Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Frist's Invitation, Lost In the Mail

Tony Perkins, mullah of the Family Research Council, has failed to invite the most powerful Republican in the U.S. Senate to "Justice Sunday II," even though Tennessee Senator (& Majority Leader) Bill Frist prominently spoke at Tony Perkins' first "Justice Sunday" back in April. The social snubbing! That's got to cut to the quick. Not to mention the salt in the wound: "Justice Sunday II" will be held smack-dab in the middle of Frist's own state, in Nashville, on August 14.

At the first "Justice Sunday" last April, organized as a mass protest against an abortion-allowin', gay-lovin' Supreme Court, Frist in effect gave his imprimatur to a hair-raising movement, a movement of dangerous rhetoric and hot emotions against "liberal judges." It's the sort of angry movement that repeatedly in American history spawns civic violence. You'll recall that the charge was made that Democrats opposed to Bush's judges were making war on "people of faith." Participation by Frist in this hoe-down, in effect his blessing, clearly appeared to ratify the argument "that people of one viewpoint have God on their side and all others are faithless" (as Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a jew, succinctly put it).

That was Frist as bad cop ... never far removed, actually, from Ole Fristy, the good cop. That is to say, it wasn't much of a speech Frist gave. He phoned it in, literally. That is, he appeared via videotape, a nice antiseptic distance away (though he caught that cold anyway). In fact, much about Frist's speech to the first Justice Sunday clearly signaled to the mullahs that Frist wasn't comfortable. Alluding to the Christian Right's talk of punishing judges whose decisions they strongly dislike, Frist said: "The balance of power among all three branches requires respect, not retaliation. I won't go along with that." That pronouncement, in that context, was like flatulence in the second pew during the offetory.

So when Frist broke last week on the subject of federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, Tony Perkins and the other organizers of "Gig a Liberal Judge Near You" (a.k.a., Justice Sunday II) were probably more than happy to drop Frist from the invitation list. According to the AP, Tony Perkins posted yesterday on his group's Web site that Frist's recently announced stem cell stance "reflects an unwise and unnecessary choice both for public policy and for respecting the dignity of human life." The AP reporter added, "Perkins also has been annoyed with Frist for allowing a compromise on President Bush's judicial nominations."

In other words, Frist has ripped the sheet with the Religious Right. There wasn't a pundit in sight last Sunday who wasn't writing his political obituary, at least his ambition to be president. Only Sen. Arlen Spector was taking a contrarian viewpoint ... that Frist had helped himself. Why, Senator? "Because the majority of Americans favor embryonic stem-cell research." The "majority of Americans" would have to include at least a large minority of the Republican Party, you'd think, but many of those moderate Republicans don't routinely vote in primaries, leaving the choosing of candidates to the most extreme elements. To even get the attention of moderate, majoritarian Republicans, Frist would have to make a huge issue out of breaking with extremist Christian Right Republicans. Something he isn't likely to do. At the moment, in fact, he's showing every symptom of the battered child syndrome. But thus goes Frist. And there goes -- eventually -- John McCain?

Hell of a fix for a political party, destroying its most admirable men.

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