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Pro And Con

Jonathan Chait outlines part two of The New Republic's case against George W. Bush: he's weakening our democracy. A pretty serious charge. Meanwhile, Dan Drezner has apparently decided that becoming the blogosphere's most prominent "on the fence" swing voter will get him a lot of attention (or, perhaps, a sub rosa promise of a job) because his latest reservation about John Kerry is so transparently silly that he's obviously already made up his mind to back him. Kerry, it turns out, missed a lot of votes while on the campaign trail:

One could plausibly argue that Kerry's full-time job since early 2003 was running for president -- but he could have resigned if that were the case.
Bam! Come now, Dan's a professor of political science, surely he's aware that the "missed votes" issue is entirely bogus (first ginned up, I believe, by Joe Lieberman in his campaign against Lowell Weicker) that says nothing whatsoever about a legislator's performance. Besides which, voting for Bush on the theory that his opponent isn't hard working doesn't even pass the laugh test.

July 15, 2004 | Permalink


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If vote attendance was an absolute index of competence and performance, then who would be most qualified for the presidency? I don't know for sure, but my guess would be some 'parliamentarian' Senators who spend more time arguing about procedural motions in the chamber than, say, working in committees or discussing things with people who 'aren't Washington'.

Drezner really is trying to extract as much mileage from his 'Political Batchelorette' stance as possible, isn't he?

There's a long-standing complaint that members of Congress are too wrapped up in the 'workings of Washington'. It's one that Bush made in 2000, and I suspect he may still try to make. But what's the only conclusion to be drawn from a voting record that suggests a Rep. or Senator never leaves the chamber when Congress is in session?

(It's like saying that Dennis Skinner should be Prime Minister because he's basically set up home in the House of Commons.)

Posted by: nick | Jul 15, 2004 4:03:35 PM

I heard Bush using this criticism in an ad. The response seems rather obvious - George W. Bush broke records for vaction time as a President leading up to 9/11 - was it %40 of the time (you might even want to lie and say %50, so that the only response is to elevate the topic by claiming it was only %40 of his time on vaction.
It really is a win/win for Kerry as only the partisans really care about that stuff.

Posted by: theCoach | Jul 15, 2004 4:11:37 PM

I don't think anyone wants to have to revisit the Constitutionally weakest governor in the country who couldn't be bothered to sign a lot of bills (instead allow the pass without sign and pocket veto options to take hold) and who hasn't vetoed a single bill in his 3 1/2 years as President... even the one (McCain-Feingold) that he personally thought was unconstitutional.

Posted by: norbizness | Jul 15, 2004 4:12:54 PM

I read Drezner's commenters, and his audience is primarily Republican, maybe 70/30. By simply putting the arguments out there to people who would not visit (an?)(a?) the Yglesias or a Drum, he is doing John Kerry a service. More of a service than if he finally decided, for the interest would decline.

Having been very seriously burned by Tacitus, my presumption is that Drezner will vote Bush. Oh, and watch Andy Sullivan, now that the FMA vote is over, I expect him to get all hawkish again.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jul 15, 2004 4:15:41 PM

Funny, Bush has to take time from being President to campaign.

How can a decent leader and Commander-in-Chief stray from protecting us from terrorism just to kiss some babies? If Bush truly cares about his job, he should refrain from all campaining immediately.


Posted by: August J. Pollak | Jul 15, 2004 4:19:59 PM

This sounds like a job for fafblog, but sadly they are on hiatus, and I am going through serious withdrawal (which seems funny cause I only started reading them this week).

Posted by: Ugh | Jul 15, 2004 4:26:02 PM

As someone once said, most of the votes in the Senate are so lopsided that having one or two senators miss a day isn't going to change anything. Also, while I'm not very familiar with the procedures of the Senate, I remember reading that senators can have one person fill in for them, or something like that.

Anyway, as for independent voters, look at this, from TNR's Campaign Journal. It should leave a lot of Democrats smiling, as it reveals that we are in pretty decent shape and why the Bush team is starting to panic:

As the [Republican] memo notes, "Clearly, if these undecided voters were leaning any harder against the door of the Kerry camp, they would crash right through it."


Posted by: Brian | Jul 15, 2004 4:45:44 PM

Chait's article is very, very good. I'd also recommend Matt Miller's latest column, warning against Democratic complacency:


". . .I'm not saying Democrats don't have great material with which to frame the debate on their terms. But people who've predicted cakewalks recently have a habit of facing a comeuppance.

That's why Bill Clinton is right: Kerry should campaign as if Iraq were stable, the economy was humming, and Osama has been caught.

At this point, most people have no notion of Kerry's affirmative agenda. . ."

