John McCaslin

He points to a recent issue of Human Events magazine alerting its readers: "Jeremiah Wright is not the only supporter Barack Obama needs to explain.

"Although the media has finally exposed Barack Obama's ties to the unhinged pastor, his support from rappers who propagate equally pernicious nonsense has gone almost entirely unnoticed," Evan Gahr wrote. "The rappers have good reason to praise Obama. He has at times been an apologist for their 'music.'"

New one

Imagine you were suddenly absent from work, missing an important meeting or deadline, and the next day you not only had to face your boss, but explain your being AWOL to the entire country — and in writing, no less.

Welcome to Capitol Hill, where congressmen are required to provide a "personal explanation" to the speaker of the House whenever they miss casting crucial votes, a lawmaker's most important congressional duty.

Like a schoolteacher, the speaker has heard every excuse imaginable: from being stuck in a U.S. Capitol elevator to being so "stressed out" that a sick day was in order. One of the most common explanations for being away without leave are flight or other travel delays.

Most congressmen, or so we've observed over the years, prefer to provide as few details as possible about being absent, which isn't surprising considering each and every excuse is published in the Congressional Record — the same way small-town newspapers print the names of drunk drivers and sex offenders.

So, rather than admitting they were sitting on a beach in Florida, or participating in the opening day of hunting season in Iowa, the lawmakers inform the speaker in writing that they "unfortunately" were "detained" and therefore "unable to vote."

Then there are the handful of congressmen who provide TMI (too much information), like Rep. Tim Mahoney, the Florida Democrat who was running against incumbent Republican Rep. Mark Foley until the latter stepped down for sending inappropriate e-mails to a congressional page. If he's out horsing around, Mr. Mahoney doesn't mind saying so for the record:

"Madam Speaker, on April 17, 2008, I missed votes because I was attending my daughter Bailey's equestrian event. Bailey is competing today at the 2008 Varsity Equestrian National Championship in Waco, Texas. She is a senior at Oklahoma State University and has been a member of the OSU equestrian team since her freshman year."

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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