currently dealing with, it’s the decision to depose Saddam (and thus be responsile for what came thereafter), and that was undoubtedly the product on one man’s particular decision making processes (in particular his choices of favored advisors).

        Now, I’m not so much arguing that these decisions being made correctly ride greatly on the degree of familiarity with the issues tha the president brought into his run for the White House. But I do reject the notion that these things are broadly defined by extant forces, in particular in view of the effects of the Iraq invasion. So the decisions are consequential.

        And so my question is, are you really so comfortable with someone who just started learning about the issues involved when he realized he had a shot at the presidency making those decisions that you would choose him over someone with a longer commitment to being informed on those issues, just because the person you chose had a few years as a governor while the person with demonstrated long-term interest in learning about international affairs had only been, say, a state legislator and then a national legislator? Why?

        Burt still hasn’t said much about why gubernatorial experience – which from what I can see doesn’t teach a person much at all about either the workings of the U.S. federal government, which is what the president takes command of, nor about international affairs, U.S. involvement in which is the one unique area of responsibility of the president – is that valuable, beyond just asserting that it is.

        From my perspective, as I’ve said, after for a time buying into the “governoring is the best presenting experience” conventional wisdom, I now lean toward favoring an equal number of (or even fewer) years’ experience on a foreign-affairs-related congressional committee to a term or a two as a governor, unless those terms are particularly distinguished in a good way, and foreign affairs knowledge can be demonstrated in some other way.

        I haven’t seen the affirmative case for the surpassing value of governing made yet on this thread. It’s just been asserted.

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    • It makes sense to look at college degrees at entry-level positions (to a degree). But the further you are from entry-level, the less it should matter. In the private sector I think this is especially true. I’d look much closer at a candidate who racked up a really impressive resume if they didn’t go to college than one who did. The former navigated a more difficult path. (That being said, I wouldn’t apply that to elective office and don’t give Walker bonus points for not having a degree.)

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    • and a multi-campus university system of high political prominence and only subject to indirect gubernatorial control (analogous in many ways to the military)

      Sincere question: in what ways is it analogous to the military? The governor isn’t commander in chief of the U of Wisconsin system.

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      • No, that’s a significant difference.

        UW is really well-respected in Wisconsin. Many states are justifiably proud of their universities, but Wisconsin especially so. And like a lot of university systems, it’s governed by a board that is largely autonomous from the rest of the states government. In that sense, it produces its own crop of people who make the decisions about how it’s run, from within.

        Too much political monkeying around with that well respected system, causes a great deal of backlash. Walker touched a third rail in Wisconsin recently by proposing revisions to The Wisconsin Plan, the charter that sets forth the mission and objectives of the UW university system.

        I see the analogy to the military in the public perceives the university to be separate from the government, rather than a part of it, and the governor must exercise control over it only in subtle ways that can easily be perceived as supporting it.it’s easy to miss handle a proposed reform in the first place, but when an institution enjoys a great deal of public Goodwill, it’s even easier for even the most benign or well-intentioned reform to backfire. As with the president attempting to reform aspects of the military, very careful political handling is required.

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  12. “It is not elitism to suggest that the President of the United States should have the basic international educational requirement for an entry professional position today: a baccalaureate degree.”

    I had to chuckle at that. Basic international education requirement? From a BS or BA? Doubtful unless you’re getting a degree in international relations.

    And to CIS , Obama’s impressive resume means nothing. Then again, neither does Walker’s “less than impressive resume” mean anything. The requirements for being president are almost universally not related to “formal education”. It’s more like you need on the job training on “scratching each other’s back, political favoritism, working the system, sucking up for money, and the ability to lie ruthlessly to the people to get their vote. And I have no doubt that Walker has enough of that education as did Obama, and therefore would be perfectly qualified to be POTUS.

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    • I made the point about Obama’s resume because made snarky comments about how Walker is “almost certainly more qualified than the man who currently holds that office was when he was initially elected.” That is clearly not the case.

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    • I wholeheartedly agree, Damon. I think he’d be a bad President as he’s been a bad governor, but he absolutely has reasonable conventional qualifications for the job.

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  13. Weighing in with some Marquette background (I have no idea how applicable this is to Walker):
    As a private school with a reasonably good endowment, Marquette gives out a lot of merit-based financial aid. This aid has a strict 8 semester limit. If Walker needed another year of credits to finish, he might have been looking at a substantial financial hit, with any merit-based scholarships ending.

    I don’t like Walker’s performance as governor. I don’t count beating the recall as a “third victory” since there was a substantial push against the recall effort based on overturning elections. And it wasn’t part of the “Wisconsin nice” behavior that Walker doesn’t follow but is still a given for many.
    I hope Walker doesn’t get the GOP nomination. If he does, I hope he doesn’t win. I think what he’s done to Wisconsin has been destructive and divisive. But, he was elected and should be allowed to serve his term. And with his actions, hopefully, he will get turned out of office next time around.
    But, I don’t think dropping out of Marquette 20 years ago has anything to do with anything at this point.

    (I have a kid who just finished at Marquette and another that just started. I like a lot about the school, but there are problems there (as anywhere) and I wouldn’t fault someone who decided to cut his losses and get on with his life.)

