Column: John Kerry, a liberal?

Is John Kerry liberal? While certain pundits would have you believe Kerry is a tree-hugging communist who condones burning the American flag, banning the Bible and enforcing mandatory unprotected gay sex in churches, the reality is that Kerry, like most Americans, stands for moderation. In all seriousness, the National Journal ranked Kerry as the most liberal senator for the year of 2003. That being said, he shared the honor with no less than six other senators, including Florida’s Bob Graham. Furthermore, the ranking only applied for one year, and held no weight over anytime before or after 2003.

Republicans have often misconstrued this to mean Kerry is the most liberal senator to have ever walked God’s green earth. Perhaps Bush put it most eloquently when he said, “as a matter of fact, your record is such that Ted Kennedy, your colleague, is the conservative senator from Massachusetts.” Actually, the National Journal, which Bush was presumably citing, states that over his entire career, Kerry is the 11th most liberal senator. However, according to – referencing the findings of Keith Poole – Kerry is the 22nd most liberal senator, tied with, yet again, six other senators. According to the Brookings Institution, “Mr. Kerry’s voting history places him to the left of today’s median Senate Democrat (Tom Daschle of South Dakota). But he is closer to the center of the Democratic Party than he is to the most liberal senators, including Mr. Kennedy.”

Indeed, how could a man who voted for NAFTA, Homeland Security, the Communications Decency Act, the Patriot Act and Newt Gingrich’s welfare reform be considered the most liberal senator? Even considering his vote against the Gulf War and his recent opposition – sort of – to the war in Iraq, he is certainly no Eugene McCarthy or George McGovern. So in 2003, how did he come anywhere near receiving the most liberal ranking?

The National Journal ranks people by key votes in foreign, domestic and economic policy. Already the word “key” implies a certain subjective method of data compilation. Because Kerry was campaigning in 2003, he was absent for 37 of the 62 key votes. As a result, both foreign policy and domestic issues were stricken from the scoring process. This left Kerry with little to go on other than the economic votes he cast. It is not surprising then, that Kerry might well be left with a more extreme ranking than he would normally receive.

The truth is that Kerry is not the most liberal person in the Senate. He is left of center for sure, but he’s a long shot away from being Karl Marx or Ted Kennedy – take your pick. In fact, the Brookings Institution found Kerry to be no more liberal than Bush is conservative. If that is indeed so, I feel obliged to tell Bush: as a matter of fact, your record is such that John Ashcroft, your colleague, is the liberal politician from your administration.

-The writer is a freshman majoring in political science.

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