“In the Bible, God tells us for everything there is a season, and for me, for now, this season of being an elected official has come to a close. I do not intend to run for president in 2008.” Americans — and Sam Brownback — rejoice (and the stray cats of Tennessee lament) as former Majority Leader Bill Frist announces he won’t be running for president in 2008. Now he can delve full-time into his favorite hobby: cutting things…
Pathetic…these guys really have no shame. In yet another desperate and disgusting bid to pamper the rich by stealing from the poor, Catkiller Frist and the Senate GOP try to game the Senate Dems into backing a repeal of the estate tax by coupling it with a long-overdue minimum wage hike. To put this ploy in perspective, a recent report “concluded that the estate tax reduction would cut government income by $753 billion in the first 10 years, forcing lower spending for Medicaid, food stamps and unemployment insurance, which help low-wage workers.” Update: Thankfully, the bill failed on a 56-42 cloture vote, three shorts shy of the necessary 60 (Catkiller switched his vote to enable reconsideration later.)
And, in quite related news, new Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson admits the Dubya economy has been leaving people behind: “‘Many aren’t seeing significant increases in their take-home pay. Their increases in wages are being eaten up by high energy prices and rising health care costs, among others.’“
“One Saturday night, Karyn recalled, ‘we were supposed to go to a movie. He walked out in his scrubs.’ Instead of taking Karyn to the theater, Frist brought her to the operating room. ‘To see the human body alive — without a heart in it.’” I’ll admit to getting a ridiculous amount of run out of the Catkiller Frist meme over the past few years., and sometimes I’ve even wondered if it’s a cheap shot. But then my sister Tessa e-mailed me this “heartwarming” puff piece about Senator Frist, and good God, the man is a certifiable freak show. “‘In medical school, Frist cut out a dog’s heart and held it in his palm. It continued to beat for a slippery minute. ‘Watching it beat, the beauty of it,’ Frist recalled. ‘I decided I would spend my life centered around the heart.’” Um….what? This guy is our Senate Majority Leader? “During congressional breaks, Frist, 54, has been known to fly to Africa to operate.” I shudder to think.
“My guess is that something will pass this year. In the end, no one wants to be against decency in an election year.” In order to increase his standing among social conservatives and protect his right flank for those all-important 2008 primaries, Catkiller Frist has started angling for a strict broadcasting indecency bill. The bill “would increase indecency fines on broadcasters and threaten to take away their licenses after three violations.”
The Senate reaches a compromise on immigration reform that splits the middle between the Frist-Tancredo hardliners and the Kennedy-McCain moderates. “Under the agreement, the Senate would allow undocumented workers a path to lawful employment and citizenship if they could prove — through work stubs, utility bills or other documents — that they have been in the country for five years. To attain citizenship, those immigrants would have to pay a $2,000 penalty, back taxes, learn English, undergo a criminal background check and remain working for 11 years.” But critics argue that the five-year distinction is a hard one to determine or enforce, and has been since it was first put into law in 1986. Update: Things fall apart.
“There is no issue outside of civil rights that brings out the kind of emotions we have seen.” After a weekend of significant grass-roots protest further suggests the political perils of immigration reform for both parties, the Senate Judiciary Committee votes 12-6 to support a bill by Senators Kennedy and McCain that promotes the more moderate Dubya-backed vision of reform, such as a guest-worker program, over that of the hardline GOP border-security crowd such as Frist and Tancredo. “A confrontation between the Senate and House Republicans now appears inevitable.“
“‘The short-term politics of this are pretty clear. The long-term politics are pretty clear. And they’re both at odds,’ said Mike Buttry, a spokesman for Sen. Chuck Hagel.” With Republican unity already shattered by Dubaigate, the contentious question of immigration reform threatens to divide Dubya and the GOP anew, as 2008 hopefuls Frist and Tancredo attempt to outflank Dubya on the right on the issue of border security, while McCain tries to shore up his standing with the Bushies. “For Republican presidential candidates, immigration offers up a difficult choice: Appeal to conservatives eager to clamp down on illegal immigration who could buoy your position in the primaries, or take a moderate stand to win independents and the growing Latino vote, which could be vital to winning the general election.”
