Not a Whole Lott of Difference: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist Will Continue to Support Establishment Objectives, Signaling No Real Change in the Senate. (Politics)
McManus, John F., The New American
At the December 5, 2002 birthday party for retiring Senator Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (RMiss.) uttered his now-famous comment that the country would have been better off if Thurmond had been elected president when he ran as a Dixiecrat in 1948. In a matter of days, that off-the-cuff remark was used to link Lott and the GOP to the South's segregationist past and to taint Republican conservatism with racism--even though Lott did not mention segregation and segregation was only one of the planks in the Dixiecrat Party platform.
The Left took full advantage of the opportunity created by Lott's political faux pas. But, as we shall see, so did the Bush White House, although not so openly. In fact, Lott's departure from the important Senate majority leader position in favor of Senator Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) smacked of a carefully crafted White House operation. Some if not all of that operation may even have been directed by insiders at the Council on Foreign Relations, the Establishment's inner sanctum into which Frist had recently been welcomed. Lott was never similarly knighted.
Lott's voting record as measured by THE NEW AMERICAN'S "Conservative Index" was more conservative than Frist's--but not by much. During the eight years that they served together in the Senate, Lott earned a "Conservative Index" rating of 65 percent as compared to Frist's 60 percent. Those scores are admittedly better than those earned by liberal Democrats, but dismal in terms of how a genuine conservative would have voted. Moreover, not all votes are equally important. On issues of great importance to the power elite, such as creating a cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security, Frist, like Lott, voted the Establishment line.
Prior to the Lou imbroglio, Frist reportedly became a favorite of President Bush because of his success in regaining the GOP's Senate majority as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee during the last election cycle. As the new Senate majority leader, Frist can be expected to carry water for the neoconservative wing of the Insider Establishment just as Lott did, but perhaps more effectively.
When the controversy over Lott's remarks erupted, Lott played into the hands of his political enemies by repeatedly apologizing for something he did not say and al most assuredly was not thinking. (Does anyone, including the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, honestly believe that Lott really had segregation in mind when he favorably commented on Thurmond's run for the White House?) Lott even went so far as to apologize for having voted against the Martin Luther King national holiday, as if to suggest that his position on that issue--a position held by many other Republican lawmakers at the time--was somehow racist.
But Lott's spineless approach notwithstanding, he probably could have withstood the onslaught against him until the president himself delivered a haymaker of a blow. It came on December 12th during Mr. Bush's speech in Philadelphia before what the New York Times said was a "mostly black audience of religious leaders." They "rose from their chairs," said the Times, "and erupted in shouts of approval and a long burst of applause" when Mr. Bush stated:
Recent comments by Senator Lott do not reflect the spirit of our country. He has apologized, and rightly so. Every day our nation was segregated was a day that America was unfaithful to our founding ideals.... And the founding ideals of our nation and, in fact, the founding ideals of the political party I represent was, and remains today, the equal dignity and equal rights of every American.
White House spokesman An Fleischer immediately insisted that the president wasn't backing away from accepting Lott's apology and "doesn't think [he] needs to resign" as majority leader, the post to which he had just recently been reelected by his colleagues. The official word from the White House claimed it wasn't proper for the president to inject himself into congressional leadership choices.
But on December 18th, with Fleischer still claiming that the president wasn't calling for Lott to step down, Secretary of State Colin Powell and the president's brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, weighed in with uncommon opinions about who should lead the Senate. At a briefing for the foreign minister of Denmark, Powell chastised Lott for his praise for the 1948 "Dixiecrat agenda." Governor Jeb Bush told the Miami Herald in an interview that Lott "doesn't seem to be able to handle [the] swirling controversy" and that "something's going to have to change."
Political realists were quick to note how unusual it was for any cabinet official to speak out against a Senate leader. Special notice was paid to the comments Out of Florida because Jeb Bush, never wanting to be a lightning rod for the White House, had always carefully avoided speaking out on national issues. Meanwhile, even as Lott refused to blame the president for his mounting travails, he began denouncing what he said were anonymous, critical leaks from lower level White House staffers.
On December 19th, Frist made his move by publicly questioning Lott's leadership. He boldly offered himself for the post and urged colleagues to hold another election for majority leader. Lott spokesman Ron Bonjean immediately downplayed the Frist challenge, forcefully insisting that Lott "will be the majority leader in the next Congress." But other senators began climbing aboard the Frist bandwagon.
One day later, a beaten Lott resigned his post. A front-page headline in the New York Times encapsulated what had happened: "With Signals and Maneuvers, Bush Orchestrated an Ouster." Elizabeth Bumiller noted in the accompanying article that, contrary to administration claims of noninvolvement, the president's "advisers and influential Republicans were working overtime to jettison Lott." She described the administration's effort as having been "ruthlessly maneuvered" and added that the president's speech in Philadelphia "was the political equivalent of cutting off Mr. Lott's legs." Amid more White House denials that the president's team had engineered any moves against Lott, the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz offered his differing opinion. As he saw it, "the White House helped sink Trent Lott's boat."
It took only three more days for the GOP's senators to hand the majority leader post to Frist via the rather unusual method of a conference call. Their December 23rd decision, like their choice to reelect Lott to the post only a few weeks earlier, was unanimous.
Who Is Bill Frist?
