The question that nobody asked out loud (at least not that I heard) when John McCain, with only a few weeks left in the campaign season, returned to Washington to stir up the Congress before they voted on the $700 billion bailout plan, was why nobody expected him to be there in the first place. Why wasn’t Obama there? Was the Senate not in session? The answer, it seems to a layman like myself, is that as long as the minimum quorum is there, nobody cares how the publicly-elected and publicly-paid (partially—I know they’ve got thousands coming to them from lobbyists and millions headed their way when they retire from public office and become consultants) officials spend their time once they win elections. That extends to presidents as well—nobody blinked an eye when Clinton in 1996 and Bush in 2004 took the last few months of their terms off to travel and give speeches for reelection. (I could insert a joke about Bush not spending much time in the White House anyway, but I’ll refrain.) I remember reading somewhere but cannot track the source down that CSPAN and CSPAN-2 are not allowed to do wide-angle shots of the House or Senate precisely because the members don’t want the public to see how empty those chambers are day to day.
On the other hand, a university doesn’t run like the Senate. If a third of the teachers at UGA decided to take a couple months off to run campaigns (note that I said teachers, not professors—the two categories usually overlap, but not always), there would be new teachers pretty soon. If I took off the month of October to make speeches in Pennsylvania, my classes would never finish Republic, and to deprive them of that would be wrong of me. If I took off August through November, I’d only be around long enough to say howdy and give a final exam. No, as it turns out, being a college teacher requires a virtue that many legislators and executives haven’t developed, namely the constancy to show up week after week and do one’s assigned job. If I were running against a governor or a Senator with “experience,” that competitor would be more available to crowds and television cameras by far simply by virtue of being part of one of those professions where actually doing the job isn’t as important as getting elected to do the job again.