“This conduct is right in the strike zone of the concept of high crimes and misdemeanors….We, as a Congress, have to stand up to a president who acts like the Bill of Rights and the Constitution were repealed on Sept 11.” On This Week, Senator Feingold calls for a censure of Dubya for, “openly and almost thumbing his nose at the American people,” continuing the NSA warrantless wiretaps. (The censure resolution is here.) Catkiller Frist — flush from his straw poll win over the weekend — responded by calling the censure a “terrible, terrible signal” to give the evildoers. It’s “terrible” to show respect for the rule of law? Get real. It’s about time somebody in the AWOL Senate stood up to this administration’s repeated abuses of power. Update: Feingold writes more on the censure. (Via Medley.)
“‘I look around,’ Mr. Lott said, ‘and think, “Am I the only one who thinks this is stupid?”‘” Hearings into Katrina, foreign affairs, and other matters of state are postponed as the Senate commits to a day of stunt votes by both parties, mainly because Catkiller Frist had more pressing business — a fundraiser, of course — the prior evening. “Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska, said, ‘It’s sort of arrogant of us, isn’t it, scheduling them and then not keeping our appointments?’“
This just about drives me up the wall. Threatening to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory yet again, Minority Leader Harry Reid loses his nerve and apologizes to Senate Republicans for daring to insinuate they’ve been on the make. “The release [since edited down], titled, ‘Republicans cannot be trusted to end the culture of corruption,’ triggered sharp complaints from GOP officials, who said it violated Senate decorum and brought campaign-style mudslinging into the Capitol.” Aw, shucks. Really? As the WP pointed out: “As partisan attacks go, the statement was hardly the most scathing seen on Capitol Hill lately.“
If anything, the problem with this release is that it used a blunderbuss when it should’ve used a stiletto — It’s clear somebody on Reid’s staff just spent a day cutting-and-pasting old DNC talking points. The George Allen noose anecdote or Inhofe-on-Global-Warming, for example — both are reprehensible, but both have nothing to do with Abramoff-style corruption. (While I’m at it, the line “I thought I’d seen the last of corruption when I helped clean up Las Vegas thirty years ago” is an unbelievable groaner. I know you faced down car bombs and all, but really, Vegas is hardly a beacon of purity nowadays.)
That being said, these charges, however off-topic, are true and in the public record, so what’s the problem? And when was the last time you heard Senate Republicans apologize for anything? Catkiller Frist owes us at least two sorrys by this point, and that’s right off the top of my head. For Pete’s sake, Sen. Reid, you’re supposed to be our leader. Start acting like it. At the very least, don’t even bother posting tough-minded press releases if you feel you’re going to have to disavow them within 48 hours. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, then pass the reins to someone else.
Wary of increasing public opposition to the Iraq war and spurred to action by a Democratic amendment advocating a specific timetable for withdrawal, Senate Republicans craft legislation calling for an Iraq exit strategy. “On the Iraq resolutions, the Democratic and Republican proposals say that ’2006 should be a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty, with Iraqi security forces taking the lead for the security of a free and sovereign Iraq, thereby creating the conditions for the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq’…The White House is also directed ‘to explain to Congress and the American people its strategy for the successful completion of the mission in Iraq.’” Unfortunately, with the exception of quarterly reports to Congress on the war effort, the language of the proposal is not binding. Update: It passes, 98-0 (Lamar Alexander and Governor Corzine didn’t vote.)
“Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist says he is more concerned about the leak of information regarding secret CIA detention centers than activity in the prisons themselves…’I am not concerned about what goes on [in the prisons] and I’m not going to comment about the nature of that,’ Frist replied.” Unbelievable. The same guy who blew a gasket over a closed-door Senate session last week couldn’t care less what goes on behind closed doors in secret, illegal CIA gulags. (I guess he figures it couldn’t be much worse than your average day at the Frist family animal shelter.)
Republicans…they never stop surprising me. The nation discovers that, contrary to our most basic principles, the CIA has a series of secret, illegal gulags around the world, and how do GOP leaders respond? They want to know who told the press. (Mind you, this is after stonewalling investigations into prewar intelligence and the Plamegate leak for many a year.)
To be fair, not all GOP Senators are with them on this. Said Gang of 14 member Lindsey Graham (R-SC): “Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees. The real story is those jails…I’d like to know why we’ve got secret prisons and what oversight precautions we have.” And Trent Lott (R-MS) believes that a Republican is likely responsible for the leak, after hearing about the prisons from Mr. Torture himself, Big Time Dick Cheney. “‘Every word that was said in there went right to the newspaper,’ Lott said. ‘We can’t keep our mouths shut.‘” But, perhaps Catkiller knows this, and suspects one of his probable primary opponents? (LA Times story via Quiddity.) Update: Wheels within wheels…Was the leak investigation letter accidentally leaked? Regardless, Pat Roberts has put the kibosh on a congressional investigation…for now.
