The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Sunday, May 29, 2005

Frist's good week/bad week blues

I don't normally do horse-race. But - isn't Charles Babington just a little dogmatic:
For someone with the lofty title of Senate majority leader, Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has had a terrible week.

And he quotes the Economist in a similar vein:
There are three big losers from the peace deal: Bill Frist, the White House and the religious right. Mr. Frist is a much diminished leader.

I don't buy it.

As ever, the task at hand is one of framing: the Dems paint the GOP as inflexible far-right ideologues, the GOP paint the Dems as obstructionist know-nothings.

And Frist, presumptive presidential candidate in 2008, is looking to his story-arc. Passing the bankruptcy bill may have earned him the gratitude of (and even some contributions from) the loan-sharks, but it did little to excite the base.

A good arc is based on triumph over adversity - and last week, let's say, was Frist's adversity. The back-biting of his fair weather friends (like the ever-popular James Dobson) helps too. He has to really hit bottom [1] before bounding, Superman-like, to success.

And 2008 is a hell of a long way away.

The Fab Fourteen's deal is good for Frist: for immediate gratification, he stuffs three judges down the Dems' throats.

But his bull point is that the deal establishes the bar for extraordinary circumstances. If Bush nominates Supreme Court justices no more noxious than the Sainted Three, he can plausibly [2] take the moral high ground when the filibuster starts: as well as being obstructionist know-nothings, Dems are cheats and welshers!

Those seven GOP appeasers who did the deal will come under pressure to step away from it (nothing left to step away from, in fact...), and 'recognise' that they had been stiffed. (Some heavy-duty magnanimity from the GOP leadership would play nicely just about here. Just for show, obviously.)

When the nuclear option is exercised, it will be in sorrow rather than anger.

And, most importantly, it'll be made clear that it's the Democrats who are responsible.

For the team that gave us the oxymoronic Swift Boat Veterans from Truth, making that lot fly will be a doddle.

An alternative Hollywood arc is that of the John the Baptist: the guy who dies heroically half-way into the movie in the course of making an unsuccessful sally that makes ultimate victory possible. Frist might be that guy; but there's no available method of doing the deed [3].

No: Frist stays for the party, and he shouldn't come away empty-handed.

Even on Bolton, the success of the Dems in balking cloture is no tragedy for Frist. There was little indication that they were willing to filibuster. And if Bolton loses the up and down confirmation vote, even better. The stab in the back from the RINOs whose switch would be necessary (after Voinovich, five more are needed) would give plenty of ranting fodder to Dobson and friends, without their needing to kick Frist around.

Bottom line: the fundies can't go for Frist because they can only wound him; and because they don't know who else will be available to represent their cause in 2008 [4].

Chances are, he could be their guy.

  1. For those following Mr Smith Goes To Washington, we're at the night-time scene at the Lincoln Memorial where the tricky Jean Arthur woos Jimmy Stewart back to the Cause.

    Did Frist have hand, act or part in the deal? Apparently, Trent Lott started the ball rolling.

  2. The media - and not just the VRWC - establishes a pretty low bar on plausibility for the current administration!

  3. Frist is Bush's boy, of course; he replaced Trent Lott (on the infamous Dixiecrat Druther pretext) when Rove and Co got it into their heads that he would be some sort of senatorial Tom DeLay. Losing one Majority Leader may be regarded as a misfortune...

  4. Santorum, for instance, seems to be in all kinds of trouble in his 06 re-election campaign - though these are early days.


The lesson of homo-marriage and Schiavo, to name but two, is that, when it comes to the GOP exciting their base, if they win, they win; and if they lose, they win.

It's even better if they lose; because what fuels the fundies' engines is resentment oscillating with outrage. Like a geyser, they seethe away inwardly as the pressure grows; and when it gets too much, they blow.

Of course, if ever they wised up and decided to consult their interests, rather than their organs of pleasure, the strategy would collapse in a heap.

But that's not going to happen. They are the Don Quixotes de nos jours - they dream the impossible dream. The impossibility is not a design fault, it's integral to their MO.

How this ties in with their religious beliefs - original sin, prioritising Heaven - I'm not qualified to talk about. But I suspect that many of them would count being satisfied with life on earth as sinful in itself.

Notably, in Europe in the 20th century, belief as the fuel for politics ended in tens of millions of deaths. The killer argument for the New World is that, for all its faults, its political kill ratio has been somewhere between modest and pitifully small in comparison.

As USG ponders, as I'm sure it's doing now, the ins and outs of a proposal for the IAF to bomb Iranian nuclear installations, one hopes that the calorific value of fanaticism necessary for such a venture does not yet exist.

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