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    • That piece of info about Marquette’s financial aid is interesting and pretty relevant.

      Sadly, without his college transcripts, we really can’t do the math and see how close he was to getting a degree or get any hints as to why he dropped out… but if he was given a choice between making $X/year right now or getting $X worth of debt and maybe being unable to get that particular job… well, I’d probably have done the same.

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  14. Can we please dispel the myth that not getting a rubber stamp at the end of your college experience is the same as not going to college?

    Walker didn’t drop out–he put in three and a half years and then left to start a job. Plenty of other successful people have done the same thing,

    Frankly, from a purely educational standpoint, finishing the first half of three degrees might actually be a better qualification for the presidency than finishing a single specialized degree–the president should be a generalist.

    I’d much rather talk about what Walker is doing to schools in the 21st century than what he did at school in the 20th.

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    • Graduation is at least a baseline indication of some degree of commitment to school. Dropping out leaves the door open to it being just about any degree of a train wreck… or not so much. We’re just not sure, and he hasn’t been very open about it. Nor is it particularly clear why the job he left school for was a better use of his time tha finishing college in terms of whether we should deem it something that should make us want him to be president more rather than less.

      But this is to an extent why I put some degree of significance on honors above and beyond graduation. Dean’s list, senior thesis, cum laude, post-graduate scholarships, etc. These are indications that the person took their studies seriously and didn’t do the bare minimum to graduate. But graduation is more of an indicate of that than failing to graduate.

      None of which is to say that you have to have even gone to college to be qualified. But you need to have gotten qualified some other way, then. And if you have the same other qualifications as someone else but you didn’t go to college (or, possibly worse, you went to college but dropped out with pretty bad grades), it seems to me you’re just kind of obviously not quite as qualified as the person who has the same other experience (same number of years as legislator, governor, whatever) but graduated, especially if they graduated some some degree of honors to show they were committed to learning.

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      • Has he effed up as Governor?

        I mean, it’s not like we’re looking at the guy and saying “he’s a tabula rosa!”

        Dubya excelled at the thing where he said something and everybody in the base stood up and roared with approval while everybody in the principled opposition started yelling about how awful it was to say such a thing. (See, for example, “Bring It On”. The Left couldn’t believe he’d say something so stupid and The Right whooped and hollered.)

        Will the examples we’re going to be looking at for Walker’s achievements be Dubya-esque?

        Is that why we’re focusing on the degree thing, which, to be sure, does *NOT* indicate anything specific but merely raises questions that are troubling to anyone who cares about social signaling?

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      • Of course he’s not a tabula rasa. But the whole question being explored in the OP sort of brackets all the non-rasa stuff and focuses on the question of “qualification” on its own, even though I think everyone acknowledges that it’s one of the smaller overall considerations in whether we, as individuals, would want to vote for him. As I’ve been saying, that we’re doing this sort of reflects how early in the process we are, and how much of a tabula rasa Walker is in perception at this time – even though he’s not one, consciousness of the rest of his record sort of remains at bay at the moment, allowing a discussion like this not to be swamped by more salient considerations.

        But in case it’s still not clear, let me reiterate that “Has he effed up as Governor?” is, at least in my view and I think broadly most people agree, over the full life of the campaign, a much more important question in all of this than, “What do the lines on his resume indicating ‘Position Held’ and ‘Dates,’ along with the ‘Education’ section, taken alone as if he were otherwise a tabula rasa, even though he’s not one, say about his qualifications for the presidency?” (Which I believe is the question being implied in the OP.)

        I don’t think Will means to suggest that the former question isn’t much more important; I think everyone agrees with that. But it’s still a question some of us, including I think Will and myself, try to consider to some extent when evaluating candidates. And it’s hard to separate it from performance in office and even ideological assessment of supposed “achievements” (which can also be understood as intentional eff-ups, depending), as opposed to just ‘which offices held for what dates.’

        It’s hard to do that, and I think we all agree it’s ultimately less important than the substantive assessments of performance in office, etc. that will inevitably come with force in time. But it’s very early, and so now is probably the easiest time to do it if it’s to be done at all. And Walker’s lack of a degree offers an scenario that’s fairly uncommon for presidential candidates, so a bit more interesting of a case than is usually available. So we’re indulging in a little bit of it now. But it’s on the implicit, which I’m trying to make explicit hoping I don’t have it wrong, understanding that it is, or will be, subordinate in importance to questions in the vein of “Has he effed up as Governor?” – for folks like me and Will eventually, even in addition to those who are saying it’s very much subordinate to such questions even now.

        Can I hope that I’ve cleared up a bit how the importance of these questions is conceived by those interested in considering them at this time?

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    • There are many great reasons not to vote for Walker, including that one.

      But dropping out after three plus years of poor performance isn’t something to brag about. And, of course, the Palin-issue regarding an inability to finish what you start absolutely applies.

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  15. I guess the difference in views on this rest on how much a person thinks executive policy requires deep thinking to get right. If you have a really simplistic conception of the principles that ought to prevail in policy disputes, then being a “smart guy” isn’t required and may in fact be a hindrance. If you believe that the world is a complicated place which requires the ability to discern subtle distinctions and reliably predict certain types of outcomes for any particular policy choice, then being a smart guy is sorta required. A degree isn’t necessary for the former (obvs) and certainly isn’t sufficient for the latter. But for folks who do think the “Leader of the Free World” ought to be able to think his way out of a paper bag, succeeding at academics or an intellectually rigorous job is pretty close to a per-requisite. Something to show that the candidate can actually think deeply. Ideally, at least.