Posted by: roublen vesseau | Jul 15, 2004 4:49:23 PM

Actually, the real reason Dan should be deeply, deeply ashamed is that as a political scientist, he ought to know about the long and glorious tradition of pairing, wherein a Senator who would miss a vote would find a colleague from across the aisle to do so as well. One can only imagine that the Senate is so fucked up these days that this simple gesture of gentility is a thing of the past.

Posted by: praktike | Jul 15, 2004 4:51:06 PM

praktike: I wasn't aware that pairing was ever common in the Senate (or even the House), along the lines of the Commons. Thanks for letting me know that it's not an alien concept, and that it's just contemporary partisanship which has created a situation in which absences are used for political points-scoring.

Posted by: nick | Jul 15, 2004 4:56:28 PM

Who really thinks that Drezner or Sullivan will speak out and vote for Kerry/Edwards? Or gives a damn, either.

Let's figure out how to reach the millions of voters would are potentially reachable and will never know the name of either of them, or read anything they say.

Chiat's article is really fine. Discussion of the thrust of his article would do a lot to refine his points for much broader consumption.

Spread this important message, which really isn't being discussed in the media! Raise enough of a storm that the media sees a need to expose this clearly undemocratic behavior now, before the elections, when it is really needed.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jul 15, 2004 4:57:03 PM

Oh, and btw, the Chait article is good stuff. I love it when Chait gets angry! Fire and snark rolled into one!

nick - yes, pairing is a Senate tradition. There's an excellent discussion of how it is used in Caro's Master of the Senate. Natch, LBJ was pretty savvy at using the practice for his own ends. One of which being Civil Rights for all Americans.

Posted by: praktike | Jul 15, 2004 5:02:27 PM

I keep trying to take Drezner seriously on these issues, but he just makes it so damn hard. He may have some value in the outsourcing conversation (though he seems to gloss over economic possibilities he doesn't like -- see Oldman's blog for examples of these types of things), and he does seem to think pretty hard about policy, but he just doesn't offer a lot of arguments on the campaign which suggest that he's doing anything except playing to the right's partisans, in a half-hearted sort of way at that. To be fair, it's not as if the Administration has given him much to work with.

Posted by: paperwight | Jul 15, 2004 5:16:04 PM

Also, many votes are really stupid- by sheer number, votes required to verify minutes, etc., in all likelihood outnumber substantive votes.

Granted, they're all part of being a Senator, but surely a purely procedural vote shouldn't really be all that terrible to miss. Particularly if there's a quorum on the 'issue' of whether or not the minutes were correct.

Posted by: TJ | Jul 15, 2004 5:29:33 PM

Whether or not Dan is really on the fence, I enjoy those posts of his a lot. They bundle the current arguments around the web and give commenters a chance to toss out their best arguments. Since the arguments for Bush seem thin when examined, this can only help.

On the other hand, insulting Dan by saying he's doing it for a job or attention (unlike other bloggers, who are in it for the beer), is not going to win anyone over.

Posted by: Tim | Jul 15, 2004 6:35:17 PM

Given how little has been accomplished by Congress over the past year, does it really matter?

Posted by: Jon H | Jul 15, 2004 6:37:40 PM


That's it! Pairing was the practice that I was looking for. Thanks!

Posted by: Brian | Jul 15, 2004 7:00:58 PM

Aren't you the guy who said, "Something sloppy, offensive, over-the-top, or in some minor way inaccurate, by contrast, will provoke a flood of responses" ... and ... "The more hysterical work gives its critics more to work with and, therefore, attracts more criticism, more countercriticism, and more more viewers" ... while admitting you do these very things in your writing in the name of "Traffic and notoriety"?

And now you're critically claiming Drezner is altering his presentation just to attract more viewers?

Yes, I'll take that matched pot and kettle set, please. In black.

Posted by: Reid | Jul 16, 2004 12:57:35 AM

Bob Mcmanus write: I read Drezner's commenters, and his audience is primarily Republican, maybe 70/30. By simply putting the arguments out there to people who would not visit (an?)(a?) the Yglesias or a Drum, he is doing John Kerry a service. More of a service than if he finally decided, for the interest would decline.

I believe the proper indefinite article for yglesias depends on your perferred choice of pronunciation. The classical iglesias pronunciation requires, of course AN.
However, the pronunciation favored by the unwashed masses (yuh-glesias)would ask for A.

I myself (and my brother I believe) consider the stylish why-glesias to be the proper INFORMAL form of adress to be used when speaking to or of one of my illustrious kind. That one also, of course, requires A.

In short, a true gentleman refers to AN Y(i)-glesias in formally speach and writting, and a Y(why)-glesias when spaking informally or inquiring as to who is causing that hideous smell.

Posted by: Nicholas Yglesias | Jul 16, 2004 1:02:45 PM

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