Once an astronaut, not always an astronaut?

Having flown a 2009 mission on the Space Shuttle Discovery, San Joaquin Valley congressional candidate Jose Hernandez may have thought his credentials as an astronaut are without question. Not so claims a Sacramento lawfirm, backed by some California GOP leaders. They argue that you are only an astronaut as long as you can claim it on your tax returns. From the Fresno Bee:

"Hernandez's attempted use of 'astronaut' violates the Election Code's unambiguous requirement that a candidate's ballot designation reflect one's current profession, vocation, or one held during the previous calendar year," the lawsuit states.

While currently unaffiliated with Hernandez's opponent's campaign, it appears the firm has done work for the opponent in the past.

Fresno Bee: Candidate challenged over 'astronaut' title (Thanks, Dennis!)


  1. Somebody ought to inform no-longer-the-Speaker Gingrich, once-long-ago-Governor Romney, and Former Senator Santorum of this rule.

    (And before I am accused of partisanship, it drives me up the wall when Democrats do it, too; but the only Democrat running for President this year most certainly defined himself as such on his 2011 tax returns.)

        1.  Not to be ass like, but isn’t that the reason we use the adjective “former”?

          I mean I wouldn’t say I’m a lawyer/doctor/engineer whatever if I no longer did any of those things.  I might however say I was a doctor, or I was a former doctor.

          1. The President retains his title, if not his power, for life. Bill Clinton is not former President Clinton, just President Clinton. It’s not inconsistent or hypocritical to treat lower offices differently.

            If the rule in CA is you list your current job, then you list your current job. There’s no “unless you used to have a really cool job, then you can list that instead.”

            Hernandez is clearly trying to get some freebies that the law doesn’t allow.

          2. Hernandez is clearly trying to get some freebies that the law doesn’t allow.

            Get some freebies?

          3. “””The term “astronaut” derives from the Greek words meaning “space sailor,” and refers to all who have been launched as crew members aboard NASA spacecraft bound for orbit and beyond. Since the inception of NASA’s human space flight program, we have also maintained the term “astronaut” as the title for those selected to join the NASA corps of astronauts who make “space sailing” their career profession. The term “cosmonaut” refers to those space sailors who are members of the Russian space program. “””

            From – http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/

          4. The dictionary says that astronaut was coined in the 1920s, probably by the French.

    1.  Right.  Nobody who isn’t currently serving can call himself a Marine.  New motto: “Semper Fi, For Now”.   And no retired officer gets to keep his rank in his title either.
      What a bunch of balloon juice. 

  2. In California, the ballot will always show a candidate like this:


    Since this may be the one and only time a voter gets information about the candidate, there are often arguments about this thing. Everyone has these fights, especially further down the ballot where voters have decreasing amounts of information — but the whole *point* of the argument is so the fellow whose title you are challenging minimizes the publicity of whatever they claim to be.  “Former astronaut” might be more correct, but this is dumb politics to make this big of a deal of it.

    [ETA: I worked for a US House candidate in the 1990s who wanted to keep his title only as “Financial Analyst” and drop the “State Legislator” altogether since — to him — that was a negative]

    1.  Unfortunately, I think the name Jose Hernandez is going to tell a lot of GOP voters all the information they need to make a decision. Most probably won’t get to the second line anyway.

    1. You’ll have to save that question for someone who’s flown joined the 50 mile high club on Virgin Galactic.  My votes are for “stellar beauty (wink-wink)”, “zero g-string” and maybe “Cap’n Kirk”

  3. lol If that’s the worst dirt they can dig up on the guy, he’s pretty squeaky clean.

    If the law firm was trying to discredit him, it backfired. How many people just found out he’s a national hero?

    1. Being an astronaut makes you objectively pro-public transit, and thus an enemy of the suburbs and America’s Way of Life.

      He probably even ate taxpayer -subsidized food during the mission. Welfare queen.

    2. I’m pretty sure that the demographic that would approve this ruling is the same demographic that thinks that the space program is a cover for reptilian illuminati to spray mind-controlling chemtrails that turn Americans into gay Muslim communists.

  4. Some variant of the Streisand Effect going on here, seems to me, spiced with the stench of desperation. By questioning Hernandez’ right to describe himself as an astronaut, it will only make his experience as an astronaut more well known among the relevant electorate, and everybody loves an astronaut. Bonus: the Repuglican law firm looks like pedantic dicks (I know, I know, that has never bothered a lawyer before).

  5. I work in a library, but I don’t have an MLS, so I can’t (and won’t) claim to be a librarian, even though some people define “librarian” as “someone who works in a library”.

    Training to be an astronaut, though, and flying on a space shuttle mission…you know, I don’t care if he’s now working for a public library as the guy who empties trash cans. The guy’s an astronaut, and always will be. 