“‘I think really for our viewers it should be understood that I put this into a blind trust,’ Frist replied [in January 2003.] ‘So as far as I know, I own no HCA stock.’…Two weeks before that interview, M. Kirk Scobey Jr., a Frist trustee, informed the senator in writing that one of his trusts had received HCA stock valued at between $15,000 and $50,000.” Fifteen trustee letters obtained by the Post, describing sales and purchases of HCA stock, indicate Frist’s been lying about his “blind” trust for years. Poor Catkiller…I bet Iowa suddenly seems a million miles away…
“Even a criminal like myself is shocked that millions are not able to get health insurance and cannot pay for basic surgery. Who are these power brokers that allow the pigpen to become wormy and filthy? I demand your very lives, but I am not such an imbecile as to institutionalize suffering and poverty. You have my assurance that this shall change swiftly.” Three years to go and the 2008 slate is already filling up. For the Dems: Hillary, Biden, Bayh, Warner, and Feingold. For the GOP: Frist, McCain, and Brownback. And, although Chris Walken first seemed to have the Indy vote locked up (let’s face it, Cthulhu‘s missed His shot), word is the inimitable General Zod is now coming on strong. Hmmm. I could definitely see him pulling a Stockdale at some point in the debate. (By way of LinkMachineGo.)
“We are Americans, and we hold ourselves to humane standards of treatment of people no matter how evil or terrible they may be. To do otherwise undermines our security, but it also undermines our greatness as a nation.” Behind Sen. John McCain, who knows as well as anyone why we must set limits on our interrogation policies, the Senate votes 90-9 to rebuke the White House and constrain future interrogation abuses at Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, and around the world. For his part, Catkiller Frist earlier tried to smother the amendment, but ultimately ended up voting for it. Wouldn’t want a vote for torture on our 2008 transcript now, would we?
Sorry, Catkiller, no help there. New SEC Chairman Christopher Cox recuses himself from the probe into Bill Frist’s suspicious stock dump, leaving four commissioners — two Dems and two GOP — to head the inquiry. Update: A blind trust? Not hardly. “Documents on file with the Senate show the trustees for Frist and his immediate family wrote the senator nearly two dozen times between 2001 and July 2005. The documents list assets going into the account and assets sold. Some assets have a dollar range of the investment’s value and some list the number of shares.”
By way of Looka, did Catkiller Frist pull a Martha? “Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a potential presidential candidate in 2008, sold all his stock in his family’s hospital corporation about two weeks before it issued a disappointing earnings report and the price fell nearly 15 percent…To keep the trust blind, Frist was not allowed to know how much HCA stock he owned…but he was allowed to ask for all of it to be sold.” Update: The Post has more: “The notion that you have a blind trust but you can tell your trustee when to sell stock in it just doesn’t make any sense. It means you have a seeing eye trust and not a blind trust. It’s ridiculous.” Update 2: The SEC steps in, and subpoenas start flying.
“‘The entire fiscal landscape has been transformed in the last week…The entire Republican agenda of tax cuts, Social Security reform and big spending on pet Republican projects is over. Events do eventually have an impact on Capitol Hill.’” The Congressional GOP confront the realization that they’ll likely be forced to postpone their ill-advised tax cut dreams in light of Katrina. Nevertheless, Catkiller Frist is undeterred, and still plans to attempt a repeal of the estate tax when Congress convenes next week…cause, y’know, the nation’s millionaires are suffering. Update: Frist backs down (for now.) AP and the NYT has more.
Bucking the Dubya trend, Bill Frist comes out for expanded federal stem cell research. Evidently, Catkiller‘s 2008 gurus decided he should hype his M.D. and/or tack moderate — which is probably a mistake…the GOP moderates will likely stick with McCain, while the fundies may now look to Sam Brownback or some other winger freakshow as their primary hopeful. But, hey, the right thing is the right thing, even if it’s for the wrong reasons.
“The Senate put off until fall completing a $491 billion defense bill in order to act this week on the National Rifle Association’s top priority: shielding gun manufacturers and dealers from liability suits stemming from gun crimes.” Well, that sounds much more important than our troops overseas, doesn’t it? Looks like Catkiller Frist is shoring up the freakshow base for 2008 at the expense of the American people again. Where’s the outrage? Update: The bill passes 65-31.
