Ryan Chartrand

Imagine you’ve landed a kickass job that pays six figures, commands power and respect and carries loads of responsibility. But you want an even bigger and better job. So you embark on a series of year-long interviews requiring you to call in sick three to four days a week.

“No problem,” your boss says. “Do what you gotta do.”

Sound ridiculous? That’s exactly what 2008’s top presidential hopefuls are doing right now. As we speak, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.; Barack Obama, D-Iowa; and John McCain, R-Ariz. are vigorously hitting their campaign trails in an effort to secure your vote. The only problem is all three candidates are leaving their jobs as senators by the wayside.

According to AbsentCongress.com, a Web site dedicated to keeping track of senators playing hooky, as of November last year McCain missed a surprising 53.1 percent of Senate votes, Obama 33.7 percent, and a dedicated Clinton 18.2 percent, making her the star pupil of senator-presidential-wannabes. The only senator with a worse attendance record than McCain is Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., who was hospitalized after suffering a brain hemorrhage last year and has since been in recovery. These figures have likely skyrocketed in the last few months as the campaigns pick up steam and head into the nominations.

Granted, many of these votes are trivial and hold little significance to you or me, but some concern issues the candidates preach about every day like the Iraq war, national security and the national budget. Ironically, the candidates even attack each other for casting votes on certain issues but fail to mention that they themselves never bothered to attend the vote in the first place, let alone vote against it.

Sure, with all the speeches, rallies and traveling around in lavish tour buses, who’s got time for real politics? Let’s face it, these people are busting their asses promoting themselves across the country 24/7. If they aren’t wowing one crowd, they’re preparing for or traveling to the next.

But it’s unfair that their campaigns take a toll on their day jobs. Senators have considerable duties. Hell, they rake in a $165,000 per year salary – that’s not a small chunk of change.

Back in 2004, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry missed a shocking 90 percent of all senate votes that year, prompting the National Taxpayers Union to request he reimburse taxpayers more than $90,000 of his congressional paycheck, citing an 1856 law that requires senators deduct from their monthly salary based on the number of days missed from work. Of course Kerry refused, and the request was abandoned due to lack of support. Not surprisingly, eight months later Congress nixed the law, stating it was “outdated and rarely, if ever, enforced.”

Poor attendance by senators is so prevalent in Canada that laws have formed which fine senators $250 for every absence beyond 21 days. One lazy senator was fined more than $23,000 for his meager attendance record in 2000.

So, while the candidates continue their crusade for the Oval Office, I can’t help but wonder if the ones who don’t make it will have a job waiting for them when they return.

I know one thing for sure: if I missed half of my classes this quarter saying I was out interviewing for my potential dream job, my ass would be thrown out of Cal Poly quicker than you could say “yay” or “nay.”

Patrick Barbieri is a journalism senior and a Mustang Daily reporter.

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