Frist’s Legacy

Josh Marshall’s mocking Bill Frist, which is always fun. Reading through his posts, though, I sometimes wonder if the Democrats—no, add the whole country here—might have been better off if they had never ousted Trent Lott from his Senate Majority Leader spot in late 2002. After all, the fact that new figurehead Frist owed his job to Karl Rove ushered in an era in which the Senate GOP became a faceless extension of the president’s will and command, refusing to compromise with the minority party, and passing bills that reward key campaign contributors. Lott, for all his warts, would have never let that happen, at least not to the degree we’re seeing now.

Frist’s incompetence as a leader, meanwhile, and his inability to get much of the Republican “agenda” passed, seems to have driven the Senate GOP into such a fury that the party gave up the business of governing and decided instead to transform itself into a non-stop campaigning machine. Frist couldn’t get an energy bill through Congress back in 2004, so the GOP decided that the solution was to bring up gay marriage and flag-burning votes to try to trap the Democrats. Frist couldn’t get leaders to agree on a budget that year, so votes were manipulated to play “gotcha” games with Kerry and Edwards. Frist can’t get John Bolton confirmed, so Republicans have taken to attacking Dick Durbin for speaking out on torture. And so on. On a substantive level, I can’t imagine either party prefers this state of affairs—though Republicans might enjoy the election-day victories and cheap point-scoring that come with it.