Politics

If Gene Simmons Were the New Second Lady, Would He Insist on Being Called Dr. Love, Ph.D.?

|

From the LA Times:

In 2007, at 55, Jill Biden did earn a doctorate—in education—from the University of Delaware. Since then, in campaign news releases and now in White House announcements, she is "Dr. Jill Biden." This strikes some people as perfectly appropriate and others as slightly pompous, a quality often ascribed to her voluble husband….

Some second ladies, as vice presidents' wives are called, have been accomplished professionals. Marilyn Quayle is a lawyer, but she did not practice while her husband, Dan, was in office. Lynne Cheney, Jill Biden's immediate predecessor, is a novelist who earned a doctorate in English with a dissertation titled "Matthew Arnold's Possible Perfection: A Study of the Kantian Strain in Arnold's Poetry." She goes by Mrs. Cheney….

But Biden is thought to be the first second lady to hold a paying job while her husband is in office….

As a Ph.D. in my own right, let me say that people, including medical doctors, podiatrists, veterinarians, dentists, and Ph.D.s, who insist on being called doctor are usually painful to be around. I do enjoy the special pleading Dr. Biden's case has brought forth:

Amy Sullivan, a religion writer for Time magazine, said she smiled when she heard the vice president's wife announced as Dr. Jill Biden during the national prayer service the day after President Obama's inauguration.

"Ordinarily when someone goes by doctor and they are a PhD, not an MD, I find it a little bit obnoxious," Sullivan said. "But it makes me smile because it's a reminder that she's her own person. She wasn't there as an appendage; she was there as a professional in her own right."

Yes, it's quite a reminder that the spouse of a politician is a person in her own right. The last one who really was, if I remember correctly, was Howard Dean's wife, who refused to campaign with her husband.

Calling Dr. Love.

NEXT: In Defense of Corporate Jets

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “As a Ph.D. in my own right, let me say that people, including medical doctors, podiatrists, veterinarians, dentists, and Ph.D.s, are usually painful to be around.”

    A Ph.D in misanthropy?

    Paging Dr. Sartre…..

  2. The convention of using the possessive in describing someone’s PhD (e.g. “Gillespie received his Ph.D. in English literature”) has always grated me. Whose Ph.D. would somebody have besides their own?

  3. Oops. Just added: …who insist on being called doctor are usually painful to be around…

  4. Tingy Wah,

    Whose Ph.D. would somebody have besides their own?

    Do you also have a problem with any of the following?

    He died when something got stuck in his throat.

    He had a ridiculous look on his face.

    The pedantic jerk had a stick up his ass.

  5. It’s incredibly pompous for non-MD’s to insist on being called “Dr.” outside of academia. The fact that this is a PhD in education (ie, in complete bullshit) makes it all the more so.

    But hey, she looked real good in those thigh-high boots on inaguration day.

    Trying to be a both a trophy wife, and a serious thinker. Sad.

  6. …at your service.

  7. …who insist on being called doctor are usually painful to be around…

    Hear hear, my good man!

  8. Tingy Wah —

    Still your mind, focus, and be free.

    Dr. Gillespie —

    I liked it better the first way.

  9. I wonder if the LA Times run a similar story on the pompouness of Dr. Rice as well? Not to my knowledge.

    Not to mention that no one seems to think twice about Dr. Kissinger.

    “… others as slightly pompous, ..”

    Who are these others? The LA Times doesn’t say, but the people the quote in the article don’t seem to back up that assertion. Who are these mysterious others???

    Jill Biden isn’t the first or the last PhD to go by the title “Dr” (My grammar school principle insisted he be referred to as Dr as well) — so I guess I just don’t understand the purpose of them running this story. Unless it was meant to attack Jill Biden for doing something that is rather common and to pretend that somehow this makes her an elitist.

    Really, what a worthless piece.

  10. Long ago, a philosophy professor at UVA said to my class “The title ‘doctor’ should be reserved for physicians or cheap PhDs. I am neither”. I concur. Dr. Jill is trying too hard.

  11. Also a pet peeve of mine.
    “Oh, you’re a doctor? Well then, let’s make sure we treat you with the respect you deserve, unlike these riffraff that we spit on.”

  12. In 2007, at 55, Jill Biden did earn a doctorate-in education-from the University of Delaware. Since then, in campaign news releases and now in White House announcements, she is “Dr. Jill Biden.”

    So I am clear here….it isn’t that Jill Biden insists on being referred to as Dr, the complaint is that that campaign news releases refer to her in that manner??

    Again I have to ask why this wasn’t a problem when Condi was constantly referred to as Dr Rice.

  13. Maybe she just couldn’t resist calling herself “Dr. Jill.” It sounds so porny, which would also explain the thigh-high boots. I rest my fucking case.

  14. My guess is that the education PhDs want to be called Dr. more than any other disciplines.

  15. So does she have a Ph.D. or an Ed.D.?

    I don’t necessarily agree with emmajane’s professor, but anybody who *insists* on being called Dr. is an asshole. Including physicians.

  16. Whose Ph.D. would somebody have besides their own?

    I think I have my dad’s undergraduate degree around somewhere. It’s not like he even remembers he went to college most days.

