During our taping of Left, Right, and Center Friday morning, Tony Blankley (he represents the “Right” part of the equation) made a pronouncement that should send chills down Bill Frist’s spine. Tony not only oversees the editorial page of the Washington Times, and is a regular on The McLaughlin Group -- he is the insiders’ insider when it comes to conservative Washington, having, among other things, served as Newt Gingrich’s press secretary and as a speechwriter for Ronald Reagan. On top of all this, he speaks with a British accent that lends gravitas to everything he says (his coffee orders sound positively Churchillian).
Anyway, here is what he said when asked about the latest delay in the Bolton nomination:
Well, let me talk briefly about the politics of it, cause that to me is the bigger issue, which is that Senator Frist lost control of the floor of the Senate for the second time this week, miscounting the number of votes he had. This is a huge event in Washington and in the Senate. In the 7 years I worked for Newt, when he was both whip and when he was the Speaker of the House, I only saw a party lose control of the floor once -- in the summer of 1994, when it happened to the Democrats… and it presaged their loss in November. It should never happen. To have it happen twice is a dangerous event for the Republicans.
There is now doubt about whether Frist can assert effective leadership. Once you’ve lost the credibility, it’s a little bit like in a marriage… when someone goes over the line and it is no longer salvageable. Now that Frist’s power has been tested and found wanting -- and found wanting twice -- no one is afraid of him anymore. So over the next ten days, when everyone on the Hill heads back to their districts for Memorial Day, the telephone lines will be burning up, with Senators spread all over the country talking about what this all means. And with no one in Washington, the GOP leadership won’t be able to contain it -- they won’t even know what kind of conversations are going on. It will be a very dangerous period for Frist.
Dr. Frist just got the political equivalent of having an oncologist arrange for you to have a biopsy on a Friday afternoon. Something tells me this isn’t going to be the cheeriest of Memorial Days at the Frist household. Karyn, maybe you should do the barbecuing. How about cooking up a face-saving exit strategy? I hear running for president takes up an awful lot of time…