“‘The constituencies are in tension with each other…His leadership of the Senate has faltered so far as he has tried to cultivate the constituency of Republican primary voters,’ Sandel said.” Responding to the recent Bolton switcheroo, the WP questions whether Bill Frist has the wherewithal for the presidency. Probably not. I mean, judgment-wise, he had already lost me with the whole murdering kittens thing, to say nothing of his goofy Schiavo diagnosis or his many prostrations before the fundies. But, hey, don’t fret, Senator…The bar for presidential judgment these days is pretty low.
Ambitious Dems Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. and Governor Mark Warner try to establish their presidential bona fides by joining in on the anti-Dean pileup. I wouldn’t have used Deans’s “white christian” line — We shouldn’t be in the business of reinforcing the GOP’s hold on white Christian voters, particularly when so much of the Republicans’ bellicose, intolerant, and avarice-fueled agenda is flagrantly anti-Christian in any real sense. Today’s GOP may talk the talk of Jesus, but their leaders continually prostrate themselves before the altar of Mammon. As any good Christian knows, you can’t serve them both.
All that being said, it’s highly dismaying to watch the Dems eat their own like this. Obviously, our lazy, cowed excuse for a national newsmedia is going to leap at every possible note of intemperance to emanate from Dr. Dean, because it’s an easy story that won’t tick off the White House and doesn’t involve much in the way of reporting. So every two-bit Democratic official that wants to start generating some media buzz and moderate cred for a 2008 bid is currently mouthing off to reporters about the former Governor of Vermont.
Do Republicans do this? Not hardly. I don’t remember GOP officials rushing to lambast Bill Frist for his “against people of faith” photo-op, or Tom DeLay for all the garbage that routinely comes out of his mouth, to say nothing of all the Limbaughs, Hannitys, Coulters, etc. But one Dem uses stronger rhetoric than usual to characterize the opposition and we fall over each other to condemn him in the name of electable statesmanship. It’s pathetic. Word to the wise, Dems: Let Dean be Dean — we didn’t pick him for his social nicety — and concentrate your rhetorical firepower on the opposing trench.
“Frist called her “a superb judge” who applies the law ‘without bias, without favor, with an even hand.’ Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), one of the 14 negotiators, called Brown “an extremely talented and qualified judge” who will ‘advance the cause of conservative judicial philosophy.’” As Janice Rogers Brown moves through the Senate, some Dems and left-leaning groups start rethinking the benefits of last month’s nuclear compromise.
“Frist had only eight years of Senate experience when he succeeded Lott, and some colleagues felt he was more Bush’s choice than the GOP caucus’s. He was bound to need more White House help than did up-through-the-ranks predecessors such as Lott and Dole, they said, but sometimes Bush seemed to dump tough problems at his door and walk away.” As right-wing Republicans hammers the GOP moderates who crafted the nuclear compromise, Charles Babington examines the political import of Catkiller’s lousy week. Meanwhile, Frist’s possible primary nemesis John McCain calls for a compromise on Bolton, in which the White House would release the info they’ve been holding in exchange for a vote.
“The campaign to prevent the Senate filibuster of the president’s judicial nominations was simply the latest and most public example of similar transformations in Congress and the executive branch stretching back a decade. The common theme is to consolidate influence in a small circle of Republicans and to marginalize dissenting voices that would try to impede a conservative agenda.” The WP offers a big-picture view of recent GOP attempts to centralize power in the executive.
Priscilla Owen may be through, but a number of papers note today how Monday’s compromise only sets the stage for an ugly battle over Dubya’s next Supreme Court pick, likely to be a conservative freakshow.
I already posted one of these in the comments yesterday, but in case you missed it: Salon and the major papers break down the impact of nuclear detente on the 2008 GOP primaries. I’m dismayed to hear purported maverick Chuck Hagel attack the compromise — between this transparent kowtowing to primary-voting fundies and his Yes vote for John Bolton, the Senator of Nebraska is seeming less and less worthy of moderate support.
On the eve of meltdown, the Senate center holds, producing a compromise that allows three Dubya judges — Priscilla Owen, Janice Brown, and William Pryor — through in return for a nuclear standdown. The Dems are heralding this as a victory, but, with Rehnquist in ill health, this may just postpone the conflict…