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August 10, 2004

Not that there's anything wrong with that

Posted by Phil on August 10, 2004 9:50 AM

Just to do what we can to eliminate this meme as well, John Kerry is not, repeat, not "the most liberal senator." From Salon:

To support the "most liberal senator" claim, the Bush-Cheney campaign points to the congressional vote ratings prepared by the National Journal. At a campaign stop in Minnesota Friday, Cheney said Kerry is "by National Journal ratings, the most liberal member of the United States Senate. Ted Kennedy is the more conservative of the two senators from Massachusetts. It's true. All you got to do is go look at the ratings systems. And that captures a lot, I think, in terms of somebody's philosophy. And it's not based on one vote, or one year, it's based on 20 years of service in the United States Senate."

The thing is, Cheney's claim is not "true." It's that other thing: "false." Earlier this year, National Journal identified Kerry as the senator with the most liberal voting record in 2003. When the National Journal looked at Kerry's entire Senate voting record -- "on 20 years of service in the United States Senate," as Cheney put it -- the magazine determined that Kerry was not the "most liberal" senator. In fact, the National Journal reported in March that "10 other current senators have a lifetime composite liberal score that is higher than Kerry's. And, yes, the top-10 list includes Massachusetts' other senator, Edward Kennedy, D-Mass." For the record, the National Journal's list of the top 10 "most liberal" sitting senators is: Mark Dayton, Paul Sarbanes, Jack Reid, Jon Corzine, Ted Kennedy, Barbara Boxer, Tom Harkin, Richard Durbin, Frank Lautenberg and Patrick Leahy.

The "11th most liberal senator" doesn't carry quite the sting that "most liberal senator" does, so the Bush-Cheney campaign and some in the media keep pushing the flashier -- but false -- charge. Last week on "Crossfire," for example, Tucker Carlson called Kerry "the most liberal member of the Senate by any measure of his votes."

But even the single "measure" the Republicans can cite credibly -- the National Journal's rating on Kerry's 2003 voting record -- can fairly be called into question. The National Journal ranks senators based on their votes in three categories: economic policy, social policy and foreign policy. However, because Kerry missed so many votes while campaigning in 2003, the National Journal lacked sufficient data to grade him on social policy or foreign policy. Thus, Kerry's 2003 ranking is based solely on his 2003 votes on economic policy -- an area in which the National Journal has traditionally seen Kerry as significantly more liberal than he is on, say, foreign policy.

And even when it comes to the 2003 economic policy votes the National Journal counted, it's not entirely clear that Kerry's views should be deemed "liberal." The National Journal included 32 Senate roll calls in its economic policy rankings. Kerry voted in 19 of those. In each of those 19, Kerry's vote was exactly the same as that cast by a majority of the Senate's Democrats. As the Democratic Leadership Council's Al From and Bruce Reed argued in a recent Op-Ed piece, the National Journal rankings are "based more on partisan than ideological differences, ensuring that most Democrats will have very liberal rankings."

On average, 46 senators -- including 3.6 Republicans -- sided with Kerry on the 19 votes used in his National Journal ranking. On 12 of the 19 votes, at least one Republican joined Kerry. On three of them -- votes against loans for the construction of nuclear power plants, against the study of offshore oil and gas drilling and against the privatization of air traffic controllers -- 10 or more Republicans joined Kerry. And it wasn't just crossover moderates like McCain or Maine's Olympia Snowe. North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole voted with Kerry on the offshore drilling measure; Missouri Sen. Jim Talent and Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe voted with Kerry on the air traffic controllers; and Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel voted with Kerry on a Medicare issue.

And the statements about Edwards are just as wrong. So when you hear someone saying that "first and fourth most liberal senators" horseshit, it means they're either stupid or lying.

Kerry is also not a "French socialist," a cannibal-zombie, or a Martian kill-bot.

p.s. -- If you haven't already, you're going to hear something about "Christmas in Cambodia." Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life. I don't know what it means, either, but the fact that Bush gets a free ride on his National Guard non-duty while they try to pin this stuff on Kerry speaks volumes about the ethical compass of the right.


So, I wasn't supposed to care about Clinton's lack of service but I'm supposed to hold Bush's half-assed service against him and get moist about John Kerry's purple hearts? And Al Gore's five months in Vietnam weren't good enough but Kerry's five are because he was thrice wounded?

I can't wait for the campaign year when service in Vietnam is no longer an issue. How long will I have to wait? About 16-20 more years...?

Posted by: Cristina at August 10, 2004 11:10 AM

Ok, well I agree a whole lot with what you say, but Kerry really does look like a flesh eating zombie, unfortunatly hands down.

Cristina - you won't have to wait that long, hopefully. I would guess 4-8 years. Edwards was too young to serve, so anyone his age or younger is not going to worry about this - so you're going to be war-canidate free. That is, untill our boys and girls in Iraq shake off the nerve damage and decide to take a swipe at public office themselves...

Posted by: Michael Burton at August 10, 2004 12:23 PM

I'm betting we're not going to hear much more of the 'first most liberal' talking point stuff from Republicans much longer. Jon Stewart eviscerated Rep. Bonilla last week on The Daily Show over this very issue - I've the link to the video on my site, or you can get it on The Daily Show site. Well worth seeing...

Posted by: Betsy at August 11, 2004 9:15 AM

I saw that, too, Betsy! Bonilla seemed to go into robot defense mode, but the point was defintely made.

Posted by: Cristina at August 11, 2004 10:17 AM