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      • “At some point is the point where I observe that it’s really easy to sit around just declaring that everything everyone has achieved in life is actually shit, except for the few things it serves your present rhetorical concerns to allow are worth half a damn.”

        okaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyy

        i’d say “some of my best wives that i’m currently married to are in pbk” but that would be serving my present rhetorical concerns.

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      • I wouldn’t vote for Walker if he had a PhD in being president. There are, in fact, no circumstances whatsoever under which I’d vote for him.

        We’re talking about education here ’cause we’re bored and we have to talk about something for the next two years until we pull the levers we’ve known all along we’d pull.

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      • I kind of agree with this as well. We’re mostly talking about this because it’s something to talk about.

        OTOH, it is something to talk about. There was a pretty strong response once Will brought it up (which, if it was so ancillary, then…?).

        It is true that there are usually lots of reasons not to vote for everyone… but a lot of times we end up voting for someone anyway. It is an additional reason to all the others if they’re underprepared in some way, and it might stand out if all the other reasons not to vote for candidates pretty much cancel each other out. I mean, if everyone has affirmatively done a bunch of stuff to make me not like them, but one is also significantly underprepared on (for example) foreign policy, well, that’s enough for me to probably hold my nose and vote for one of the other unlikable people.

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      • Well, on a political level, educational attainment will be subservient to partisan loyalties, or policy preferences, or ideological priors, and so on. On an administrative level, tho, I think people will (and in fact do) split on whether or not some sort of either formal or informal-yet-demonstrably-expressable training in advanced intellectual thought is ideally necessary for the job or not. Lots of folks think executive decisions come from the gut. Maybe that’s true. But that strikes me as not a reliable indicator of consistently good (which almost certainly entails the concept of well-thought-out) decisions. So I don’t think education is irrelevant if viewed as a proxy for a person’s ability to think. And I think it’s very relevant if viewed as an sign of a person’s ability to think passably well. I also think it’s easily viewed as a liability if viewed as a form of indoctrination or an expression of elitism.

        So, again, I think folks view of education will depend on how simplistically they view the world and the level of nuance they think is relevant to effectively resolve policy disputes.

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      • Agreed with Stillwater.

        More generally, it should be understood that qualifications will broadly be subordinated to policy preference and a general projection of competence (ability to enact preferred policy) – above a certain qualification threshold, which will vary from person to person.

        But that doesn’t mean that qualification level, including education, even above the threshold is a complete non-factor for people, nor therefore of no interest. It’s just a subordinated concern for most.

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      • I’d definitely prefer smart, intellectually curious, well-read, well-educated, critically thinking politicians who can synthesize information, sometimes conflicting information, from multiple sources, and who surround themselves with experts whom they can understand. Unfortunately, I live in the United States.

        Hiyoh!

        Seriously though, I know too many idiot college grads to worry about a diploma. I will just have to hope that stupid shows itself, ala Rick Perry, or that advisors don’t let idiots do too much damage.

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      • Chris, what you wrote reminds me of Carlin.

        Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says they suck. Well, where do people think these politicians come from? They don’t fall out of the sky. They don’t pass through a membrane from another reality. They come from American parents and American families, American homes, American schools, American churches, American businesses and American universities, and they are elected by American citizens. This is the best we can do folks. This is what we have to offer. It’s what our system produces: Garbage in, garbage out. If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you’re going to get selfish, ignorant leaders.

        On the other hand, Saul’s ongoing series about the “Law School Crisis” is evidence that way too many people have not only degrees but advanced ones. So there’s that, I guess.

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      • …Also, I agree that idiocy will hopefully show. And foreign policy knowledge and its absence will hopefully show as well. Ultimately, I’ll cede to whatever ultimately shows these things best over academic records as a primary indicator. To some extent the nature of this is an indication of how early in the process we are to be having a conversation like this about someone like Walker. But we’re having it now in a featured place on the website (which I’ve expressed some opinions about), so to some extent I’m willing to go off of what I can see right now. And right now that’s a lack of reason to believe Scott Walker used his time at Marquette to develop much knowledge of the world that would prepare him for the presidency. Though perhaps his economics and political science coursework did do that. It’s hard to know without him telling us, but dropping out before graduation is a strike against him in terms of my giving him the benefit of the doubt that it happened there. I hope he tells us, but my sense is he will prefer to use any questions about it as an opportunity to play the elitism card.

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      • “This is what we have to offer. It’s what our system produces: Garbage in, garbage out. If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you’re going to get selfish, ignorant leaders.”

        I disagree. I’m not saying that our educational system doesn’t produce people like this..I know far to many of them. But politicians combine that with a certain narcissistic power hungry need. It’s the combo that’s necessary. Where are all the good folks who would be great in office? They are off working, raising families, and are the type of people that are incapable of lying to a group of people just to get elected or aren’t corrupt enough to play hard core politics.

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      • “Well, as I say, I do think honors that accompany degrees are pretty significant for that reason.”

        i know too many people in pbk to think this actually matters outside of the very narrow area where it does matter.

