ABC News sent Terry Moran to Springfield, the capital of Illinois, to explore Barack Obama’s record as a state Senator and, deep in his Monday story on World News, Moran acknowledged a reality rarely mentioned in network campaign coverage:
Obama was...considered a reliable liberal Democratic vote in Illinois, voting for most gun control measures, opposing efforts to ban so-called “partial birth abortions,” and supporting hundreds of tax increases.
Moran then showed a soundbite of Republican State Senator Kirk Dillard, who declared: “Senator Obama certainly is a liberal.” Earlier in the story, without applying any liberal label, Moran trumpeted how “before he left for Washington, Obama did rack up some accomplishments -- a major overhaul of the state's death penalty system, an ethics reform bill, expanded health care for the state's children.”
Moran's recognition of Obama's liberal ideology aired just a day after Cokie Roberts, in the roundtable on Sunday's This Week on ABC, pegged Obama as “squarely on the left of the Democratic Party” and contended that the Illinois Senator, “oddly enough given the rhetoric, has not reached across the aisle and worked with people in the other party to get things done, which she [Hillary Clinton] has done.” See Brad Wilmouth's NewsBusters item.
A longer version of Moran's World News story led Monday's Nightline with an added portion about Obama's “sweetheart” real estate deal with Tony Rezko.
A transcript of the February 25 World News story:
CHARLES GIBSON: Well Barack Obama during his campaign has made much of his ability to bring people together, to accomplish compromise, to change the tone of Washington. The bulk of his political career was as a state senator in the Illinois legislature. Was he able to bring people together there? Terry Moran went to Springfield, Illinois to look at the Obama record.
TERRY MORAN: Before there was this [crowds cheering Obama] -- there was this, the workaday legislative world of young Illinois state Senator Barack Obama. Obama was 35 years old when he began serving in Springfield in 1997. And even Republican colleagues say he stood out from the start.
SENATOR KIRK DILLARD (R): From the minute I met Senator Obama, I knew he was on to bigger and better things.
MORAN: He was clearly ambitious. Just after Illinois Democrats took over the state senate in 2002, Obama approached party leader Emil Jones, who’s now running the chamber.
EMIL JONES, JR.: And he said to me, he said, "you're the Senate President, now with that you have a lot of power. I said, "Barack, what kind of power do you think I have?" He said, "you have the power to make a United States Senator."
MORAN: But before he left for Washington, Obama did rack up some accomplishments -- a major overhaul of the state's death penalty system, an ethics reform bill, expanded health care for the state's children.
OBAMA: I did all these things by getting Democrats and Republicans to work together.
MORAN: But his former colleagues say the picture is more mixed. For instance, Obama voted not for or against but "present" on 129 bills, including a bill to ban sex shops and strip clubs near schools, churches, and day-care centers, and a bill to allow juveniles who committed a crime with a gun near a school to be tried as adults. Voting present is a common tactic in the Illinois legislature. The Obama campaign says he was trying to avoid burdening local authorities on the sex shop measure and did not think the other bill would reduce crime.. But others say his votes should be an issue.
SENATOR DAN CRONIN (R): Whatever it is, he didn't want to stick his neck out. He didn't want to risk alienating some group.
MORAN: And Obama was also considered a reliable liberal Democratic vote in Illinois, voting for most gun control measures, opposing efforts to ban so-called "partial birth abortions," and supporting hundreds of tax increases. Republican State Senator Kirk Dillard worked closely with Obama on some issues.
DILLARD: Senator Obama certainly is a liberal. I guess what I show is that you can respect somebody like Senator Obama, work with him, like him, but you don't necessarily have to vote for him for President.
MORAN: Now the Obama campaign responded to our story in a statement tonight, saying “distorting a few votes out of a thousands is the kind of old politics that the American people are tired of and we believe voters care about Senator Obama's record of bipartisan leadership,” unquote. One thing everyone agrees on: Obama's record in Illinois is bound to increasing scrutiny from here on in.