The first physician in the Senate in nearly 75 years, Bill Frist won election in the Republican landslide of 1994, defeating incumbent Democrat James Sasser. Frist graduated from Princeton University in 1974 and Harvard Medical School soon afterward. A highly trained surgeon, he founded an organ-transplant center at Nashville's Vanderbilt University. As a self-proclaimed "citizen legislator," he has vowed to serve only two six-year terms in the Senate, meaning he would not run for reelection in 2006.
Frist's father and brother founded the for-profit Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corporation, a chain of hospitals that has made each of them independently wealthy. While the senator has no management role in the company (his stock sits in a blind trust), Democrats have noted that the firm has agreed to pay penalties totaling $1.7 billion to settle accusations of health care fraud involving overbilling Medicare and kickbacks to some physicians.
Frist has voted pro-life on abortion issues such as prohibiting partial-birth abortion. But Judie Brown, president and co-founder of the anti-abortion American Life League, refuses to consider him pro-life. She points to his intimate relationship with the abortion-providing HCA. She also indicts Frist for supporting Bill Clinton's 1995 nomination of Dr. Henry Foster for U.S. surgeon general. Foster had a history of performing abortions as well as involuntary sterilizations. When the Senate denied Foster's appointment, Mr. Clinton turned to Dr. David Satcher, who supported partial-birth abortion and backed tax-supported needle exchange programs for drug addicts. Frist also voted to approve the Satcher nomination.
During the eight years he has served in the Senate, Frist has regularly voted for massive foreign aid appropriations. He has likewise repeatedly supported huge appropriations for the agriculture department, a huge chunk of which supplies food stamps to millions in a program known to be top-heavy with fraud. When given opportunities to defend the right to keep and bear arms, Frist sided with its enemies and earned sharp rebukes from determined defenders of this fundamental right. On three occasions from 1997 to 1999, attempts were made to abolish federal funding of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Its history of financing pronographic and blasphemous "art" has enraged many of the nation's taxpayers. But, thanks to Frist and many of his colleagues, funding for the NBA continues.
Frist has voted for unconstitutional line-item veto power for the president, a totally unnecessary constitutional amendment to impose term limits on legislators, and fast-track authority for the president that usurps the congressional prerogative to "regulate commerce with foreign nations."
When funding for education, housing, transportation; and even rural television access came before the Senate, Bill Frist dutifully supported these measures. Yet none of these huge drains on the pocketbooks of beleaguered taxpayers is authorized in the Constitution. When proposals arrived to raise the debt ceiling rather than slice the budget, Frist dependably approved additional mortgaging of America's future.
Is Bill Frist an internationalist? The question has to be answered with an emphatic "Yes." In June 1997, Frist and a majority of his colleagues approved an $8.6 billion supplemental appropriation labeled for "flood relief." But $1.9 billion of that amount went to fund the UN's "peacekeeping" operation in Bosnia. In March 1998, he voted for an $18 billion bailout of the UN's International Monetary Fund. In April of that year, he voted to expand the UN's NATO subsidiary. In July, he opposed a measure requiring Congress to authorize any military operations carried on by U.S. Armed Forces. In 2000, he voted against terminating funding for continued NATO troop deployment in Kosovo. In 2001, he went along with the Senate's approval of releasing $582 million in U.S. dues to the UN. And in 2002, he voted for a measure authorizing the president to "enforce all relevant UN Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq." Congress' exclusive constitutional power to declare war has been relegated to the status of a quaint page in history.
Late in 1995, the House passed a measure prohibiting funds for deploying U.S. forces in Bosnia without congressional approval. When the matter arrived at the Senate, Frist joined with the majority to defeat it. Also in 1995, Frist joined with 57 colleagues to approve Most Favored Nation (MFN) status for Vietnam that included access for the Communist nation to various subsidy programs financed by U.S. taxpayers. In 1997, he voted for MFN status for Communist China. In 1999, his vote helped assure China's entry into the World Trade Organization. In 2000, he voted against an amendment that would have tied renewal of China's Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR, a new term for MEN) to human rights standards, and then he voted to abolish the annual review process whereby China is granted PNTR and access to the U.S. subsidies that such a status entails.
President Bush's most dangerous proposal calls for creation of a Free Trade Area of the Americas. This economic union would compromise national independence just as the European Union has impacted once-sovereign nations on the other side of the Atlantic. On August 1, 2002, the Senate voted 64 to 34 to give the president the so-called Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) he sought so he could proceed with his plan. Frist supported the president's desire. If he had not, the White House would not likely have favored Frist to succeed Trent Lott as Senate majority leader. (Lott also supported this measure.)
The liberal media applauds Frist as a capable legislator who will work with Democrats on health and education issues, Medicare reform, and the global fight against AIDS. None of that should be a federal concern. The print and electronic suppliers of information and perspective for the American people claim that Frist is a conservative, in part, because he will help to "give the states flexibility in spending federal education funds." And there we see a definition of the Frist style of conservatism: mere flexibility in spending taxpayer-supplied funds in an arena where the federal government has no authorization to act.
Bill Frist has been described as the "intellectual superior" of Trent Lott. That may accurately describe Frist. But it also means that he's likely more dangerous than the man he succeeded.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Not a Whole Lott of Difference: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist Will Continue to Support Establishment Objectives, Signaling No Real Change in the Senate. (Politics). Contributors: McManus, John F. - Author. Magazine title: The New American. Volume: 19. Issue: 2 Publication date: January 27, 2003. Page number: 22+. © 2009 American Opinion Publishing, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group.