Saturday, March 6, 2004

Try to get to John Kerry’s left. Just try. If you’re a U.S. senator, you cannot. According to a recent analysis of the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body, the Massachusetts Democrat was the “No. 1 Senate liberal in 2003.”

As the archest of the Senate’s arch-liberals, Mr. Kerry voted last year to the left of fellow Democrats John Edwards of North Carolina (No. 2), Barbara Boxer of California (No. 5) and Tom Harkin of Iowa (No. 10).

Mr. Kerry’s ayes and nays were significantly to the left of the two liberals who most conservatives would nominate for a one-way fact-finding mission to Mars: New York’s Hillary Clinton (No. 7) and Massachusetts’ Edward Moore Kennedy (No. 12).

At the other end of the spectrum, 14 Republican senators tied for least liberal with scores of 14 out of 100. Top Senate conservatives include Virginia’s George Allen, Tennessee’s Bill Frist and Indiana’s Richard Lugar.

The source for this news is not some right-wing, anti-Kerry front group, but the independent and well-regarded National Journal. This nonpartisan, Washington weekly reports even-handedly on politicians and their behavior. It examined 62 Senate votes from 2003. Of these, Mr. Kerry missed 37 votes while campaigning for the White House. Mr. Kerry’s blue-ribbon was based on the 25 votes he managed to cast. Among those, he took the liberal line often enough to garner a score of 97 out of 100.

Mr. Kerry’s numbers put him further to the left (3 points from “perfect”) than the most conservative Republicans are from their “ideal” (14 points away). So, who’s extreme now?

Super Tuesday’s Superman has been in the Senate’s liberal elite before.

Among Senate left-wingers, he was ranked No. 9 by the National Journal in 2002. He was judged the Senate’s leading leftist in 1986, 1988 and 1990.

Other organizations that evaluate legislative votes confirm Mr. Kerry’s collectivism. The American Conservative Union gives Kerry a lifetime rating of 5 out of 100. In contrast, he has earned a 92 out of a pristine 100 from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action. Amazingly enough, this places Mr. Kerry to the left of his fellow presidential contender, Rep. Dennis Kucinich,Ohio Democrat; the outspoken statist earns a slightly less radical 90 from the ADA.

America is a free country, and many citizens consider liberalism a worthy philosophy. In solidarity with those true believers, if nothing else, Mr. Kerry could wear the National Journal’s conclusion as a badge of honor. Instead, he runs away from it.

“Anyone who knows John Kerry knows that this label doesn’t fit,” Kerry campaign spokesman Chad Clanton told the New York Post’s Brian Blomquist. “He’s a decorated Vietnam combat veteran [in case you had not heard], a former prosecutor and a deficit hawk [who has] opposed his party and voted to shrink the deficit.”

Mr. Kerry himself dodged the liberal prize in a Feb. 29 New York debate against his campaign rivals. He called the National Journal’s label “a laughable characterization” and deemed this distinction “the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Mr. Kerry’s ability to dismiss criticism, his combative air and impressive string of victories finally have left him virtually unchallenged for the Democratic nomination. Good for him. President Bush and the GOP can expect a battle royal from the articulate, moderate-looking John Kerry and his energized party. Democrats are eager to avenge what many of them obsessively consider 2000’s “swiped” election.

Still, Mr. Kerry will have to explain how, despite his investment-banker-type demeanor, he voted against the 2004 budget that would have given Americans, including those in the middle class, $550 billion in tax relief.

Mr. Kerry loudly denounces “Benedict Arnold companies” that outsource labor overseas. (Does this make Germany’s BMW a “George Washington company” for insourcing 4,700 jobs at its automobile factory in Spartanburg, S.C.?). Thus, Mr. Kerry should have fun telling U.S. workers why he opposed legislation to cut corporate taxes on companies’ foreign profits, even if those savings were dedicated to hiring Americans at home.

Mr. Kerry also famously voted to send U.S. troops to Iraq, then reversed course and opposed $87 billion in funding to equip American GIs and advance Iraqi stability.

John Kerry, the Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee is a 194-proof liberal dream come true. His election next November would commence a long, national nightmare.

Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service.

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