Increasingly, right-wing and Republican operatives (such as George W. Bush)--and even members of the mainstream media--have repeated the false claims that John Kerry is the most liberal Senator and that John Edwards is the fourth most liberal member of the U.S. Senate. Both assertions are false.
Why are these claims false?
1) A comprehensive overview of the Senate voting records of John Kerry and John Edwards shows moderate voting records for both men. Here is a breakdown of the liberalism of their voting records in the Senate from 1999 through 2003:
Average: Kerry - 12th (85.9) Edwards - 24th (75.7)
2003: Kerry - 1st (96.5) Edwards - 4th (94.5)
2002: Kerry - 9th (87.3) Edwards - 31st (63.0)
2001: Kerry - 11th (87.7) Edwards - 35th (68.2)
2000: Kerry - 20th (77) Edwards - 19th (80.8)
1999: Kerry - 16th (80.8) Edwards - 31st (72.2)
Source: The National Journal (via Kevin Drum of the Washington Monthly)
The National Journal also has compiled a ranking of the top ten liberals in the Senate according to lifetime voting record. Neither Kerry nor Edwards is on the list:
National Journal: Most liberal senators, lifetime voting
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
Kerry and Edwards are progressive Democrats but their voting records and positions on issues have been well to the right of prominent liberals like Teddy Kennedy and the late Paul Wellstone.
2) The National Journal findings that conservative pundits cite for their accusation that Kerry and Edwards have the first and fourth most liberal Senate voting records are partial and thus not representative. They conveniently cite only the year 2003--which is misleading because that year both Kerry and Edwards were campaigning and missed about 60 percent of the Senate votes.
This hasn't stopped the right from wholesale lies. For example, in a recent speech, Dick Cheney made the following false statements about Kerry's Senate voting record:
"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."
Links and Updates:
The nonpartisan site Spinsanity gives a good overall view of this urban legend (click here).
The Daily Howler also has addressed this canard. Click here, here, and here.
Here is an article from an academic journal that debunks the myth.
The first-and-fourth-most-liberal-senators argument is a common talking point by GOP operatives. The following are some examples of prominent right-winger who have misinformed audiences:
The Bush campaign
Help with the Google Bomb Project
Attention bloggers and bulletin board surfers: google bomb this site. All you have to do is to hyperlink the words "most liberal senator" to the following URL: http://mostliberalsenator.blogspot.com/
The result will look like this: most liberal senator
This will allow on-the-fence web searchers to know the truth (and to let them know how the right is lying to them).
This site is a product of the Google Bomb Project.
This site is under construction and will be revised soon with more information.
This site was created by blogger and media hacker Scoobie Davis to address the misinformation (and disinformation) regarding the U.S. Senate voting records of John Kerry and John Edwards.
For general information on other media myths about Kerry, Eriposte has a comprehensive site.