A centrist with no one to his left

The often sensible Washington Post editorial board came up with a howler yesterday when it argued that, notwithstanding Barack Obama’s ranking by the objective National Journal as the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate in 2007, it is “not clear” whether Obama is “a liberal at heart” or “more of a centrist.” The Post’s main evidence for this alleged lack of clarity is laughable. It notes that Obama declined to filibuster the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court. But, as Ed Whelan retorts, no Senator voted to filibuster Roberts; there was no cloture vote in that instance. In the absence of a filibuster, Obama did the next best thing; he voted against the Roberts nomination, even though half of his fellow Democratic Senators (few of whom can be called centrists) voted for confirmation.
Moreover, Obama did join in the unsuccessful filibuster of Samuel Alito’s nomination. He thereby once again joined with most left-wing portion of his party’s Senators. Thus, in Whelan’s words, “no Senator was to Obama’s left” when it came to the Roberts-Alito confirmation wars. It’s similarly apparent from the National Journal’s ratings that no Senator is to Obama’s left generally.
Until this election cycle, a Senator’s voting record was always considered the best evidence of his position on the political spectrum; nor were rhetorical flourishes ever counted as countervailing evidence. The Post’s willingness to make an exception for Obama constitutes deception, the only question being whether the editors are deceiving themselves as well as their readers.
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