If You Want to Serve the Public You Better Show Up for Work

A recently announced conservative candidate for president is Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas). Brownback is openly proclaiming the need to restore God-centered values to the nation. His announcement speech almost sounded like an evangelistic appeal. But there is a major flaw in Brownback’s values and public performance. He has been virtually absent from Congress while he has been running around the country trying to build momentum for his candidacy in 2008. One has to wonder what values Brownback really holds to when Congress adjourned on October 4, 2006, and then began a new session in early January of ‘07. During that time period, of about eleven weeks, Brownback needed to show up for only a few days of work, but he skipped town entirely.

Then, when Congress began meeting again in 2007, Brownback missed all of the votes in the first full week of the new Congress. What is even more amazing is that this value oriented conservative senator was too busy to participate in the important senate discussions regarding ethics reforms. And Sam Brownback hasn’t been working much this week either, missing all of the votes on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. He planned to travel and campaign all week until press inquiries about his questionable absences forced him to cancel campaign trips to South Carolina and Florida the last two days.

In January of this year there have only been two weeks when votes in the senate were scheduled on every day from Monday to Friday. What should a candidate for president do? Dick Morris notes in his daily column today that “The three frontrunners—Hillary, Obama and McCain—have made sure that they take good care of their day job. Obama has a perfect attendance record and Hillary has only missed one day—when she took her recent trip to Iraq. As a member of the Armed Services Committee, the visit to the war zone, Pakistan, and Afghanistan was definitely legitimate Senate business, even if there was a deliberate political component to it. So, in effect, she, too, has a perfect record. Senator McCain has missed only two votes. One was the first vote of the new session—a resolution honoring Gerald Ford and the other was a confirmation of a judicial nomination on a day that he participated in a panel at the World Economic Conference in Davos, Switzerland.” You have to give credit where credit is due—Obama, Clinton and McCain all showed up for work, something Brownback has not done.

Dick Morris justly concluded in his opinion column that Sam Brownback’s attendance record “suggests arrogance—and stupidity—that doesn’t bode well for any serious candidate for President. He claims to be a leader, but has anyone told him that you can’t lead if you’re not there?”

But this “no-show” problem is not limited to Brownback. Senator Joe Biden has missed nine of the 40 votes so far this New Year as has Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican who may also run for president. For a Congress that was supposed to hear the concerns of the voters last November it doesn’t appear that these men get the message at all. This is not a conservative or liberal problem, it is an ethics problem, at least to my mind. Can you imagine not showing up for work while you were out seeking another job at the expense of your present job? You wouldn’t last long. I suggest that voters ought to let these senators know that they have had enough of this “no-show” approach to the US Senate, a job that pays over $162,000 per year and includes many perks. And I further suggest conservatives and liberals alike take at hard look at what their favorite candidates claim to believe and what they actually do. You might be surprised at who really shows up for work in the Senate. I was surprised thus I plan to pay more attention in the coming weeks. I am tired of leaders who think we owe them something when the whole idea of an election is that they are serve to serve us in the Congress.

I read Barrack Obama’s book, The Audacity of Hope, a few weeks ago. I will comment on it at some future point. I will tell you this much now, since it is very appropriate to the above consideration. This man shows up. He works hard and he balances his family life with his public service work very well. This is one of a number of reasons why he strikes many of us as credible even if we disagree with his political views on some important issues. I don’t know much about Sam Brownback personally but I know that he wants to appeal to people with values like my own. So far he is not even close.