Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Missed votes, Presidential runs, and partisan hacks

So, one of the current issues wafting through punditry-land is that of Senator Marco Rubio, his general unhappiness with the Senate, and his apparent unwillingness to do his job (i.e. show up in the Senate and vote on things). Here's the story at The Daily Beast. Here it is at WaPo. And at CNN. And at Slate. And at USA Today. They're all saying basically the same two things:
  1. Rubio "hates" his job as a Senator, according to an unnamed, inside source (insert eye-rolling emoticon here).
  2. Rubio has been missing a lot of votes in the Senate, nearly 30% this year, even more since he began his Presidential campaign in earnest.
The Daily Beast piece uses spokespeople from various "watchdog" groups to deliver the criticisms. The others mostly just lay out the facts (some lay out far more facts than others) and allow the reader to infer why they are doing so.
In my opinion, it is a fair and valid criticism. After all, Rubio was elected to this office by the citizens of his State, not as a means of advancing his own political career, but in order to serve their needs and interests. And while Rubio is right when he says his job is not just about the votes, the votes are most definitely a part of the job. That said, missing Senate votes is nothing new, especially for Senators who are seeking higher office (i.e. the Presidency). And of the various stories I linked to above, only one—the USA Today piece—makes a real effort to note and explain this. From it:
[Rubio and Rand Paul] cite the cases of three former Democratic senators — Hillary Clinton (who missed 23% of votes in 2007), President Obama (who missed 38% in 2007), and Secretary of State John Kerry (who missed 62% in 2003)
Wait, what? John Kerry missed 62% of the Senate votes in a year? And yet he still won the nomination for the Democrats. That's pretty weird, isn't it? No doubt, all of the people coming down on Rubio were all over Kerry back in the day, right? Well...no. They weren't. It was barely on the radar.

But what about Obama, who missed 38% of his Senate votes in 2007? That's still more than Rubio. And much worse than Hillary Clinton, whom he was campaigning against. Well lookee here, CNN did dial this up, back in 2007:
Sen. Barack Obama has missed the most votes of any Democratic presidential hopeful in the Senate over the last two months, including a vote on an Iran resolution he has blasted Sen. Hillary Clinton for supporting.
Though interestingly, it was couched in a way to benefit Clinton. Remember, Obama was not yet the front-runner. But MediaMatters was nonetheless quick to correct the record, since CNN didn't include any mention of McCain in the piece:
Yellin stated that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) has missed "nearly 80 percent [of Senate roll-call votes] since September" and that Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (DE), Chris Dodd (CT), and Hillary Rodham Clinton (NY) "don't have great voting records, either." She added that "the Obama campaign points out that if you consider the entire year of voting, it is not Obama who's missed the most, but Senator Biden, then Dodd, and Obama comes in third." However, Yellin left out the fact that Sen. John McCain (AZ) -- the only current Republican presidential candidate who is a sitting U.S. senator -- has missed more votes than any other senator since Congress convened in January, with the exception of Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), who spent months recuperating from a brain hemorrhage.
Well okay, then. Fair enough. Obama has missed the most lately, but Biden has missed the most for the entire year. And luckily, the Media Matters piece provides some hard numbers as well:
According to washingtonpost.com's U.S. Congress Votes Database, Obama has missed 74 out of 93 roll-call votes (79.6%) since the end of the August congressional recess. McCain has missed 63 out of 93 roll-call votes (67.8%) since the end of the August congressional recess. But for the entire year, McCain has missed 79 more votes than Obama; since January, McCain has missed 212 out of 403 (52.6%) roll-call votes in the 110th Congress, while Obama has missed 133 out of 403 (33.0%) roll-call votes.
Look at those percentages. The eventual nominees for both parties basically stopped showing up after August. Prior to that. Obama was absent for a third of all votes, McCain for over half. And Obama's percentage eventually ticked up to 38%, as we know from the USA Today numbers, meaning he continued to miss almost all the votes for the rest of the year (both of the above pieces were published on November 2nd). I'm betting Media Matters is none too happy that it ran that story, as it essentially prevents them from jumping on the current Rubio-castigating bandwagon. And indeed, a search through Media Matters yields nothing on the issue, which I guess proves they are not dumb enough to let themselves get snookered as total hypocrites.

Interestingly enough, though, WaPo did a story some time back on the biggest vote-missers in the Senate. This story came out on May 1st, so no doubt the numbers might shift a little. Nonetheless, the graph—showing career missed votes of likely 2106 Presidential contenders (and Obama)—is instructive. If you look at it, Obama is far and away the leader for career missed votes (if this were career home runs, the graph would be seriously impressive). He's at nearly 25% (24.2%). No one else even comes close to 15% (number two is Cruz at 10.7%). But never fear, WaPo has a built in escape clause for Obama:
Obama's misses almost certainly link to his success on the national stage; he's the only one of the candidates on our graph who spent a full year of his time while in the Senate campaigning non-stop, given that he won his party's nomination. So it's not quite an apples-to-apples comparison with the nascent Cruz campaign.
Yet in so doing, WaPo also gives away the ghost. Note the wording: a full year of his time... campaigning non-stop. If nothing else, this pretty much demolishes leftist pundits excoriating Rubio for "not doing his job." Hey, it is what it is. Honestly, I don't like it; I think Senators and Representatives (and Governors) who pursue the Presidential nomination full time should step down from their offices and allow someone to be appointed to replace them, or allow the Lt. Governor to take over in the case of Governors. But these folks are political animals for the most part, so they are just not going to do that.

Oh, I almost forgot the partisan hack portion of this piece. Enter one of my favorite partisan hacks (because he's just so bad), Steve Benen:
I suspect many Rubio supporters will naturally want to draw parallels between his record and President Obama’s Senate tenure. And at a certain level, they have a point – Obama was quickly frustrated by Congress’ pace. David Axelrod later admitted that the Illinois Democrat “was bored being a senator” and quickly grew “restless.”

It seems the same words could be applied to the junior senator from Florida.

The difference, though, is that Obama put in far more effort than Rubio, and as a result, he had more success. As a senator, Obama developed a reputation as a work horse, being well prepared for briefings and hearings, introducing a lot of bills, and developing an expertise on serious issues like counter-proliferation.
Hmm. I don't know if "partisan hack" does Steve sufficient justice. He's far too much of an Obama fanboy, really. Look at the above nonsense. Obama's Senate career was a scant four years. And for two of those years (incidentally, Obama missed 64% of the Senate votes in 2008), he did very little in the Senate, proper, because he was spending almost all of his time campaigning for President (which is, again, the way it is). No way is someone who wasn't present for half of his term a workhorse. Sorry Steve, the parallels are there. You know it, which is why you avoided actual numbers in this piece and your previous one. From it:
The truth is, presidential candidates who are sitting senators miss a lot of votes; Rubio’s not the first and he won’t be the last. Indeed, it’s entirely bipartisan – take a look at Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s attendance in 2007 and you’ll see two sitting senators who cast some important votes, but who were also on the campaign trail more than they were on the Hill.

This matters a bit more with Rubio because he, even more than the other senators running for president, seems to have given up on his day job altogether.
What Steve desperately doesn't want to say, what is preventing Media Matters from weighing in on any of this, is a simple truth: candidates miss votes, true enough, but Obama missed more than any of them, including during the time when he was not yet a candidate. And I'm not pointing this out because I have it "in" for Obama. Rather, I have it "in" for partisan hacks, fanboys who are more interested in protecting the reputation of Obama than they are in anything else. Bleck,

No comments:

Post a Comment