Sunday, January 6, 2008

On Attendance

"We hold these truths to be self-evident," they said, "that all men are created equal." Strange as it may seem, that was the first time in history that anyone had ever bothered to write that down. Decisions are made by those who show up.

-- President Josiah Bartlet, The West Wing

Much has been made about Barack Obama's attendance record in the Senate, which isn't good. Here's a table that shows the eight leading "vote missers" as compiled by the Washington Post:

Senators With Lowest Vote Attendance - 110th Congress
NameStateMissed (%)Comment
Tim JohnsonD-SD70.4%has a brain hemorrhage
John McCainR-AZ55.9%Rep. Pres. candidate (as far as we know, he doesn’t)
Joseph BidenD-DE39.1%Dem. Pres. candidate thru Jan. 3
Christopher DoddD-CT37.6%Dem. Pres. candidate thru Jan. 3
Barack ObamaD-IL37.6%Dem. Pres. candidate
Sam BrownbackR-KS30.5%Rep. Pres. candidate thru Oct. 19
Hillary ClintonD-NY23.3%Dem. Pres. candidate
Daniel InouyeD-HI9.7%wife died in March after long illness

(As of today, Jan. 6, 2008) Source: Senate Members Who Missed Votes

Notice the dropoff? Except for Tim Johnson, who has a pretty good excuse, all the top "vote missers" are Presidential candidates, until you get to Daniel Inouye. Inouye's wife had a fatal illness, which probably accounts for much of his absence. Under the circumstances, I’d say Clinton did very well to make so many votes. She’s been in the campaign substantially longer than Brownback, and lives about as far from DC as Dodd.

John Kerry had a worse record in 2004, missing 72% of the votes in the 108th Congress. John Edwards missed 45% of the votes, as well.

By that standard, Clinton and Obama are both doing pretty well.

I'm not a supporter of either Clinton's or Obama's, although I think it's pretty clear whom I favor if that's the choice. What I fault Obama for here is mostly that he seems to miss votes and then chides his opponents who did take a position. Senator Obama needs to rent a few seasons of The West Wing.

UPDATE (Jan. 7): On reflection, I should point out that it's likely that Clinton's and Obama's worst days of attendance are probably still ahead. As their campaigns heat up, each will probably miss more votes, up until the time when one of the Presidential candidates locks up the nomination. Even so, they seem to be doing OK.

Also added comments about the candidates to make things clearer.

UPDATE (Aug. 30): For an update on these stats, and other thoughts, check this link.

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