Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Dueling Opinions: My First Response

Is John Kerry the most liberal member of the US Senate? The Daily Howler is all over this one (and AJ, too, should bother to read the National Journal if its
methodology impresses him so). Before quoting, I'll summarize the major
points for the benefit of our intrepid readers so that they may
immediately desist from pimping RNC talking points, as they surely shall:

Kerry is in the liberal wing of the Democratic party but nowhere near
the most liberal member of the Senate (10, including Ted Kennedy, are
more liberal). Edwards is well to the right of the liberal wing,
including a 2002 performance which places him among the least liberal of
all Democratic senators. The "first- and fourth-most" garbage is the
result of a masturbatory exercise in number manipulation. On to Sommerby:

"[Begins by citing Jonah Goldberg repeating the 'first- and fourth-most
liberal line.]

Our advice? If Goldberg is so impressed by the Journal, maybe he ought
to try reading it. On July 10, the Journal’s Richard E. Cohen (not the
Post columnist) tried to explain the pleasing facts which so many
scribes have been peddling. Are Kerry and Edwards really first and
fourth most liberal? That rating is based on calendar year 2003, when
both senators—campaigning for the White House—missed large numbers of
the 62 votes the Journal used for its tabulations. (Kerry missed 37 of
the 62 votes; Edwards missed 22.) Writing in the rag Goldberg loves,
Cohen laid out the big picture:

COHEN: The bigger picture presents a more nuanced view of the two
senators on the Democratic presidential ticket. Since joining the Senate
in 1985, Kerry has compiled a “lifetime average” composite liberal score
of 85.7 in NJ's vote ratings. Ten other current senators have a lifetime
composite liberal score that is higher than Kerry’S. (See NJ, 3/6/04, p.
679.) Meanwhile, Edwards, who first joined the Senate in 1999, has a
lifetime composite liberal score of 75.7, a number that puts him in the
moderate wing of his party.

“The bigger picture presents a more nuanced view?” Richard E. Cohen,
repeat after us: In fact, the bigger picture shows that Kerry and
Edwards are not first and fourth most liberal! In fact, ten current
senators have more liberal lifetime voting records than Kerry. And how
crazily liberal is Edwards? Here are the Journal’s annual rankings since
he arrived in the Senate:

John Edwards:
1999: 31st most liberal senator
2000: 19th most liberal senator
2001: 35th most liberal senator
2002: 40th most liberal senator
2003: 4th most liberal senator

When pundits call Edwards the “fourth most liberal,” they are
cherry-picking his rank from one year—a year in which he missed more
than a third of the votes used to make the tabulations."

Footnote: Please spare me the predictable line about Kerry missing
votes. In 2000, Candidate Bush governed Texas for 17 months by
campaigning for president outside the state.

Second footnote: Any chance we'll get a retraction? Just asking,
expecting the answer "no."

Third footnote: Does AJ have a similar desire to see Mr. Bush's
service records?


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