by Ted on August 10, 2004

Either Bob Somerby has invented a transcript out of whole cloth, or he has caught Vice-President Dick Cheney lying on tape.

CHENEY: John 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. (emphasis added)

That’s not a matter of interpretation; that is a baldfaced lie. The National Journal ranking that Cheney is referring to is based on one year, 2003. Kerry and Edwards missed a lot of votes in 2003, because they were out campaigning. When the National Journal looked at their lifetime voting records, both Senators were in the middle of the Democratic pack. Here are the ten most liberal Democratic senators currently serving, according to the National Journal:

1. Mark Dayton, D-Minn.
2. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md.
3. Jack Reed, D-R.I.
4. Jon Corzine, D-N.J.
5. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.
6. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
7. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa
8. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.
9. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.
10. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt

When Republicans say that Kerry was ranked as the most liberal Senator, that’s an extremely misleading claim, but it’s technically true (for one year, according to one publication). When Cheney said that the ranking applied for 20 years of Kerry’s service, that’s not even technically true.

It’s fun to see Jon Stewart humiliate Rep. Henry Bonilla on this issue (the video is on the right). It’s not nearly as fun to realize that Kerry’s opponents get away with it constantly in front of professional journalists.

P.S. Googlebomb for most liberal senator. Pass it on.



a 08.10.04 at 5:39 pm

Actually, Kerry missed a lot of votes in 2003 because he was on a boat in Cambodia.


John James 08.10.04 at 5:43 pm

So, I am to take it that being ranked as the most ‘liberal’ Senator is now a bad thing in your eyes? If Kerry was mistakenly ranked as being the ‘strongest on security’ or as the ‘greatest war veteran’ (supposing such rankings existed) would Democrats be similarly incensed?

It seems odd to me that Democrats are embarrassed such charges, even if they are false.


Ted Barlow 08.10.04 at 5:50 pm


I ain’t that liberal. I didn’t support the most liberal candidate in the primaries. I would completely understand the concern that moderates would feel about voting for the most liberal Senator, if it was true. And I don’t appreciate Cheney lying.

It seems odd to me that Republicans are unembarassed by the fact that their Vice-Presidential candidate is lying in their faces.


Rob 08.10.04 at 5:52 pm

Yeah, because Republicans keep brining this up and so it must be good for Kerry then. Trying to bursh the other side as out of the mainstream is known as a political attack.


P O'Neill 08.10.04 at 5:56 pm

Ted — nice post, just fix the recurring typo in your Howler posts, his name is Bob Somerby (no 2nd S in surname). He’s hilarious today too on Krugman vs O’Reilly.


Ted Barlow 08.10.04 at 6:01 pm

The extra “S” is for extra-special. Which Bob is.

OK, fixed it.


wsm 08.10.04 at 6:39 pm

1. For the Democrats, arguing about whether Kerry is or is not “the most liberal senator” or “more liberal than Ted Kennedy” is a real loser strategy, so don’t expect this issue to get into mainstream discourse.

2. Cheney is usually pretty careful about public statements like this, so either he uncharacteristically misspoke, or the transcript is wrong. But pushing the liar angle is a poor strategy: see point 1.


robbo 08.10.04 at 6:43 pm

Gee, John James, that’s some comeback. Great explanation for why it’s okay for the Vice President to lie to our faces, yet again. I’m starting to believe that, at some level, right-wingers actually crave being lied to by macho men who will protect them from all the evil badness out there. Not that left-wingers are perfect human beings — far from it — but I’d love to see more psychological deconstructions of lefties vs. righties.


Matt Weiner 08.10.04 at 9:11 pm

Cheney is usually pretty careful about public statements like this

Pardon? The same Cheney who repeatedly publicly says we don’t know whether Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks? And who said in 2004 that we had “conclusive evidence… that [Saddam] did in fact have programs for weapons of mass destruction.”

I am willing to believe that Cheney is careful in his public statements, but not that he is careful to ensure that his public statements are true.


Mac Thomason 08.10.04 at 9:50 pm

I would say that Dick is careful not to say anything that can be easily proven untrue.


Dick Cheney 08.10.04 at 11:40 pm

Yeah so what? So I lied. Does a bear shit in the woods? What difference does it make?

Oh yeah, before I forget,

Go fuck yourselves!


Tom Bozzo 08.11.04 at 12:46 am

Somerby’s quote is accurate. The transcript is here, near the end:


baa 08.11.04 at 1:32 am

Is Kerry the “most liberal senator.” No. Is he “more liberal than Ted Kennedy.” Probably not. But do numerous groups rank him as very, very liberal? Why yes, they do.

So you may understand why right of center readers are tuning out the outrage expressed in this thread.



son volt 08.11.04 at 4:45 am

I’m sort of with John James on this: protesting that Kerry IS NOT the most liberal senator (even though he isn’t) concedes way too much to those who are attempting to marginalize mainstream liberal positions.

All Mark Dayton (elected in 2000, IIRC) probably did to earn the #1 spot was to try to hold the line against Bush’s irresponsible tax cuts and extremist judicial nominees. The right wants to dismantle the New Deal, and the people who stand in the way are the radicals? Come on.


Warbaby 08.11.04 at 3:41 pm

There’s a historical record of liberal/conservative ranking backed up by a very solid mathematical model at Dr. Keith Poole’s voteview site. Here is the page on current rankings.

The rankings are based on roll-call votes, so a history of missing votes can influcence the ranking. Most liberal is Byrd and Kerry is in the middle of the Dems with the same score (24.5 rank) as Lieberman and several others.


Jeremy Pierce 08.11.04 at 5:46 pm

What was interesting to me was the reason Kerry came out as most liberal in 2003. It was not because he changed his views and got more liberal on the issues he’d previously voted moderately on. It was because he showed up for such few votes that the ones he did vote on counted more, and those were the issues he’s most liberal on. What it does reveal is that his liberal-leaning views are the ones that most define him, since those are the ones he cared about enough to show up for. That he voted more moderately some years rather than others is more an accident of what issues there were to vote on than an indication of his priorities.


Matt Weiner 08.11.04 at 6:04 pm

Another possibility is that, when you’re bound to miss a lot of votes, the ones you show up for will be close votes, where your vote matters, and those will be ones that divide on party lines. You could understand why Kerry would not show up for the 97-1 vote declaring National Kitten Day–his vote really doesn’t matter–but that will mean he doesn’t get counted as agreeing with Inhofe and Kyl on that one, whereas Dayton and Sarbanes do. (Dissenting, of course, is Frist.)

Mac, I respectfully disagree. I think the weapons of mass destruction programs quote was easily proved untrue, by for instance looking at the recently released Kay report.


Keith 08.11.04 at 7:12 pm

Oops – I see my Matt beat me to the punch. (Great minds…?) But, anyway:

That Kerry is showing up for the votes on issues that have a higher priority for him is one possible explanation for his more liberal rating in the year where he missed many votes.

But there are others equally plausible. For instance, perhaps he quite sensibly puts a higher priority on being present for votes that are likely to be close, and a low priority on votes that (however important the issue) are likely to be very one-sided, anyway. In that case, what he would tend to miss are votes that have broad support from both parties — precisely the types of votes that would make one come out more moderate on such indexes.

One would need a lot more info than has been presented here before backing any such hypothesis.


Keith 08.11.04 at 7:15 pm

I just meant “Matt” — there’s no salient sense I’m aware of in which he’s “my Matt.”


Matt Weiner 08.12.04 at 8:20 pm

I am for sale, though, if your department is buying.

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