Jewish World Review Jan. 7, 2003 / 4 Shevat 5763
Dr. Frist to the rescue … of his party
When Sen. Bill Frist sprang into action minutes after a rollover SUV accident on a Florida highway until paramedics arrived, he made the sort of heroic headlines that everyone likes to see, especially his fellow Republicans.
He also symbolized the ways in which President Bush and his fellow Republicans, having survived the storm kicked up by Trent Lott, may have come out politically ahead in the long run.
"As a doctor, my first instincts are to help," he said after the New Year's Day accident. Two died, including a 10-year-old girl. But paramedics praised Frist's help in saving the other four victims after the accident interrupted his vacation trip.
Emergency rescue is not a new role for Frist, a surgeon from Tennessee. When a gunman opened fire in the U. S. Capitol in 1998, Frist rushed into aid of at least two victims. In 1995, he revived a 60-year-old man who collapsed inside a Senate office building.
So it is easy to believe that politics were not on his mind at the time. But for those of us who can't stop thinking about politics, the episode was symbolic of the hopes that Bush and other Republicans have for Frist, as he replaces Lott of Mississippi as the Senate's incoming majority leader.
He is known to be an expert at repairing people. Now, we wonder, can he repair the damage that his predecessor as incoming Senate majority leader has done to the image of Bush, his party and his agenda?
Senate Republicans selected Frist to replace the problematic Lott, who had to go after dropping his famous rhetorical stink bomb at Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party.
Light-hearted Lott sounded like he was endorsing Thurmond's segregationist presidential bid in 1948, a position that Thurmond himself long ago discarded.
Then Lott dug himself deeper into a hole with his desperation appearance on BET (Black Entertainment Television), where he suddenly supported affirmative action, a holiday to honor the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and numerous other issues he steadfastly has voted against.
"My actions," he said with a straight fact, "do not reflect my voting record."
By then the issue become not only racial tolerance but Lott's competence and his party's credibility. He had to go.
And up steps Frist. Hollywood could hardly have cast a more warm, engaging and heroic figure to heal the wounds, as he promised he would try to do.
"Dr. Frist," as his allies like to call him on Capitol Hill, emphasizing his stature, intelligence and winning charm, has a reputation for moderate politics that, on some hot-button issues like gun control and abortion, have offended some right-wingers as not being conservative enough. He notably has volunteered for missionary work in Africa. He embodies the image of "compassionate conservatism" that Bush has tried to project.
Yes, there have been charges that, earlier in his career, Frist also used racial code words.
At least three times in his 1994 Senate race against Democratic incumbent Jim Sasser, in Tennessee, Frist said in various forms, "While I've been transplanting lungs and hearts to heal Tennesseans, Jim Sasser has been transplanting Tennesseans' wallets to Washington, home of Marion Barry."
Oh? One might wonder what Barry, who happens to be black and who FBI cameras happened to catch smoking crack but who did not happen to be mayor of the District of Columbia during Frist's campaign, had to do with Tennessee's Senate race.
Nevertheless, Democrats probably don't want to make a big deal out of that particular coded episode, unless they want to remind America of Barry's brand of leadership. Frankly, I doubt that they do.
That leaves his fellow Republicans to voice the biggest complaints about Frist so far. Some of his fellow senators wonder whether he is tough enough, conservative enough or experienced enough as a leader.
Which should make this upcoming session an interesting one to watch. Now that Republicans have gained control of the Senate again, they have to fight to keep it, if they can avoid fighting too much among themselves.
Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
Comment on JWR contributor Clarence Page's column by clicking here.
01/02/03: Feeling a 'draft,' but not much
12/17/02: To rob a burning cross of its power
12/03/02: Closing black-white test-score gaps
11/19/02: Uncle Same wants your data
11/15/02: Marriage vs. 'player' impulse
11/11/02: How Oz can help the Dems
11/05/02: We reserve right to be complicated
10/22/02: What the pro-gun lobby and anti-gun lobby have in common
10/18/02: Take Sharpton seriously? For Prez??
10/15/02: A beauty and the bullies
10/08/02: Time to start 'fingerprinting' bullets
10/08/02: Poet laureate hater fell for Internet hoax
10/04/02: Keeping it real, despite howls from black 'leaders'
10/01/02: Revisiting the 'Jogger' horror
09/27/02: Sometimes freedom is a necessary nuisance
09/13/02: Foil Fidel with free trade
09/10/02: Measuring the myth of 'super weed'
09/06/02: A year later: A reality-check
09/03/02: Make better choices before some jury somewhere does
08/20/02: Bid farewell to the Cigarette Century
08/16/02: Rights matter, even in circus trials
08/09/02: Jousting with Rumsfeld's fog of wit
08/06/02: Covert action is cool again
08/01/02: Powell's premature obituaries
07/30/02: A common sense tip on internal snooping
07/18/02: Jacko plays race card badly
07/12/02: Last flight for a pioneer airman
07/08/02: Dems will miss Watts, too
06/28/02: 'Supreme Court reads polls, too
06/25/02: 'The Body' bites, then bows out
06/21/02: Punishment first, then the crime?
