On the stump, John B. Anderson quotes John F. Kennedy, Adlai Stevenson and Franklin D. Roosevelt. He warns against the dangers of nuclear power. He talks about rebuilding American cities, and of providing jobs for black teen-agers. He praises the new Department of Education, and the glories of the Equal Rights Amendment.
Yet, the same John Anderson once said, "There can be little question that Herbert Hoover was one of our country's greatest presidents. "He once suggested John F. Kennedy borrowed the idea for a Department of Housing and Urban Development from the 1960 Socialist Party platform.
and he once placed a letter in the Congressional Record that said, in part, "Culturally and educationally the Southern Negro is 50 to 100 years behind the white community and with rare exceptions almost totally unprepared for equality."
To be fair, the quotations, reported by Steven Brill in the American Lawyer, all date back to 1965 or before, a time when one national political columnist affectionately described Anderson as "an articulate right winger."
Anderson is no longer a right winger, if he ever was. But a review of his congressional record over the last 20 years offers little evidence that he is the liberal some of his supporters would have people believe.
The New Republic magazine, which regards itself as the voice of informed liberalism, recently endorsed Anderson with this wishful description of his leftward journey:
"Anderson has been thinking about and voting on national issues for 18 years. He started out as a rock-ribbed Republican from an Illinois backwater and -- with no ulterior motive until very recently -- gradually became more liberal . . . We would like to think this is a natural process for an intelligent but cloistered mind as it opens itself to the facts of modern life."
In the meantime, the Illinois congressman voted against almost every one of the Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs, consistently supported increased military spending throughout the Vietnam war and, as a member of the Republican leadership, most often supported the social and economic policies of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
He has, within the last five years, voted against food stamps for strikers, for neutron weapons, against modest cuts in military spending, for virtually every nuclear measure that has come up, and against common situs picketing and creation of the Office of Consumer Protection.
He has opposed the Humphrey-Hawkins full employment bill, which he now supports. He has supported the Kemp-Roth 33 percent tax cut bill, which he now opposes. He has opposed a 20-cent a gallon gasoline tax, yet he's now made a 50-cent a gallon gas tax the center of his energy conservation program.
It is, of course, always risky to single out a few specific votes in a congressional career that spans two decades. One can prove, or disprove almost anything.
So let's look at Anderson's record another way, one favored by liberals and conservatives alike -- the annual judging of a politician's ideological purity by studying votes on a series of selected issues each year, then making ratings for left or right approval.
By this standard, John Anderson is clearly a moderate. Perhaps some people's version of a thinking man's moderate, a conservative on economic issues, a liberal on civil rights and some social issues. But no more. No less.
His rating by the liberal Americans for Democratic Action, for example, went above 40 percent only five times in 20 years -- 1972 (44 percent), 1974 (43 percent), 1975 (58 percent), 1976 (50 percent), and 1978 (55 percent). On another liberal scorecard, kept by the AFL-CIO, Anderson voted "wrong" on 136 issues supported by organized labor and "right" only 52 times.
By contrast, his ratings by Americans for Constitutional Action, a major conservative group, went above 40 percent 15 times during the same period, ranging from 95 percent in 1960, Anderson's first year in Congress, to 44 percent in 1978.
Perhaps more significant, are a series of ratings compiled by Congressional Quarterly, a respected independent journal.
The first shows that Anderson was a consistent supporter of the coalition of southern Democrats and Republicans, which has so often controlled the House, for his first dozen years in office. Since 1973, however, he has moved slightly away from the coalition, voting against it almost as often as he voted with it. He also has voted against the official position of his Republican Party almost as often as he has voted for it since 1974.
Equally revealing is CQ's description of how often Anderson supported presidents in recent years.
He supported Nixon 62 percent of the time in 1969, 72 percent in 1970, 88 percent in 1971, 78 percent in 1972, 55 percent in 1973, and 70 percent of the time in 1974. He supported President Carter 53 percent of the time in 1977, 54 percent of the time in 1978, and voted with Carter three times as often as he opposed him in 1979, a year in which Anderson missed many rollcalls because he was compaigning.
What all these figures indicate is not the move from right to left that some Anderson followers would have people believe. Rather, it is a movement to the center of the nation's political spectrum -- a place not drastically distant from that occupied by Carter.
Anderson, of course, has never explicitly claimed to embrace what might be called "the liberal agenda." He has pointedly, for example, disagreed with his vice presidential running mate, Patrick J. Lucey, a liberal Democrat, over national health insurance, which Lucey supports and Anderson opposes. And, in the past, Anderson has opposed such liberal articles of faith as Medicare, repeal of the oil depletion allowance, and public service jobs.
"I'm not a liberal. I'm not a conservative," Anderson says. "I'm an independent."
His appeal to liberals is based on a handful of emotional litmus-test issues -- civil rights, gun control, the Equal Rights Amendment, nuclear proliferation, the draft and legalized abortion.
These are symbolic causes, sure-fire crowd pleasers on the nation's campuses where he spends much of his time. Anderson uses them like code words, to stir the faithful. His record on these issues is fairly consistent.
But on economic issues Anderson splits away from traditional liberal positions. And it is on environmental issues where his campaign rhetoric splits furthest from his own congressional record.
yhis approach to the economy is close to what used to be considered Republican dogma, though it is now rejected by the 1980 GOP platform. Anderson opposes tax cuts advocated by both Ronald Reagan and Carter as inflationary. He supports a balanced budget.
He would like to rebuild American cities by putting major investments in their infrastructures -- water systems, streets, sewers and mass transit systems. He would like to provide jobs for black teen-agers by creating a special lower minumum wage category for teen-agers, a GOP proposal that deeply offends traditional principles of labor liberals.
It is harder to reach the same assessment of another emotional issue that is at the heart of almost every Anderson stump appearance -- the environment.
The candidate Anderson preaches a political gospel of scarcity, conservation and self-sacrifice. He talks about reducing oil consumption. He praises solar power.
But Anderson's campaign rhetoric raises eyebrows of many environmentalists. One group, the League of Conservation Voters, praised Anderson's positions in support for such traditional conservation issues as parks, wilderness areas (he was an original sponsor of the Alaskan lands bill), wetlands protection and land conservation. But it criticizes him for voting against increased funding for solar energy projects -- as sacred as motherhood and apple pie on the nation's campuses.
On defense issues, Anderson, the candidate, criticizes both Carter and Reagan for advocating a "mindless" escalation of the nuclear arms races that endangers the nation. Anderson, the congressman, has voted against the B1 bomber, opposed the MX missile, supported the strategic arms limitation and Panama Canal treaties, and in 1970 denounced the Vietnam war as "the most tragic error in diplomacy and military policy in our nation's history."
However, almost to the end of the war, Anderson supported it.