Monday, April 25, 2005

Frist's Failure

The Bolton nomination fiasco and the Democratic filibuster of the president's judicial nominees have created great political theater during the past month. The Democrats, with very little ammunition and even less political talent, have managed to out maneuver the Republicans on both fronts by working harder and exploiting their friends in the left-leaning media.

For a party doomed to extinction, it has been an impressive effort. Plagiarizing Joe Biden, a man fueled by hubris and a fevered desire for revenge at missing the opportunity to become John Kerry's Secretary of State, is holding this county's foreign policy hostage to his own personal agenda, managing to nearly kill the Bolton nomination.

On the judicial side, the Democratic Party has made equally impressive progress. Employing a strategy not used since segregationists wanted to block LBJ's Abe Fortas appointment in 1968, the party has distorted their advice and consent role, which constitutionally only requires a 50% majority vote, to block the appointment of 10 highly qualified judges to the appellate court. All of these appointees bring with them outstanding experience, high ABA approval ratings and in many cases bi-partisan support.

All this, it seems to me, leads to one inevitable and undeniable conclusion: Bill Frist is a lazy, idiot.

There really is no other conclusion that one can draw. The electorate has handed this man a 55 seat majority in the senate, in addition, he has a few remaining moderate democrats that are inclined to support the president's nominees, and yet there has been no visible evidence of his leadership on these issues. In fact, there is plenty of evidence of his incompetence. Let's take a look at some of Mr. Frist's missteps.

  1. The "Nuclear Option": Whoever came up with this term ought to be fired, for an all too obvious imbalance of testosterone to brain function. I can see the conference meeting now, the half wit must have taken the floor, puffed up his chest and insisted that "if the Dems don't back down we'll go nuclear". Could a more obvious public relations gaff this side of Newt's congressional shut down exist? The "Nuclear Option" is nothing more than insisting that the senate stay within its constitutionally mandated bounds of advice and consent. It would be more properly named the “Constitutional Option”. By Filibustering, the Democrats have:
  • Violated constitutional principles – filibusters are for legislation not advice and consent
  • Taken the strategy last employed by racist segregationists
  • Denied the president his right to appoint members of the judiciary which the public tacitly approved when they increased his Senate majority in the last election

  1. Allowing a “Stealth Filibuster”: As Majority Leader, Frist could compel the Democrats to carry out a real filibuster as they used to be done. Under such a move, all senate business would stop until the Democrats swayed enough votes to their side to kill the nominations, or until the Republicans won enough votes to kill the filibuster. By forcing the ongoing debate, complete with phonebook speeches and cots for senators to sleep on, Frist would be following the same game plan Bill Clinton used when he shut down the federal government and won the public opinion battle against Newt Gingrich in the late 90’s. The public loathes these partisan displays of intransigence and Frist ought to be confident enough in his convictions to force the argument. I strongly believe that once the public hears of the nominees qualifications, sees the evidence that the Democrats are fighting some of the nominees based on their religious convictions, and is made aware of the ABA approval ratings, our side will win.

  1. Lazy half measures: Frist’s appearance at the “Judicial Sunday” events this past weekend reeked of laziness. As the single public appearance of our key legislative leader in the judicial fight, it was a mis-step of stunning incompetence. Throughout this now muli-year fight, Frist has time and again failed to do the heavy lifting necessary to get the job done. Legislative work is a time consuming chore, requiring dedicated work at the retail level with fellow senators and constituents to get the votes on board and keep them there sufficiently long enough to win the vote. Frist’s appearance this weekend was a tacit admission that he is simply not up to the job. His prepared remarks, written by someone else, taped at his convenience, and played at a meeting organized by others did nothing but, literally, preach to the converted. I don’t our Bill missed one beltway cocktail party in making the effort. Further, the scheduling of his one public appearance on this issue in coordination with the most controversial members of the Christian right, belied a political tone deafness unworthy of his position in our party’s leadership.

  1. Un-enforced Party Discipline: The Bolton nomination fiasco reveals another deeply disturbing peak into the failures of Bill Frist’s tenure as Majority Leader. In possession of a 10 – 8 majority of the Foreign Affairs committee, Frist and his hapless committee head, Dick Lugar, utterly failed to get a qualified nominee of the president’s to the floor of the senate for a vote. This is arguably the most damning of Frist’s failures. Democrats, too afraid to object to Bolton on ideological grounds, have stalled the nomination of Bolton on the sole basis that he is “mean”. I am not sure that I have ever witnessed a campaign against a qualified nominee that was so nakedly political and so obviously shallow that actually succeeded. Yet the Bolton nomination is in trouble due to the last minute objections of a Republican senator who failed to bother to even show up at previous committee meetings. Clearly, there is not an overwhelming sense in the Republican halls that political treachery will be met with the appropriate consequences as long as Bill Frist is leader.

Republicans now find themselves 6 months removed from a grand electoral victory with their legislative agenda at a complete stall due to laziness and stupidity. I have often times in the past been perplexed to hear Senator Frist’s name listed as a party hopeful for the presidency. The events of recent weeks make me wonder what right thinking American would vote for the man. Unable to maintain party discipline, incapable of dealing competently with a loyal opposition, one wonders just what our country’s fate would be when Mr. Frist went off to deal with those that may not wish us well.

Perhaps for Republicans and Americans this remains the one positive development to come from the whole sorry episode. Bill Frist is a lazy idiot, and now we all know it.

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