06/18/02: Reporting still risky for Haiti's press
06/14/02: Bush's security plan leaves large gaps
06/04/02: Fix FBI's culture gap first
05/28/02: Fidel's new apartheid for tourists
05/21/02: Now McKinney's lunacy sounds like the Democratic Party line
05/19/02: A paradox of historical proportions
05/14/02: 'Murphy Brown' revisited in age of Ozzy
05/10/02: America looks like a model of tolerance and inclusion
05/07/02: Forget it, Bill, you're no Oprah
04/26/02: Mapping out ethnic and racial change
04/23/02: A game of another color
04/19/02: It's high time to open up pot-law debate
04/11/02: 'Osbourne' family values rock, aging Ozzy quakes
03/22/02: Zimbabwe election leaves world sleepless
03/19/02: A slur? Where is thy sting?
03/15/02: A Pearl of wisdom for reporter's unborn son
03/12/02: Army race and gender policies on trial
03/08/02: A short list of losers to be left behind
03/05/02: Revenge of the 'mediasaurus'
02/26/02: Jihads aren't just for Muslims
02/26/02: It's hard to be 'objective' during wartime
02/19/02: Hollywood's new villain: Your HMO
02/12/02: Father of 'Manchild' leaves lasting message
02/08/02: $nookering the reparations crowd
01/31/02: Prisoners of a War of Words
01/29/02: One more Enron woe: Al Sharpton & company
01/25/02: Searching for slaves in bin Laden's attic
01/22/02: Andrew Young's newest 'friend'
01/08/02: Hard-earned lessons from 9-11
12/18/01: Whatever happened to questions about the birds and the bees?
12/14/01: The "White Negro" Taliban?
12/07/01: Jackson's turn to gloat
11/27/01: Friendly warning from a lover of liberty
11/21/01: The face of hunger is changing
11/15/01: Our troubled sense of trust
11/08/01: Lessons about terror from the 'hood
11/06/01: Getting used to the 'new normal'
11/02/01: Wicked ways to make them talk
10/30/01: It's not just about bin Laden
10/26/01: More than mail fell between the cracks
10/23/01: Terrorists threaten urban recovery, too
10/18/01: Sometimes, assassination warranted
10/15/01: Self-censorship rises again
10/12/01: Contradictions illustrate the complicated nature of the new terrorism
10/05/01: Look who's 'profiling' now
10/01/01: Don't trash liberty to save it
09/28/01: Life, love and cell phones during wartime
09/24/01: How to catch an elusive terrorist
09/21/01: The war I was waiting for
09/17/01: When rage turns to hate
09/13/01: Terror attack tests US, let's give right response
09/06/01: U.S. should have stayed and argued
09/04/01: Columbine killer's parents get upclose and personal
08/31/01: Virtual kids? Log me out
08/28/01: Two Africans, one black, one white, same fight
08/23/01: Sharpton for president
08/20/01: Shaking up the rules on keeping secrets
08/16/01: Bush's u-turn on racial goals
08/09/01: Outsider Bubba comes 'in' again
08/06/01: Not ready for 'color-blindness' yet
08/02/01: Immigration timing couldn't be better
07/26/01: Summer of Chandra: An international traveler's perspective
07/17/01: Overthrowing a régime is only the beginning
07/10/01: Big Brother is watching you, fining you
07/05/01: Can blacks be patriotic? Should they be?
06/19/01: Get 'real' about marriage
06/12/01: Amos, Andy and Tony Soprano
06/07/01: Getting tough with the Bush Twins
06/05/01: Bringing marriage back into fashion
05/31/01: "Ken" and "Johnnie": The odd-couple legal team
05/24/01: Sharpton's challenge to Jackson
05/22/01: Test scores equal (a) MERIT? (b) MENACE? (c) ALL OF ABOVE?
05/17/01: Anti-pot politics squeeze the ill
05/15/01: Was Babe Ruth black?
05/10/01: U.N.'s torture caucus slaps Uncle Sam
05/08/01: 'The Sopranos' a reflection of our times
05/03/01: 'Free-fire' zones, then and now
05/01/01: War on drugs misfires against students
04/26/01: Another athlete gets foot-in-mouth disease
04/23/01: 'Slave' boat mystery reveals real tragedy
04/19/01: McVeigh's execution show
04/12/01: Not this time, Jesse
04/05/01: Dubya is DEFINITELY his own man, you fools!
04/02/01: Milking MLK
03/29/01: The candidate who censored himself?
03/22/01: "Will Hispanics elbow blacks out of the way as the nation's most prominent minority group?"
03/19/01: Blacks and the SATs
03/15/01: The census: How much race still matters in the everyday life of America
03/12/01: Jesse is a victim!
03/08/01: Saving kids from becoming killers
03/01/01: Parents owe "Puffy" and Eminem our thanks
© 2001 TMS