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      • At some point is the point where I observe that it’s really easy to sit around just declaring that everything everyone has achieved in life is actually shit, except for the few things it serves your present rhetorical concerns to allow are worth half a damn.

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      • Look, all I’m really looking for is for a candidate to be able to talk convincingly about where it was the he developed familiarity with the subject matter that relates to the part of the job of president that don’t directly relate to his professional experience, for that not to be “when I started huddling with my party’s tutors when I realized I was a viable presidential candidate last year,” and for there to be some kind of record to check those claims of knowledge development against. Since we basically elect people who have devoted themselves to domestic politics president, that in practice means the foreign policy part of the job. And an academic record that shows real commitment to developing knowledge about foreign policy is one primary viable way to do that, IMO. Just a diploma isn’t much a of a proof of that; an honor society member ship goes a bit further in showing you at least engaged well enough to do well n your classes, whatever they were, but in those cases I still want to hear about what you studied, or when you developed FP knowledge. Better is a top-honors degree from a school devoted to training foreign service officers and other foreign-policy professionals, along with a Rhodes scholarship and study at Oxford, like Bill Clinton achivied, or the completion of a serious piece of undergraduate-level on a FP topic (graduate-level is even better, but undergrad-level is sufficient; we’re not looking to establish expertise here; familiarity is what’s important), like Barack Obama completed.

        That argument is not very complicated, and I’ve been quite clear about it all along. You all are really pretty much playing games relating to somewhat falsely come-by attitudes about credentialism that are fashionable right now. In fact, most of you have demonstrated in your lives considerable real-life commitment to the value of the kinds of credentials you now take satisfaction in talking down in others for whatever reason.

        I’m done with all of that.

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      • You all are really pretty much playing games relating to somewhat falsely come-by attitudes about credentialism that are fashionable right now. In fact, most of you have demonstrated in your lives considerable real-life commitment to the value of the kinds of credentials you now take satisfaction in talking down in others for whatever reason.

        I’m done with all of that.

        Huh. Okay, then.

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      • I didn’t have you particularly in mind there, Will.

        I think it’s sort of clearly true in some other cases, though. Don’t you?

        Some pretty nicely-educated folks around these parts. All of a sudden that’s all for shit. I don’t really take that evolution seriously. It seems like posing to me.

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      • I’m sure that for many of us, the whole “education” thing is more important to us the closer we are to it.

        People who graduated recently are probably very interested in the argument that a college degree is an exceptionally useful signaling tool.

        People who graduated less recently are probably under the impression that the important part of the resume is the last X years (where X is greater than 10 and probably greater than 20).

        Personally, insofar as I see Walker’s decision those many years ago as a mistake, it’s a mistake that cannot be rectified. It’s not like he can go back to school now and fix it. (I mean, seriously, if he finished his degree 3 years ago by going to night school, we could easily be having this same conversation and eliding over the degree to which classes in (insert class name here) would really be helpful for a danged governor at this point in his career.)

        And while there are a handful of mistakes that people could make in their early 20’s that would disqualify them from the Presidency, as far as I’m concerned, it seems like Walker’s judgment on the whole issue of his own cost/benefit of staying in school vs. dropping out and entering the workforce ended up looking pretty good.

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      • I cosign just about everything that has said in this thread. The idea that a degree or a degree from a prestigious school or a degree with honors is an automatic sign that the person is intellectual curious is…. well, to borrow @michael-drew’s word, ridiculous. I’ve known way too many of these people to buy into this idea. You know what success in school signifies? It signifies that the person was successful in school.

        Lots of people who are successful in school are intellectually curious, but lots are not. Lots are successful in school because they were born with the requisite level of IQ and had parents who instilled the necessary work habits and they learned how to master the material just enough to give instructors what they want.

        As I said above, a person’t degree can tell us a lot about who a person was at 17 or even 22, but by the time a person is 45 or 55 there’s 30 or so years of biography to work with. And that 30 years will tell you much more about that person than whether or not they have a degree and where it’s from.

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      • is not incorrect that, all else equal, diplomas and certifications and honors should be indicators in a candidate’s favor (and the lack of them, to a candidate’s detriment).

        I also agree with others here that I’ve known way too many people IRL with brilliant qualifications on paper that I wouldn’t trust with my lawnmower, let alone the nuclear football.

        It seems to me there’s a pretty easy way to square the circle.

        I think it’s fair to say that the job of “Leader of the Free World” is, seriously, a job almost completely unlike any other, and whatever we normally think of as “resume-building” (which we all, seriously, know is a very imperfect heuristic, for even just a regular job) gets even less applicable here.

        If I could place a desired Presidential quality as paramount, I’d probably go with temperament/judgement; even over apparent intelligence or qualifications (assuming they weren’t complete random idiots ala Beeblebrox).

        (And yes, I am well aware that “temperament” is probably pretty easy for public figures to deceive We the People about, even more so than apparent intelligence or qualifications. Which is one reason why we lean so hard on the latter; but that doesn’t really make them much more sturdy IMO.)

        (As for “judgement”, well, hopefully there’s a record ;-).

