Jewish World Review May 14, 2003 / 12 Iyar, 5763
Presidential candidate and former House Democratic Leader
Richard Gephardt has dug himself an early grave in his pursuit of the White House:
Since the first of the year, he has missed 84 percent of the votes in the House of
Gephardt did not do the honest thing and resign since he wasn't planning to show up
for work. Instead, he let us continue to pay his $154,700 salary. At more than $5,000
per vote, the American people might find him a trifle expensive.
Gephardt may have favored the Democratic alternative to the Bush tax cut, but he
missed the chance to vote on it. He may support more adult education in worker
retraining, but he missed that vote too. Doubtless he will campaign as an apostle of
family values, but he missed the votes on the Exploitation of Children Act, the Child
Abduction Prevention Act and the Human Cloning Prohibition Act.
When the presidential campaign begins in earnest, he'll eat every one of these votes for
breakfast, served up in negative ads.
Nothing works on the campaign trail like attacks on candidates for bad attendance. It
alienates people on both sides of every issue and reflects a callous disregard of the
work of the people. The feeble argument that "I'm running for president" isn't much of a
rebuttal: George W. Bush finds time to be president, and he's running too.
Moreover, Gephardt's competitors (mostly) found the time to fulfill their duties. Sens.
John Edwards (D-N.C.) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) made 87 percent and 77 percent
of the votes. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) was a bit more lax, casting 60 percent of the
votes (excluding January, when he was recovering from surgery).
If they can show up, why can't Gephardt?
Congressional truancy reflects an arrogance and a disregard of one's responsibilities.
Putting campaign fund-raisers and press-the-flesh appearances ahead of voting in
Congress reflects just the kind of insider Washington conceit that drives voters
Dick Gephardt is the Democratic version of Bob Dole -a former legislative leader/party
warhorse running with the support of the longtime professionals and party hacks. His
suggestion that we repeal the entire Bush tax cut to pay for mandatory, universal
health insurance guarantees that he will go nowhere but down if he wins the
Gephardt will doubtless trot out his career attendance record to show that his recent
absenteeism is all campaign related and not indicative of a generally cavalier attitude
toward the job. But, faced with a similar situation, Dole resigned his Senate seat to run
for president. Conscious that he couldn't handle both jobs at once, he made his peace
with leaving Congress to pursue his candidacy.
But Gephardt asks us to promote him based on a record of truancy in his current job.
Most voters won't see a reason to do so.
Ask Bill Clinton. In 1982, seeking to regain the Arkansas governorship after his first
term defeat two years before, the future president found his way barred by Rep. Jim
Guy Tucker (his eventual successor as governor). Attacking Tucker for bad attendance
during the campaign, Clinton's negative commercial spun off "The Arkansas Way," his
opponent's campaign slogan: "The Arkansas way," said Clinton's ad, "is to show up
when they're paying you."
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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, "Power Plays: Top 20 Winning and Losing Strategies of History's Great Political Leaders" Comment by clicking here.
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© 2002, Dick Morris