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At Last: Demanding Democrats

May
27
2005

Who taught Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist how to count?
We’ll probably never know the answer to that question. The Senator, it seems, was snoozing during his political arithmetic class.
There are lots of ways to sugar-coat what happened in the Senate yesterday when Frist found he didn’t have the votes to cut off debate on John Bolton’s nomination to become U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Frist is trying to blame the Democrats for being obstructionist. And the White House is trying to shame Democrats for being partisan.
This is good. You can see the logic in this, can’t you? Calling someone who disagrees with you obstructionist and partisan. Man, that’s original. It’s been a while since Democrats showed they had spines and now — my God! – they’re being called names. This keeps up, someone could win an election. Scary, huh?


Here’s the reality: Republicans “took a walk” on this vote. Frist didn’t have the 60 votes he needed to cut off debate and get a vote; he held the vote open for 45 minutes and he still came up short. The votes he needed – particularly moderate Sen. Arlen Specter who was roundly chastised by conservative Republicans just after the election and who is challenging Frist and the White House on stem cells — weren’t around. “Taking a walk” is a fine political tradition. It’s a way to say no without moving your lips. “Gosh, darn, Bill. There was a vote? REALLY? An important one? Oh, hell, I didn’t know. My staff…young. Someone’ll pay for this. So sorry, Bill. Event back in the home state. Yeah, you know that jet airplane stuff isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”
There are two interpretations here. None good. And they should be making the White House wonder why they picked Frist – who doesn’t have the experience of many of his colleagues — to run things in the Senate. Who really needs a conservative who can’t count? Clearly, the leader didn’t realize he didn’t have the votes untl it was too – obviously, too — late. Wouldn’t you love, love, love to hear former Sen. Bob Dole – who could count – wax eloquent on this particular failing of leadership. I know I would. Dole’s got a tongue like a straight razor.
Even worse, First didn’t eyeball the calendar, and didn’t count on Democrats to be a little devious. Meaning, he didn’t see the Democrat’s delay strategy coming. He got blindsided. Just like he got blindsided on the filibuster agreement. In other words, he was doubly unprepared and – more of a sin in politics, really – he let it show. Twice in one week.
Republican Senators aren’t in open revolt against the leadership. Not yet. But failing to lead – and make no mistake, that’s what Frist has done here – is a solid step in that direction. The White House should be very worried. And Democrats should keep it up.
SIDENOTE: Notice the absence of Sen. Hillary Clinton on this issue? Potential presidential contender Sen. Joe Biden, however, is way out there. Interesting, no? Do you think it has anything to do with Clinton’s newfound popularity?

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 9:55 AM | Permalink

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