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      • I actually disagree with . (Shocker!) I think it’s entirely possible for Walker to “fix” whatever deficit not getting a degree may represent for me. It might not be possible for him to do so going forward, but it’s entirely possible that he has already made up for it through his own independent efforts, or that he learned or accomplished in college things that it’s just not clear from the record that he did. All he would need to do is be willing to tell us about that if it’s the case. He just hasn’t done that by being Milwaukee County Executive or governor of Wisconsin, is all.

        But before explicating that a bit, I want to point out how this raises a problem with this whole discussion that we haven’t addressed. When I say “he has to make up for it,” that implies that his not having competed college is some kind of deficit in my eyes as a presidential candidate. Which sounds like I’m criticizing him for it. But what’s the obverse point there? Isn’t it just that I therefore do value having gotten a college degree in presidential candidates? Well, I do. As I’ve made clear in this thread, that’s largely because so many people we seriously consider for the office of president never develop knowledge of important subject-matter areas relating to the job. So doing that in college is of value, because, though it can be done elsewhere, absent a job or series of jobs that demonstrate it, it’s hard for a domestic-focused [politician to create a record after college that show that interest an learning. nevertheless, it can be done, and politicians can figure out ways to convince us of it. But does valuing having a college degree for that (or some other reason) mean that everyone who values that therefore implicitly “criticizes” a candidate who has not gotten a college degree? logically, it sort of does. but that just means that it’s the equivalent of “criticizing” a candidate for not having a degree, to simply value a candidate having a degree. And the OP claims that it’s essentially problematic, or wrong, to criticize nt having the degree. Which means it;s problematic or wrong to value having the degree. I reject that. I guess I’m just not that concerned about having “criticized” someone for not doing something if such criticism is merely the flip side of my valuing having done that.

        All that being said, I value it for a particular reason, which I’ve described. But I’ve said that a politician like Walker can “make up for” the deficit (however problematic it is for me to believe there is a deficit). So let me explain that.

        I don’t think that Walker’s experience has “made up for” the deficit left by his not having completed college and therefore not at least potentially gaining knowledge of subject matter relevant to the presidency that one doesn;t gain by being a successful state politician in Wiscons – by being a successful state politician in Wisconsin. But other private study may have done so. Or he may have done the relevant studies in college, but the lack of a degree makes it difficult to discern that. So he can “make up for” that by just telling about when he might have developed that knowledge base, instead of seizing on questions about his lack of a degree to play an anti-eltism political card.

        From my perspective, though, the answer just needs to be that it started independently, way before last year when the GOP foreign policy poobahs realized he was a commodity of some real consequence in the 206 race and became willing to give him some of their time to get him “briefed.” Maybe he studied IR extensively as part of the “triple major in economics, political science, and philosophy” he didn’t quite finish in the late Eighties. If so, just tell us about it. Talk about what your thoughts in the area have been; what you kerned then, how those views have changed. I can be satisfied. But being Milwaukee County Exec and governor for one-plus terms doesn’t on paper “make up for” why I care about whether a candidate completed college, and did work to build a base of international affairs knowledge to supplement a career in domestic politics.

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      • “[T]he OP claims that it’s essentially problematic, or wrong, to criticize not having the degree. Which means it’s problematic or wrong to value having the degree.”

        No, it means it’s problematic or wrong to criticize not having the degree. You can value a degree, but you can also value actual experience in the field, which is how it’s done pretty much everywhere.

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      • I don’t look to the degree to find out about biography or character (though if the college record fits into a pattern from the rest of the bio, that’s relevant).

        I look to it as one possible place that a candidate might have filled in gaps that I think might exist in what I deem the requisite knowledge base to be president based on what might in a particular lane be a pretty impressive resume. I look to it as a particularly important place, because that is where a person is invited to explore areas of interest to them, and pursue them with relatively little opportunity cost. If they didn’t do it in college, and they then go on to a fairly fast-tracked career in an area that wouldn’t itself develop that knowledge, I become slightly more skeptical that they would have done it since, because demands on their time would have only grown due to a successful career, and they weren’t interested enough to pursue the topics in question when time demands were relatively low. So then the bar to showing that it’s been done rises, even while opportunities to earn credentials to show that it’s been done dwindle. I imagine it can be become an annoying conundrum that seems even easier to put off than it was in college. And then all of a sudden you find yourself enough of a political commodity to be a serious contender for a major party presidential nomination, and you’re undertaking your first serious consideration of foreign policy topics doing crammed-in tutoring sessions with the authors of the greatest American foreign-policy disaster of the last four decades or perhaps two centuries, while claiming you’ve been immersed in it your whole life. Because how is anyone to really know different?

        That’s why getting a college degree, especially one in which you can prove you had some serious interest in the subject matter areas relevant to being president that won’t have been developed through the career that put you in position to be a presidential candidate, matters at least a bit to me. As I’ve said, the function that it performs in my evaluations can be replaced by other kinds of study/credentials, but for the reason I just laid out, it can be kind of dicey to satisfactorily do that. College is the easiest and best place, IMO, to establish a record of an interest in and an ability to fill in the subject-matter gaps relevant to being president that a successful professional career will inevitably leave.

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      • I look to it as one possible place that a candidate might have filled in gaps that I think might exist in what I deem the requisite knowledge base to be president based on what might in a particular lane be a pretty impressive resume.