  6. So I thought Hernandez was an illegal from Mexico now I realize he’s actually from space.
    Thanks, Republicans!

  7. If you have flown around the world at an altitude greater than 100 miles your an astronaut.

    1.  Do you need to complete an orbit? I’d say that Shepard and Grissom earned the title of “astronaut” on their first flights.

  8. Despite never being mentioned, within a millisecond of starting to read this piece, I knew that Hernandez was running on the Democratic ticket.

    Amazing how it was so immediately obvious who would be the victim of such tactics.

  9. I think its pretty clear. It state current vocation. If he is not currently an astronaut then they are not wrong though I think them fighting it is stupid when they should just request that he put former astronaut on there. Its something for everyone to be proud of.

    I also agree that calling someone who is no longer speaker or a Senator by that title is idiotic. The are beginning to think they are kings and dukes.

  10. Someone needs to stop Neil Armstrong  from living on his past glories. 

    “Seriously, grandpa, you used to be an astronaut, what do you do now?  Just live off the government teat?”

    I can only help Buzz Aldrin gets questioned like this so he can answer in the only appropriate way:

    1.  I was just thinking that Buzz should be called in to start throwing punches until they admit Mr. Hernandez is an astronaut.

  11. Once a marine, always a marine…
    Once a cop, always a cop…

    Or not.

    I’d like to hear “Speaker” Ginrich’s take on this. Or perhaps, General Colon Powell’s ….oh wait, they’re no longer…wait, what??

    The GOP 2012….
    • NO to progress
    • NO to women
    • NO to astronauts!

  12. My thoughts exactly – I don’t want to live in a world where Neil Armstrong is no longer considered an astronaut. That’s unacceptable. Completely unacceptable.

  13. In college, the Arch Republicans on campus headed the fraternity across the hall. They didn’t like me because I asked them to stop leaving broken glass in my shower. One night, two of them came to my room, or, more accurately, the closed door of my room to shout insults, including this gem: “You’re not a Marine — my father was in the military!”

    I was, in fact, a Marine, but in the reserves, which apparently didn’t count. They ran away before I got to the door (of course), but I caught up with them as they tried ducking into their rooms. Strangely, they weren’t interested in my offer of further discussion or any other action to resolve the matter.

    It’s a minor incident but a pattern of accusation I’ve seen repeated ever since: whatever you’re doing isn’t good enough, even though I’m not doing jack shit.

    1. I like neither major party, but why are the Republicans stooping to name calling and frat tactics?

      1. Because Fox News has been given stewardship over the conservative discussion forum and taken that opportunity to amplify the crazy by orders of magnitude. The dominant GOP concept of politics now is “win by any means,” because it’s a contest and a game, not, you know… a process to select the one chosen to be most fit to govern by the people.

  14. Serious question here: does it matter from a legal perspective what I write as my occupation on my tax return? I mean, does the IRS really care whether I write “widget manufacturer,” “jack of all trades”, or “corporate tool?” If I produce widgets, can’t I still legitimately deduct expenses related to said occupation even if I list my occupation as “platypus wrangler”? I really need to talk to my accountant about this.

  15. I believe the rule for keeping past titles is as follow:  If you were one of many, you can keep calling yourself by your former title (such as Congressman or Senator or Judge), but if there’s only one of a title, then you’re no longer that person (such as Speaker or President or Chief Justice – You have to relinquish that title after you’re no longer in the position).  

    1. Nope. Carter, Clinton & both Bushes are still called Mr. President in the news. I really object to calling Gingrich Mr. Speaker though, since he was kicked out in disgrace.

  16. I hate to be the one to say it, but you are incorrect.  We refer Presidents Bush, Clinton, and Bush as president.  We also refer to former senators as “Senator”, and governors as “Governor”.  Generals tend to get to keep the title (though more in public usage than in any formalized way I know of) but lower ranked officers don’t.  (except maybe for Col. Oliver North I guess)

    -abs isn’t certain he likes that, but it IS what it is, and what it IS is confusing and inconsistent (like most humans)

    1.  Just because some people use honorifics incorrectly, doesn’t mean it’s right.  This pretty much explains my understanding of how former governmental officials should be addressed:  http://www.formsofaddress.info/former.html
      “The Honorable..”, “Mr/Mrs/Ms/Dr” is always correct, but when the position contains a single person (Such as speaker, president, secretary), then the honorific stays with the office.  You can describe someone as “Former president”, but it’s no longer their title.  Gingrich has been incorrectly using the “speaker” title for some time.

      1. Nick’s right, and the general public is wrong (yet again). Lyndon Johnson once corrected a member of the press for referring to him as President after he left office. He considered that an insult to residing Nixon.

        1. I think the confusion is that it’s okay to refer to someone’s past title as an adjective (…the 42nd president), but it’s easy (and lazy) to go from referring to someone in the 3rd person as their former title to calling them by their honorific (President …).