  17. Would one of our learned commentators who find “Doctor” a more fitting honorific for MDs than PhDs care to illuminate us on the latin origin of the term “doctor”?

  18. I have a PhD, and I worked damn hard for it. In the context of my professional life, I absolutely expect to be referred to–formally–as “Dr. B”. Informally–i.e., in 98% of my interactions–I prefer my first name. My thought is that anyone who I really have a right to expect to call me “Dr. B” isn’t someone who is going to need to be reminded to do so, i.e., my students, colleagues, etc.

    I’d cut a toe off before I’d correct a perfect stranger who referred to me as “Mr. B” especially since by using “Mr.” they are already showing more than enough respect.

  19. So you’re saying Dr. J’s PhD in dunkatude isn’t legit?

  20. My name is Judge.

  21. Epi,

    And what of Dr. John’s Ph.D. in funkatude?

  22. What is it called when your PhD is used by others?

    My wife has a PhD in biology and teaches science classes at a private high school. It’s school policy that the students address her as “Dr. Ravac”, and she is strongly encouraged to attend fund-raising events so that the administration can put her, and her degree, on display. (She’s the only PhD in the place.) At these events, she’s always introduced as “Dr. Ravac” to the folks whose pockets the administration is trying to lighten.

    Outside of her job, she drops the Dr. bit.

  23. Would one of our learned commentators who find “Doctor” a more fitting honorific for MDs than PhDs care to illuminate us on the latin origin of the term “doctor”?

    THANK YOU.

    This title should in no way be reserved especially for medical doctors. Especially since they stole it from college professors over a hundred years ago when their practice was dominated by quackery.

    There’s a difference between being referred to that way in a press release and her correcting some reporter who didn’t use the term. Let’s not impute intentionality on the poor woman too quickly. And in any case, she deserves it whether we think she should be using it or not. Aren’t there some bailouts or something to talk about?

  24. Neu,

    Or Dr. Demento’s PhD in dementatude?

  25. I wonder if the LA Times run a similar story on the pompouness of Dr. Rice as well? Not to my knowledge.

    Did she insist on being called “Dr.” Rice? I honestly don’t know.

    Not to mention that no one seems to think twice about Dr. Kissinger.

    Dog bites man. It goes without saying that he is a pompous jerk.

  26. As a fan of Eastern European metal bands, I just make my students and colleagues call me Mr. Doctor.

    No one even remembers my last name….

  27. I did not spend six years in Evil Medical School to be called Mister, damn it!

    Jay Nordlinger had a piece in National Review about the whole “doctor” issue back in 2002.

  28. OK, personally, I also bristle at MD’s who expect to be called “Dr.” outside of a professional setting, but I also realize that this is much more of a social convention than extending the title to PhD’s.

    Dagny, I knew Judge Reinhold back in the day, and it’s not his real first name. Pbbbbbt.

  29. Epi,

    Or Dr Suess’s Ph.D. in word-a-tude?

    “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

  30. Rice was the president of an acedemic institution, she could hardly avoid being called doctor.

  31. Veterinarians have to learn about more than MDs and their schooling takes just as long. They need to have knowledge of most animals, including some they would likely never encounter unless they work at a zoo, as well as humans for some reason even though their license would not permit them to practice medicine on a human. And they can only charge a fraction compared to MDs for performing just about every service and surgery necessary instead of just a specialty or internal medicine. Most doctors couldn’t perform an x-ray or lab work if their life depended on it.

  32. Yes, it’s quite a reminder that the spouse of a politician is a person in her own right. The last one who really was, if I remember correctly Howard Dean’s wife.

    I’d also like to nominate First Lady Dr. Catherine (Cathy) Ryan who continued to work as an eye surgeon at Johns Hopkins while her husband Jack was President.

  33. MDs are Dr. I will only call MDs DR. Unless I am at a University.

    Dr. Love lol

  34. I’ve known a few academic (women) who, trying to be a bit less formal, go by Doctor (first name), e.g., “Doctor Stephanie”. This is like biting tinfoil for me, so I either call them just “Doctor” or “Doctor (last name).

  35. Better to use Dr. Biden than Second Lady, why the hell are giving titles to the VP’s wife

  36. I look down on calling an MD (or any other degree) a doctor outside of a professional arena. MDs don’t even have a thesis or dissertation. Nope. Show up regularly for a few years and, if your checks clear, you are an MD.

  37. As an ordained minister, I find your distinction of Ph.D to be beneath me.

  38. armchairpunter | February 2, 2009, 3:40pm | #

    Would one of our learned commentators who find “Doctor” a more fitting honorific for MDs than PhDs care to illuminate us on the latin origin of the term “doctor”?

    exactly

  39. I have several friends with higher and deeper degrees, but only the one who is a university professor gets called “doctor”. And then only by his students.

    But there is something even worse than insisting on the title of doctor, and that’s wearing your seminary doctoral robes while preaching.

  40. Is it possible that Rice’s (and Kissinger’s) academic qualifications were relevant to their government jobs?

    The attainment of such high recognition might be though by some to indicate a greater qualification for the job.