        That is fine. I have no problem with that. My objection is to the assertion that it is ridiculous not to. I honestly pay almost no attention to where and whether a candidate went to school. It is way far down on a list of things that I care about.

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      • Read my argument again. To express one valuing having it is, logically, to criticize not having it, at least to some degree, because to say you value it is to say it’s, relatively speaking, a knock not to have it. And that’s a criticism. If that’s problematic, then it becomes problematic to value it. Unless you’re just supposed to shut up about valuing it if you do in the first place, but that would itself imply that valuing it is problematic or wrong.

        Other experience can be considered irrelevant to the discussion, because there could be a candidate with the same experience but with the degree. Saying that the person with the same experience but no degree is less qualified is criticizing his qualifications.

        That is, unless the only criticism that problematic is ruling out someone absolutely because they don;t have a degree. But that is not the claim goes with:

        “As far as hiring goes, the importance of a college degree is that it gives employers a greater degree of confidence that you can achieve. If you have already achieved, then it’s beside the point.

        I would argue that the presidency falls into this category.”

        Beside the point, if there is some quantum of post-scholastic experience to judge. Beside the point means it would be in error even to consider it if there is that quantum of professional experience to judge by, much less to level any degree of criticism for it at all. And who runs for president on less than the quantum of professional experience that Will judges to completely supersede the academic record? Almost literally no one. Even if in certain cases it is not lofty enough for Will to deem that it qualifies the parson for the presidency, there must nearly always enough of it to reach that quantum. After all, you have to 35 years old to assume the office.

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      • It’s not ridiculous not to consciously have as your own priority to look at the cadmic record. But it is ridiculous not recognize a rigorous course of study completed with distinction specifically on the subject matter that the president is responsible for, followed by a graduate program in related topics (law, economics, IR, public policy, etc.) as signifiant preparation for the presidency when it’s staring you right in the face on the CV. Not as sufficient preparation, not as specifically requisite or irreplaceable, and not as signifiant as a number of other kinds of professional experience. But still as significant preparation.

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      • It depends what the honorary degree purported to give testimony to specifically, and what degree of actual assessment of learning its bestowal involved. (Or, in short, probably not judging by what I know about honorary degrees of that kind, but in theory, yes, possibly).

        I don’t know how in Walker’s case and honorary degree based on his real world experience could allay my concerns about a lack of personal investigations into international affairs. I t could certainly, again, if it involved some assessment of his actual understanding rather than just a facial acknowledgment of accomplishments, get him up to the place where I hold other college graduates. But keep in mind that, unless your academic record actually indicates study in the areas of policy that your professional career doesn’t indicate (ie. foreign policy in the case of a state legislator, County Exec, and one-term governor), I still want to hear from you about how your academic career involved such study, or if it didn’t, when that study otherwise occurred, and how. So he could get roughly into Martin O’Malley territory for me – as I would want to hear that from him, as an example, before I was comfortable with his candidacy – with an honorary agree that somehow leo involved an actual assessment of his degree of learning that approximates that of a college degree (which I don’t seriously doubt that he has gotten, within the lane of the subject matter than state politics in Wisconsin involves, though also can’t be completely sure of that).

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      • See, to me a career spent in local and politics means most likely plenty of exposure to the basic ideas, and even some of the less basic ones, of economics. That’s what domestic politics is largely about. There are lots of conflicting economic ideas in politics, but then there are plenty of conflicting ideas within economics, too. The problem is that a career spent on state and local politics means just very little occasion to think about foreign policy at all, except on your own initiative as off-the-job personal development (absent side associations and side jobs that involve it – which are great! Just not common enough, and to some extent for good reason, as they are not really on-task to the job of local or state politician).

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      • “Would an honorary degree recognizing his real world experience make you feel better?

        If not, why not?”

        For me it would not, because it doesn’t stand for anything meaningful about who Walker is (only about the fact that he is important enough that some school thought it would benefit from associating with him). It doesn’t show he is intellectually curious, able to gain significant knowledge, or anything else that one gains from a college degree.

        The more I think about this, the more it strikes me as a pretty useful intra-party distinguisher (I might well have voted for Hillary over Obama if Obama had not completed college and instead gone straight to community organizing, but only because they shared essentially the same views. I’m less sure it would persuade me away from someone like Warren, who has unique views that I find thrilling. I certainly would not have voted for McCain over Obama in this counterfactual.)

        Similarly, I don’t see how this could move GOP voters to the democrats in 2016, but I do see how it could help other primary candidates. And, if the GOP does pick him anyway, I can see it motivating turnout. Not so much because of his lack of degree, but because the party’s decision to pick him anyway is consistent with a broader anti-intellectual theme that scares non-GOP voters.

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      • Where are all the good folks who would be great in office? They are off working, raising families, and are the type of people that are incapable of lying to a group of people just to get elected or aren’t corrupt enough to play hard core politics.

        I pretty much agree. But if right, what you say raises a question: why do people need to lie and have a penchant for corruption to get elected and play politics? Flipping it, why can’t honest folk get elected and do the job? I mean, viewed from that angle, it seems to me an account for why that’s the case will have to include the people doing the voting, no?

