Friday, August 29, 2008

Attendance And The Google

Did you mean John McCain vote attendance

Image credit: screenshot by Cujo359.

Over the last few months, one of the most visited articles at this blog has been On Attendance. This article is about the attendance records of the various Senators who were running for President at the time. It concluded that Clinton's attendance was very good by the prevailing standards, and Obama's better than average.

People usually happen by that article because they're doing a web search for Barack Obama's attendance record. Now, there are lots of possible reasons, but I keep wondering why none are looking for John McCain's attendance record, which is bad by any standard. While I've seen a few hits for Hillary Clinton's attendance record, I've seen none for McCain. Why is that?

It turns out that you needn't posit political bias to explain this fact. Simply doing a Google search of John McCain vote attendance, my article comes up on the tenth page. That means that people have to scroll past ninety or so other articles to get to mine. Some of those articles are by nationally known publishers. Some, like this provocative one, would be at least as interesting as mine. On the other hand, that article is the number one article for Barack Obama vote attendance. Only the gods of internet search know why such a difference exists.

For those who might have alighted here first, here are the totals as of today:
Senators With Lowest Vote Attendance - 110th Congress
NameStateMissed (%)Comment
John McCainR-AZ63.8%Rep. Pres. candidate (as far as we know, he didn’t have a brain haemorrhage)
Tim JohnsonD-SD48.7%had a brain haemorrhage
Barack ObamaD-IL45.5%Dem. Pres. candidate
Hillary ClintonD-NY32.3%Dem. Pres. candidate
Joseph BidenD-DE30.3%Dem. Pres. candidate thru Jan. 3, now V.P. candidate
Christopher DoddD-CT26.8%Dem. Pres. candidate thru Jan. 3
Sam BrownbackR-KS26.8%Rep. Pres. candidate thru Oct. 19
Edward KennedyD-MA17.2%Diagnosed with brain cancer
Daniel InouyeD-HI10.5%wife died in March, 2007 after long illness
(As of today, August 29, 2008) Source: Senate Members Who Missed Votes

McCain's, Clinton's, and Obama's records have all gotten worse, though Clinton still enjoys a comfortable lead. Johnson's has gotten much better, thanks to the fact that he is now physically able to attend votes. The rest have stayed roughly the same or improved somewhat.

I suppose there are three lessons you can draw from this little exercise. First, everything that happens is not due to a right wing conspiracy or bias. Sometimes, things just go a lot differently when you change the question a little. Second, somthing that's true seven months ago may not be as true today. Third, when someone says "I wonder how Candidate A does at vote attendance?" and concludes that this is or is not good, the next logical question is "What about Candidate B?"

UPDATE (Aug. 30): I'm still waiting for my first hit from someone looking to see how many votes McCain has missed. This article is number three or four in that search.

UPDATE 2: The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) is one of the lobbying groups that rate legislators on their voting records in light of whatever the group is interested in. Here's what they had to say about John McCain's record last year:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) scored 0 percent in 2007 (24 percent lifetime) due to missing all 15 votes scored, including the key vote on repealing tax giveaways to big oil – a measure that failed by only one vote.

LCV Releases 2007 National Environmental Scorecard
In the related field of alternative energy, McCain's record is equally unimpressive:

Voteskipper McCain shirked votes supporting renewable tax credits four times this session, letting them be filibustered every time. Twice the bill was blocked by a single vote. In the past month alone, he missed every single energy vote brought to the floor. Sen. McCain stayed on the campaign trail while his conservative allies filibustered each proposal — on energy speculation, low-income heating bills, and renewable energy and energy efficiency incentives — and he drilled for cash from the oil industry.

McCain Says He’d End His Vacation From Congress To ‘Drill Here, Drill Now’
Here's what John McCain had to say about that record, according to Think Progress:

McCAIN: I have a long record of that support of alternate energy. … I’ve always been for all of those and I have not missed any crucial vote. But my citizens in Arizona know that when I’m running for the President of the United States I have to be out campaigning.

McCain: ‘I Have Not Missed Any Crucial Vote’ On Energy Legislation
[emphasis from original]

Sometimes the wisest course is to do nothing. I don't think that wisdom applies here, though.

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