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CST: Frist's timing drives GOP mad - Leader with a tin ear stepped on own applause line.
Chicago Sun-Times ^ | August 15, 2005 | ROBERT NOVAK

Posted on 08/15/2005 5:29:37 AM PDT by OESY

A prominent Republican who had not been to Washing-ton lately dropped in last week to the capital, a city in the doldrums with both Congress and the president out of town. He was struck by one unexpected topic concentrating the attention of Republican insiders. It was not Iraq, Social Security or the Supreme Court. It was Bill Frist, and the reviews were not good.

Actually, Frist's performance as Senate majority leader has improved markedly through more than 2-1/2 years of on-the-job training. It's the atmospherics that bother fellow Republicans, typified by his decision to break with President Bush on embryonic stem cell research. For politicians, Frist's sin is not so much what he did, but when he did it. Announcing his new stem cell position July 29, the last day the Senate was in session before the summer recess, stepped on his applause lines for the unexpectedly productive pre-recess congressional record.

"He has a tin ear," one Republican senator told me. This critic conceded Frist's performance as majority leader in 2005 is much better than in 2004 (though this is true partly because he no longer has to deal with the implacable Tom Daschle as Democratic leader). But Frist's knack for doing the wrong thing at the wrong time has cast a pall over his once-bright presidential ambitions for 2008, apart from his national leadership role in the party.

Frist's Republican colleagues cannot understand why he surprised them with his new stem cell position at a time when they wanted him to brag of the sudden burst of Senate productivity with passage of the transportation, energy and gun bills. It could not be presidential politics, because advocacy of new embryonic research alienates social conservatives whose support he needs.

"I spent weeks talking with the best scientists and ethicists in the world about this issue," Frist said in a long e-mail to supporters last week explaining his position. In this message, Frist did not address his timing or the political impact, providing further evidence that he thinks like the transplant surgeon he once was rather than the politician he now is.

The other complaints my visitor to Washington heard may seem trivial to the outside world but are crucial to politicians. They pertain to a frosty relationship between Frist and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, who does think like a politician. At a bicameral meeting of Republican leaders shortly before the summer recess, Hastert was about to speak when Frist announced that Judge John Roberts had just arrived to see him. Frist walked out, and bystanders thought this was no way to treat the third-ranking person in the presidential succession.

Earlier Frist walkouts have miffed Hastert. In late January, Frist skipped the beginning of a Republican Greenbrier retreat to attend the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland. That killed Hastert's plans for a three-way conference among him, Frist and Bush. A month earlier, Frist missed the counting of Electoral College votes (including the Ohio challenge) to leave on a medical mission to the Indian Ocean after the tsunami. This was a decision by a doctor, not a politician.

Even more-experienced legislators have trouble coping with the ambiguous relationship between majority leader and president. But seldom has a Republican majority leader so blatantly defied a Republican president as Frist has on stem cell research. What irritates pro-life activists is that they had been conferring with Frist over strategy to derail the legislation he now is supporting.

Frist has recovered from helplessness against Daschle on judicial confirmations. Sen. Harry Reid, the new Democratic leader, sounds harsher than Daschle in public but is much more congenial in private. Frist has won confirmation of three hotly contested Bush nominees for the appellate bench and is in the driver's seat on future confirmations.

Self-limited to two Senate terms, Frist leaves at the end of 2006 whether or not he launches a full-fledged presidential campaign beginning in 2007. But in his remaining time, he may face multiple Supreme Court nominations, Social Security revision and tax reform. He is sincere and increasingly effective, but colleagues hope his ear will become more acute.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: 109th; bush; daschle; frist; gop; hastert; novak; reid; senate; stemcell
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1 posted on 08/15/2005 5:29:38 AM PDT by OESY
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To: OESY

I can't stand him.


2 posted on 08/15/2005 5:35:28 AM PDT by johnny7 (I like ya, Lloyd. I always liked ya. You were always the best of 'em.)
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To: OESY

Who would make a good replacement as Senate Majority Leader when Frist leaves the Senate?


3 posted on 08/15/2005 5:35:44 AM PDT by BulletBobCo
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To: OESY
"He [Frist] is sincere and increasingly effective, but colleagues hope his ear will become more acute."


Sorry boys and girls of the Congress. Our technology is not that far advanced.



4 posted on 08/15/2005 5:37:09 AM PDT by G.Mason
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To: OESY

So the complaint is that a doctor approached a medical research issue as a doctor rather than as a Washington politician?


5 posted on 08/15/2005 5:37:32 AM PDT by Huck (Whatever.)
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To: OESY

I knew this was a Novak piece before even clicking on the link.


6 posted on 08/15/2005 5:39:13 AM PDT by Coop (www.heroesandtraitors.org)
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To: BulletBobCo

I'm coming to dislike most of the "old guard". A Westerner like John Kyl or John Ensign would be a nice change - the battleground for the GOP's future is going to be the West, since the South has been thoroughly conquered. But I'm not sure there is anyone in the Senate - with the possible exception of Tom Coburn - whose primary motivation isn't reading his own press clippings every morning. ;)


7 posted on 08/15/2005 5:39:52 AM PDT by Mr. Jeeves ("Feelings are not a tool of cognition, therefore they are not a criterion of morality." -- Ayn Rand)
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To: johnny7
I love freepers who get right to the point.

