On Thursday's CBS This Morning, anchor Charlie Rose spotlighted the apparent "the disappearance of political moderates" in Congress in the context of Republican Senator Olympia Snowe's retirement. Correspondent Nancy Cordes gushingly asked Snowe, "Was it just getting too lonely to be a moderate Republican in the Senate?" CBS also listed several "moderate" senators who are actually liberals.
After Cordes gave her report on the Maine senator's retirement, Rose turned to Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill and introduced her as "one of the few moderates left on Capitol Hill." In reality, McCaskill is a solid liberal, given her low rating by the American Conservative Union and her high rating from the left-leaning Americans For Democratic Action.
The CBS congressional correspondent noted at the beginning of her report that "Olympia Snowe is just the latest member to cite congressional paralysis as her reason for retirement. As politics has become more polarized, the ranks of centrists here have thinned, and the ones who are left are often less powerful." She then added that "with Congress tied in knots over even minor measures, Maine's Olympia Snowe has decided to take her talents elsewhere."
Cordes then played the clip of her "lonely" question to the outgoing Republican senator and the politician's answer. The correspondent continued by hinting that Senator John McCain was among Snowe's "fellow moderates have either moved to the right or retired. Moderate Democrat Evan Bayh cited gridlock when he left the Senate in 2010." Later, Cordes did acknowledge that "To some degree, the disappearance of the middle is a reflection of the electorate. According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans who consider themselves moderate has dropped over the past 20 years."
However, according to the ACU's latest rating, McCain went from a 100 score in 2010 to an 80 score in 2011, a trend towards moderate. Bayh himself had 40 and 39 score in 2009 and 2010 respectively, the last two years of his second term in the Senate, but his lifetime score is just under 24. Another "moderate" listed by Cordes- outgoing Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman- has a ACU lifetime score of just under 16.
However, the former Indiana senator's relatively liberal lifetime score pales in comparison to the record of Senator McCaskill, supposedly "one of the few moderates left on Capitol Hill," according to Rose. In their 2011 rating, the Missouri Democrat earned the absolutely lowest score- a zero- from the ACU. Over her five years, she has a lifetime score of 14.60, further to the left than Bayh over his two terms.
During the interview, the liberal senator claimed that "there's a lot of independent voters that want me to be stubbornly independent. They don't want me to say, yes, sir, to Harry Reid....I'm hoping that...independent voters in this country...begin to show some support for the people who are willing to say no to their party, and yes to the American people." However, McCaskill marched in lockstep with Senator Reid and the majority of Democrats on Thursday and voted to table the Blunt Amendment to protect religious and conscience rights in the U.S. So much for saying no to her party.
Blanche Lincoln, one of the former and current "moderate" Democrats in Congress listed on-screen by the morning show during Rose's interview of McCaskill, also had a relatively low lifetime score from the ACU - 20.51. Instead of giving more accurate political labels, CBS seems to be giving cover to a few congressional liberals who want to pass themselves off as moderates.
[Update: The full transcript of Nancy Cordes's report from Thursday's CBS This Morning, which aired nine minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour, and the first part of Charlie Rose's interview of Senator Claire McCaskill, which immediately followed, can be found at MRC.org.]