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      • But if right, what you say raises a question: why do people need to lie and have a penchant for corruption to get elected and play politics?

        A liar can tell the truth whenever he wants but a truth teller can’t lie. All else held equal, I’d expect the campaigner with more choices available to him to have a slight edge. After that, it seems like it would play out like steroids in sports: A slow race to the bottom where ultimately everybody is cheating because it doesn’t pay not to. People who absolutely won’t lie or take steroids eventually end up just staying out of the whole mess.

        Staying out of that equilibrium requires a way to make sure cheating doesn’t pay. I think with our polarized electorate’s willingness to ignore cheating by their own guy and tendency to get media reports from ideologically friendly sources, there just aren’t that many consequences to cheating.

        I think it’s related to the outdated tradition of “resigning in shame” when you get caught doing something bad. At some point, politicians realized that if you just skip the whole “shame” part and don’t bother resigning, nothing bad usually happens to you. Shamelessness seems like a winning trait in that landscape.

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  16. This has been one of those cases where I’ve seen backlash to the argument in far greater proportion than I’ve seen the argument itself.

    Very true. I was on the look out for examples when I heard his lack of a degree mentioned (from someone here). I found something, but it was pretty weak tea.

    From the cited portion of what Okeem wrote:

    There is an alarming number of people in America with graduate degrees who are incapable of finding jobs commensurate with their educational attainment and, in some cases, finding jobs at all. At a time when this is occurring, it would be monumentally absurd to elect someone who couldn’t be bothered to finish college to the highest office in the land. If the highest office in the land, and indeed the most important job in the world, can be whimsically occupied by someone who couldn’t be bothered to find the time to finish his undergraduate education, then what is the point of anyone slogging through college and earning a degree? Are those who suggest that college dropouts should be routinely considered for the office of President of the United States arguing that the presidency is less tasking or important than the plurality of jobs listed on Craigslist that specify only holders of a baccalaureate degree should apply?

    That strikes me a lot like….I don’t know, maybe saying there should be more United States President jobs because there are so many more qualified people.

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    • I think it’s saying the opposite, actually. Ie., just because there are a lot of over-degreed/under-employed folks out there who can’t find degree-related work, we shouldn’t conclude that degrees don’t matter or that having a degree is irrelevant to performing in certain roles, least of all the role of US President. I think he’s saying that having a degree often times isn’t enough, even tho it’s necessary.

      People disagree about that, tho. Obvs, or we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

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      • You’re probably right about what Okeem is saying. I was just pointing out a family (or maybe not so familiar) resemblance to an argument I hear about in academia.

        I will say that when Okeem says “[a]re those who suggest that college dropouts should be routinely considered for the office of President of the United States arguing that….,” I’m not sure there are really that many people who really do make that argument. However, I didn’t read the entire linked-to article, and maybe he was speaking about some persons in particular.

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      • I don’t want to become the Okeem-defense guy around these parts but I think the word “routinely”, as he uses it, doesn’t mean “having occurred a whole bunch of times” but rather it’s dictionary meaning: that the routine of determining a President by conventional elecotral politics ought not be disrupted by considerations of academic achievement. And that’s presumably the argument made by Walker supporters.

        But now I’m done defending the guy. Or gel. I mean, who do I think I am?

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      • Huh?

        No, he plainly is asking whether people are suggesting that it should be a normal thing for people who have not earned a BA to be considered for the presidency, rather than a thing that;s done in exceptional cases where there are exceptional qualifications that make up for that deficit, suggesting that it would be bad if not absurd for that to be the case.

        I think ‘s “more president jobs” quip verges on nonsensical, but I think maybe I can suggest something that might have been closer to his meaning that to some extent demonstrates the way that Okeem’s argument there is too simplistic: it works just as well for a PhD.

        “If the highest office in the land, and indeed the most important job in the world, can be whimsically occupied by someone who couldn’t be bothered to find the time to finish his [postgraduate] education, then what is the point of anyone slogging through [a PhD program] and earning a [doctorate]? Are those who suggest that [people who haven’t gotten PhDs] should be routinely considered for the office of President of the United States arguing that the presidency is less tasking or important than the plurality of jobs listed [academic job search lists] that specify only holders of a PhD degree should apply?”

        The presidency is almost certainly a tougher job than most academic positions, but it doesn’t follow that we should only consider Ph.Ds for it. But there’s still a point for some people in getting a Ph.D. Just not necessarily to make them better prepared for the presidency. The same goes for the BA. A BA can contribute to preparation for the presidency (as, I suppose, could the right kind of Ph.D), but it doesn’t do so simply on the logic of “Presidency = high-status job, therefore status symbol X of education must go with it, else all pursuit of status symbol X rendered pointless.”

        There are reasons why a certain amount of formal education of the right kind do prepare a person in an important (though not irreplaceable or unique) way for the presidency. But they’re more particular than just, “Then what’s the point of anyone pursuing X level of education if it’s not necessary for the presidency??” That would mean we should require a PhD for the presidency, otherwise there would be no point in anyone getting Ph.Ds.

        No, the reason that formal education prepares people for the presidency stems from what an undergraduate degree in the right subjects or a generalist graduate program like a JD provide: reasonably detailed exposure to a broad range of subject matter related to issues that presidents are responsible for making or influencing policy in. It’s a content-exposure/familiarity question (at least for me), not an accomplishment/credential question. The degree is a credential of hopefully having been exposed to a body of knowledge, not of the ability to satisfactorily complete a set of tasks.

