Sen. Obama: Not Really That Liberal?

Jeff Zeleny stretches hard to position Barack Obama as a more moderate candidate.

In his profile of Sen. Barack Obama, former Chicago Tribune-reporter-turned-Timesman Jeff Zeleny stretches hard to position Obama as not really that liberal, searching for instances in his brief voting record in which the Illinois senator wasn't a reliable liberal vote. In fact, the only time the Times seems to recognize liberals is when the paper is trying to center a potential Democratic presidential candidate (see Clinton, Hillary).

"He has demonstrated an occasional willingness to break from liberal orthodoxy, including his vote to confirm Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, which at the time infuriated liberals (13 Democrats opposed her)."

Mickey Kaus at Slate calls it a "comical" attempt to position Obama as an independent thinker, and Tom Maguire notes: "So Obama boldly stood with a mere 86 fellow Senators...."

However, TimesWatch appreciates Zeleny's previous paragraph, in which he actually measures a liberal politicians' political slant, which goes against the paper's usual practice of either calling liberal politicians "moderates" or not giving them an ideological label at all.

"According to a ranking by National Journal, Mr. Obama's voting record is more liberal than 82.5 percent of the Senate, compared with 79.8 percent for Mrs. Clinton. The American Conservative Union gave him a ranking of 8. By comparison, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, received a ranking of 83."