Jewish World Review May 27, 2005 /18 Iyar,
The McCain mutiny
After all the glowing words surrounding the Senate "compromise"
in which the Republicans folded their hand despite holding all the high
cards, it is worth taking a look at who won what and why.
The biggest winner is Senator John McCain, who once again sold
out both principles and party, to the applause of the mainstream media. Not
only is he assured of good publicity, he has pulled the rug out from under
Majority Leader William Frist, his probable chief rival for the 2008
Republican Presidential nomination.
Winning a showdown with the Democrats by using the so-called
"nuclear option" to stop the filibustering of judicial nominees would have
given Senator Frist the kind of name-recognition that McCain already has and
would be a major achievement to solidify the support of the conservative
Now, after having been blindsided by the McCain mutiny, Frist
looks ineffective as Majority Leader and questionable as a potential
President of the United States.
Those who claim that Senator McCain has forfeited the support of
the Republican base by selling out his party must not realize that McCain
never had the support of that base in the first place, as shown by their
votes in the 2000 Republican primaries.
Senator McCain has lost nothing. If Hillary Clinton is the
Democrats' candidate in 2008, what alternative would the Republican base
have? Vote for Hillary?
If nothing else, Senator McCain has undermined Senator Frist's
authority as Majority Leader in the Senate and made himself the media's
favorite Republican. Whether or not that can be cashed in for a 2008
Presidential nomination, McCain has raised his own stock and lowered that of
Frist. He is in a position to rule or ruin.
Is Senator Frist a weak Majority Leader or does he just not have
the troops required to get the job done? Senator Frist is a surgeon but he
can't transplant backbone to Senate Republicans who don't have any.
A Senate Majority Leader today may or may not be able to rule
with an iron hand, the way Lyndon Johnson did when he held that title half a
I don't know Senator Frist but I know someone in Tennessee who
does know him and thinks highly of him. I am inclined to think highly of him
myself, though I have met him in person only once, when we sat at a dinner
table in the White House with the President of Kenya and Mrs. Bush, among
What struck me was Senator Frist's mentioning that he was
familiar with Kenya from having been there during one of his trips to Africa
to perform surgery on African children. Being a humane and decent man is not
something to sneeze at but, in politics, the question about decent people is
whether they are sufficiently on guard against people who are not so decent.
Those of us who are not privy to what goes on behind the scenes
in Washington cannot know how savvy or how tough Senator Frist is as
Majority Leader. He may be getting all the mileage he can out of the kind of
people who make up the Republican contingent in the Senate.
Being the leader of Republican Senators who include John McCain,
Arlen Specter, and Olympia Snowe, among others with minimal or non-existent
party loyalty, cannot be a picnic. Moreover, even if Senator Frist is an
effective leader, that is not enough unless he also looks like an effective
leader which he certainly does not at the moment.
As for any Presidential ambitions, the Republicans have often
had more people who would make good Presidents than they have had people who
would make good presidential candidates and that is what you have to be
in order to reach the White House.
This is a low point. But it has long been axiomatic that "in
politics, overnight is a lifetime." It is a long time before the 2008
elections. In political terms, there is still time before the next Supreme
Court nominee reaches the Senate, even if that happens this year. How that
time is used is what matters.
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