LOL!

Leni

8 posted on 08/15/2005 5:40:22 AM PDT by MinuteGal
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To: Huck

While we may disagree, it is refreshing to see a Washington politician actually take a principled stand on an issue.


9 posted on 08/15/2005 5:40:44 AM PDT by IamConservative (The true character of a man is revealed in what he does when no one is looking.)
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To: OESY

"...seldom has a Republican majority leader defied a Republican president..." should read NEVER! Frist apparently doesn't realize that if it weren't for Pres. Bush's victories, he wouldn't BE majority leader. But Novak, who is sounding more and more like the gossip columnist he is, doesn't mention the most galling fact in this back-stabbing incident. Frist called the NYT hours before he notified the President of his bomb shell. That alone should get him demoted to the broom closet.


10 posted on 08/15/2005 5:44:20 AM PDT by kittymyrib
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To: Mr. Jeeves

Coburn would work for me too. Seems to be on the ball. But would he have the clout with others?


11 posted on 08/15/2005 5:44:25 AM PDT by hoosiermama (Mr and Mrs WilsonIII were both working UNDERtheCOVERS!)
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To: OESY
Self-limited to two Senate terms, Frist leaves at the end of 2006

Good. Don't let the door hit you in the backside on your way out.

12 posted on 08/15/2005 5:44:41 AM PDT by IrishGOP
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To: MinuteGal

I could get it down to 2 words... but I'd get suspended again.


13 posted on 08/15/2005 5:45:10 AM PDT by johnny7 (I like ya, Lloyd. I always liked ya. You were always the best of 'em.)
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To: BulletBobCo
Who would make a good replacement as Senate Majority Leader when Frist leaves the Senate?

I believe Mitch McConnell is next up for the position.

14 posted on 08/15/2005 5:46:09 AM PDT by IrishGOP
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To: OESY
For politicians, Frist's sin is not so much what he did, but when he did it. Announcing his new stem cell position July 29 [2005] ...

It is not "new" as of July 2005 for Frist to support embryonic stem cell research. Frist hasn't changed his position. He does seem to have allowed the false impression to fester, that he was against ESCR - and he deserves to be knocked for that, but not for having a "new" or "changed" position on the issue.

Mr. FRIST. I strongly support embryonic stem cell research. As both a supporter and a scientist, I can tell you that this field remains in its earliest stages of basic research. At a hearing on stem cell research this fall, Secretary Thompson noted that clinical applications are years away. It is simply not the case that a ban on human cloning, particularly the temporary moratorium we are discussing today, would in any way harm the progress of stem cell research.

December 3, 2001 - MORATORIUM ON CLONING - Page S12301


Mr. FRIST. At this point in the evolution of this new science, I believe there is no justification for the purposeful creation and destruction of human embryos in order to experiment with them, especially when the promise and success of stem cell research does not--does not--depend on the experimental research cloning technique. As my colleagues know, I am a strong supporter of stem cell--including embryonic stem cells-- research, as long as that stem cell research is conducted within an ethical and moral framework.

April 9, 2002 - HUMAN CLONING- Page S2385


15 posted on 08/15/2005 5:49:20 AM PDT by Cboldt
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To: kittymyrib
That alone should get him demoted to the broom closet.

LOL! Well, Frist doesn't work for the President - nor should he. I think that's a strength of the GOP, as opposed to the lockstep Democrats who allow zero diversity of opinion within their party's hierarchy. I don't fault Frist for his opinions on stem cell research - I fault him for his weak leadership on other issues. If he were getting the job of Majority Leader done in a forceful way, no one would care whether he differs with the President on some issues.

16 posted on 08/15/2005 5:49:29 AM PDT by Mr. Jeeves ("Feelings are not a tool of cognition, therefore they are not a criterion of morality." -- Ayn Rand)
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To: johnny7

Me neither....Frist is way too full of himself....and he's not that effective as Maj. Leader.


17 posted on 08/15/2005 5:51:13 AM PDT by auto power
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To: OESY

His ear will not become more acute. He's a physician. Physicians do NOT like being told what to do and are generally not particularly good team players.


18 posted on 08/15/2005 6:07:23 AM PDT by prairiebreeze (We are grateful to our fine military. God bless them and their families.)
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To: johnny7

They don't call him Wimp Frist for nothing.


19 posted on 08/15/2005 6:13:45 AM PDT by Eric in the Ozarks (Scratch a Liberal. Uncover a Fascist)
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To: OESY

what BS the only thing he spent weeks looking at to decide how he felt on the stem cell issue was polls.


20 posted on 08/15/2005 6:38:20 AM PDT by Texas_Conservative2
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