        Most certainly, the balance of any politician’s career provides ample opportunity to show aptitude at accomplishing a set of goals and showing results, if that’s what we’re concerned with. But it’s harder to be exposed to a wide range of policy subject matter the way we stovepipe policy careers and force politicians to focus on our foremost concerns these days. College is an opportunity to establish an early interest in serious engagement with issues outside the focus of a career in domestic politics (or vice versa for those with a career in foreign policy, though they rarely get very far in presidential elections when they even run).

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      • I don’t want to become the Okeem-defense guy around these parts but I think the word “routinely”, as he uses it, doesn’t mean “having occurred a whole bunch of times” but rather it’s dictionary meaning: that the routine of determining a President by conventional elecotral politics ought not be disrupted by considerations of academic achievement.

        You could be right.

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  17. I’m still trying to figure out the calculus uses here to judge the resume of a candidate.

    One the one hand we have Walker, a career-politician college fail-out who spent over a decade sitting on his ass in a GOP-gerrymandered state assembly safe district before catching a lucky break in a governor’s election during the Tea Yokel wave and then proved himself so economically incapable that he’s caused his state to now default on their debt payments.

    Truman sais this qualifies as having “almost certainly more qualified than the man who currently holds that office was when he was initially elected” compared to a man who got a JD, passed the bar, litigated civil rights cases, taught constitutional law for a decade, and was a successful representative to the US Senate.

    I knew this site was right wing, but that kind of argumentation’s a special kind of stupid.

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    • This is a right wing site? Almost none of the writers on this site voted for Romney, and the ones that did have since left or scaled back their writing to a crawl.

      Obama held major office for all of two years when he announced, four when he took office. His election to that office was via a cleared path and he was never re-elected to it. Walker has held major office (which I consider governor of a mid-size state to be) for four years, and it’ll be six by election day. Year for year, I prefer executive over legislative. I don’t put the weight on academic record that you do, nor the years as a litigator.

      You can lump me with anti-intellecual right-wing bigots and talk show hosts I don’t listen to if it make you feel better, but in my view it isn’t a particularly close call.

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    • I knew this site was right wing…

      I get the feeling that “knows” lots of things that aren’t particularly accurate, so let’s just add this to the pile.

      Far from a right wing site, this is a site where people try to focus their discussion on the issues; and although lots of us have an ideological perspective (and for most that perspective is far from right wing) we generally try to not to let the conversation devolve to trading partisan talking points. You should stick around and try it. You might like it.

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      • As a hard core libertarian, I can attest that most of the posters and certainly a majority, are in now way right wing. In fact, that statement is either trolling or completely misinformed.

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  18. Another thought I had was with regards to the military. The Democrats appear to have been making inroads into a traditionally Republican constituency with Obama’s election (though I don’t know how much of that was backlash to Bush and how much was due to Obama being the democrats catching lightning in a bottle) but the whole “I didn’t get a degree, I went and joined the real world” will resonate to a large degree with the enlisted soldiers/sailors/marines/airpeople.

    I could see the military snapping back to pre-Bush levels.

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    • this seems decent in that it agrees with both my pre-conceived biases and first hand anecdotal experience (which is the best kind of data).

      Indeed, there has been a conservative drift among U.S. military officers since the draft ended. In a 2009 survey of 4,000 Army officers, Heidi Urben, an active-duty officer and doctoral candidate at Georgetown University, found that from 1976 to 1996, the share of senior military officers identifying itself as Republican jumped from one-third to two-thirds, while those claiming to be moderates fell from 46% to 22%.

      Senior military officers who described themselves as liberal fell from 16% in 1976 to 3% in 1996. Urben found that younger officers leaving the Army were far more likely to identify themselves as Democrats than those opting to stay, which would tend to make the more senior ranks increasingly Republican.

      Officers are collectively more politically conservative than enlisted; everyone’s voting patterns matches up pretty good with what one would predict based on age, ethnicity, education, and where that individual grew up.

      This correlation also applies to voting intensity, as in, younger people tend to vote less frequently than older people. So, when the median age of the group your looking at is approximately 25, half the people are going to vote the way early 20 year olds do – not very much.

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  19. Re: Walker’s education: following up on the the Giuliani-inspired “Obama doesn’t love America like white people he does” gambit, Walker said

    “I’ve never asked the President [whether he loves America] so I don’t really know what his opinions are on that one way or another. … I’ll tell you, I love America. … I think we should talk about ways we love this country and that we feel passionately about America.”

    So even if he doesn’t have an education, he’s learnin. And “on the job” too!

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  20. I’m curious what prompted the adjustment to the image here.

    I will offer that some of the ferocity I showed in this thread stemmed from having to look at that reproduction of a newsprint photo that made me feel like it 2011 again and I was back in Madison watching all of that happen all over again (which is kind of what is appending right now, except I’m not in Madison, which only makes it worse, though also easier to ignore).

    The color is comforting compared to the harsh black-and-gray, while the blotting out of the face somehow places a question mark over the whole discussion, and is also something of a relief.

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