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August 30, 2004
Kerry's Voting Record Reflects The Prevailing Wind More Than Conviction

Today's National Journal daily (no web link) reports on its ratings becoming a talking point in this election cycle, due to the top rating that John Kerry received for his voting record last year. In an experience that NJ reporter Charles Green calls "disconcerting," Journal editors have heard George Bush and Dick Cheney use the rating on the campaign trail, without giving the context of how the ratings are compiled, although the context hardly casts glory on the Massachussetts senator:

When the tabulations came in for 2003, John Kerry had the highest composite liberal score of any senator.

But there was an asterisk. As with other lawmakers who were running for president, Kerry missed a lot of votes in 2003 -- 37 of the 62 that were being used in the vote ratings. He didn't vote often enough to merit scores in the social policy and foreign affairs categories. (Under our system, a member has to participate in at least half the votes in the category to receive a score in that category.) He did cast enough votes (19 of 32) in the economic category to get a rating. On those votes, Kerry took the "liberal" position every time [emph mine - CE].

It's interesting to me, although Green never mentions it, that even though Kerry missed a number of votes, he always returned to vote on those bills on which he voted the liberal position, especially on economics. It demonstrates that Kerry may show flexibility on legislation when as a matter of conducting business, but when he really feels the need to cast a vote on a bill, he only appears to be motivated by those on which he holds the most extreme views.

The Journal argues that one year is not enough to draw on, and they put together a chart of Kerry's annual rating from the journal since 1985, his first year in the Senate. Kerry's annual rating ranges from 96.5 (2003) to 76.7 (2000). In fact, when averaging their scores over the tenure of Kerry's service, Kerry comes in 11th among active senators, behing such luminaries as Ted Kennedy, Paul Sarbanes, and our own Mark Dayton, who tops the list. (No surprise there.) However, the Journal missed an interesting trend in Kerry's record, one that became apparent to me when they showed his individual scores. Here's a chart showing Kerry's liberal voting tendencies, by year, according to the National Journal:


Do you see the trend? Kerry voted more liberally when a Republican was in the White House than during the Clinton administration, an interesting insight into Kerry's leadership qualities and the attempt to take the center during the last Democratic administration. Kerry's ratings during the Reagan and both Bush administrations average out to 88.2, which would have placed Kerry seventh all time, just below Barbara Boxer. His ratings during the Clinton administration averaged 82.225, placing him 17th. Either rating, by the way, places him among the most liberal third of the Democratic contingent in the Senate.

Kerry seems to lack the courage of his convictions, preferring to tote the party line rather than remain consistent in practice. This, combined with a stunning lack of legislative accomplishment despite his seniority, really speaks against trusting him with the executive office he seeks.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 30, 2004 5:12 AM

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» Ultra-liberal when he wants to be from The Key Monk
Ultimately, this shows how Kerry would, despite his rhetoric and bluster, cater to the collection of left-wing interest groups that are the real powers behind the Democrats -- Ralph Neas, Nan Aron, ADA, ACLU, AFL-CIO, etc. Not a good sign for anyone w... [Read More]

Tracked on August 30, 2004 10:01 AM

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