    Of course others might dismiss it a further evidence that it really is the initials for Piled higher and Deeper.

  41. My wife’s going for her PhD now. She’s going to be insufferable.

  42. It’s pedantic. Those I have worked with won’t allow you to call them Doctor.

    I’m certain that Ms. Biden’s professional compensation is in no way influenced by her regularly boinking a Senator/VP.

    I’m not suggesting that a politicians spouse should be unemployed, I’m just getting in touch with my inner cynic.

  43. Really only physicians are properly called “Dr.” But also, one is called what one wants to be called.

    I simply believe in this day and age that modesty is more impressive than a PhD.

  44. Modesty is certainly less common than a PhD.

  45. My wife’s going for her PhD now. She’s going to be insufferable.

    Better that than a JD. My wife has one of those, and it has some annoying side effects even though she doesn’t practice.

  46. “let me say that people, including medical doctors, podiatrists, veterinarians, dentists, and Ph.D.s, who insist on being called doctor are usually painful to be around.”

    Not as obnoxious as people that use an initial for a first name. They’re the worst.

  47. For some reason, “The Reverend Doctor” bugs me even more.

  48. Dagny, I knew Judge Reinhold back in the day, and it’s not his real first name. Pbbbbbt.

    That is even more awesome. Have you seen the Arrested Development episodes with him? Even funnier if he is “Judge” by choice.

  49. Rice was the president of an acedemic institution, she could hardly avoid being called doctor.

    Yep, she was one edumacated lady.

    acedemic…jackdemic…queendemic…kingdemic…endemic.

  50. Let us not forget one of the most influential Ph.D’s on our society: Dr. Indiana Jones.

  51. Epi,

    And what of Dr. Phil and his ph.d. in asshole-a-turd?

  52. R C Dean said:
    Did she insist on being called “Dr.” Rice? I honestly don’t know.

    Does Jill Biden insist on being called “Dr” Biden? The article doesn’t seem to indicate that is the case. The article is calling her out because “in campaign news releases and now in White House announcements, she is “Dr. Jill Biden.”

    The Bush campaign and their staffers always called Dr. Rice “Dr” — should that be a knock against Rice herself?

    So I think it’s quite fair to ask why didn’t the LA Times give a fuck about titles when it was Dr. Rice but finds it “pompous” when Mrs. Biden is referred to as Dr.

  53. ‘I’ve known a few academic (women) who, trying to be a bit less formal, go by Doctor (first name), e.g., “Doctor Stephanie”. This is like biting tinfoil for me . . .’

    So, to sum up, if you ever refer to someone as ‘Dr. [first name],’ you’ll eat your hat?

    Thank you and good night. Don’t forget to tip your waitresses.

    PS-Before physicians graduated from quackhood, ‘Doctors’ were generally understood to be those who had a degree in one of two major laws of Europe – civil and canon. (sometimes both). Thus, “doctors of the law.”

  54. Hi everybody!

  55. Neu, I thought I might be messing that up but I’m lazy today. Spelling is why I quit with the MBA instead of wasting even more time to get to be called a doctor.

  56. Certainly universal pre-K could have helped that.

  57. James Ard,

    I was just teasing…and trying to disprove joeZ law.

    I successfully made fun of your spelling without making one of my own (common enough) spelling errors.

    ;^)

  58. Thanks, because I was really nervous writing those last two posts.

  59. Max – you forgot the rimshot.

    Military lawyer “John” is proof that doctoral degrees and orthography do not necessarily go hand in hand.

  60. In a formal setting, like during the introductions of the National Prayer Service during the Inauguration, calling someone with a PhD “Doctor” seems appropriate.

    The President was called “Barack Hussein Obama,” but I’m sure he doesn’t go by his full name ordinarily.

  61. suck on it, Mr. Pibb!

  62. The only reason I bothered to plagiarize for my dissertation was to spare y’all from having to call me Master.

  63. Calling someone with an EdD, a degree that used to be obtainable by mailing in 100 Bazooka Joe comics, a doctor is as pathetic as it is hilarious.

  64. The fact that this is a PhD in education (ie, in complete bullshit) makes it all the more so.

    I think there is such a thing as a legitimate PhD in education. I would have no problem with Bill Cosby being called “doctor”, for example.

    When it comes to a lefty politician’s wife however, it seems likely that her degree is probably more affectation than qualification.

    -jcr

  65. “Let us not forget one of the most influential Ph.D’s on our society: Dr. Indiana Jones.”

    Technically, it’s Dr. Henry Jones, Jr., but you call him Docta Jones, lady!

  66. I heart this list. (Bet Mad Max does too!)

  67. She kant reely be edjucated cuz shes in teh demicrat praty.

  68. Tony | February 2, 2009, 4:53pm | #
    Really only physicians are properly called “Dr.”

    Really? Why?

    You don’t know what you’re talking about, Tony.

  69. I can’t believe this thread has gone this long already without a single Dr. Dre joke. Where the hell’s Slim Shady when you need him?

  70. Tony,

    What does the D in PhD stand for? Why are the called doctoral degrees?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.