    2. Reminds my of an old Bobcat Goldthwait comment about how Oliver North showed up at the Congressional hearings wearing his military uniform: “You know, I’ve been fired from a lot of jobs too, but you don’t see me tooling around in an old Burger King outfit.”

  17. Yep, sure wouldn’t want the opposition to be able to legitimately be called Hero by the populace when you’re just a douche-bag…or former douche-bag. Guess what  I am really saying, is that after growing up in Clear Lake Forest outside Houston during the early 70s, where most of the then-current astronaut’s families lived, these guys are all heroes. Strapping a huge bomb to your ass and shooting out of Earth’s gravity well counts, methinks

  18. If only politicians were as vetted and had to demonstrate their competency as astronauts must.

    Actually, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to send politicians into orbit. Not permanently (too much space junk and all that), but just for a couple spins ’round the old planet. For perspective.

    Let them see the reality of this single world without their political borders. The smog over China. Oil spills. How thin our atmosphere is relative to the surrounding emptiness (not counting the deadly radiation). Could any of them clearly point to their congressional district? Could they identify the entire border with, say Mexico? Could they so easily accept/justify/further such arbitrary and harmful concepts as nationalism, religion, or war?

    On a particularly clear day, one of them might even have a giddy epiphany as they actually do see Russia relative to Alaska for the first time.

  19. I want so for them to run swift boat-style commercials – 
    “Candidate Hernandez says that he survived the fiery forces of re-entry… on your tax dollars. He claims to be an “astronaut”. More like “has-tronaut”. Do you want tax dollar burning has-beens in your government?”

  20. When I met Julie Payette (Canada’s second female astronaut in space) several years ago, she mentioned that most astronauts put ‘engineer’ as their profession on their tax forms, as it causes too much trouble otherwise. Heck, at the time she hadn’t flown, and we called her an astronaut (that’s what she was employed as), although I suppose ‘astronaut-in-training’ would be more accurate.

  21. Let’s see, is he running as a Democrat, or as a Republican?

    Wikipedia: José Hernández (astronaut)

    He’s running as a Democrat!  So, does this law firm have any Republican ties?

    Source Watch: Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, LLP

    Yup.  More than Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney and Fox News combined.  They’re also known as the The People Who Brought You The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

    They have a history of similar lawsuits against Democratic candidates:

    Using the same law firm Bell, McAndrews, and Hiltachk that represents both the California State Republican Party and Swift Boater Bob Perry who has been smearing Democrats across the country, they have filed a lawsuit with less than three weeks to go before the election alleging Jerry Brown is ineligible to run for AG.
    Delgadillo was hit with a similar suit by the third place finisher in the City Attorney’s race and it was dismissed as without merit.  Same thing will happen here. The suit will be quietly dropped after the election or dismissed by a judge as having no foundation.

    The lawsuit against Jerry Brown was indeed dismissed by a judge as having no foundation.  After the election of course.

    But let’s give this arm of the Republican Party the benefit of the doubt.  There’s no proof that the lawsuit has anything to do with Hernández running as a Democrat.  In fact according to Wikipedia, Hernández developed equipment for full-field digital mammography at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.  Which means that this lawsuit could merely be just part of the Republican War On Women.

  22. Alright then, can we smack Gingrich upside the head every time he’s called Mr. Speaker? It’s been a while since he held that post, and hr was driven out in disgrace to boot! I could never figure why anyone would still give him the honor of that title.

  23. I don’t think that the IRS will reject your tax return if you don’t put what you earn most of your money from as your profession. Something tells me that Sammy Hagar doesn’t put “Tequila Seller” on his, or that your average successful webcomics cartoonist  doesn’t put “T-Shirt designer” on theirs.

  24. So… if some one once fund raised for a non profit organization, they can’t say they once did cause they don’t do it currently? I once was an astronaut but now retired. Sorry, you can’t say that you were an astronaut, only current hobby’s apply. 

  25. Doesn’t NASA give away those little wing merit badge thingies the USAF has… what are they c- yeah, don’t they receive Astronaut Wings?  Astronauts aren’t expected to turn those back in when they retire or separate.

  26. If you have been in space, then you have the right to hang a diamond-encrusted, gold-plated “ASTRONAUT” plaque around your neck and walk down the middle of the street singing songs and shaking hands. You are, after all, an Astronaut.

  27. Maybe he’d agree to a compromise of being referred to as SPACE GUY or INTERGALACTIC MEATBAG.

    Seriously though, if you’ve been an astronaut you are always an astronaut (at least while it matters). If every jerkbag on the planet could go into space whenever they wanted it’d be as useful as putting “pedestrian” on your CV. Ex presidents reserve the right to be called Mr President which is fine by me, ’cause I know they are living a lie but it makes them happy. Plus it’s a simple way of identifying if someone has ever been an astronaut or president, it doesn’t matter if they still do it- it’s that they did do it.

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