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Meet Bill Frist, the castrated majority leader



For Republicans with true-blue conservative stripes, the most cringe-inducing sight of the filibuster melodrama that played out earlier this week was that of Tennessee's Bill Frist on the floor of the U.S. Senate just minutes after a bipartisan coalition squelched his plans to bring every presidential nominee for the federal bench to the floor for an up or down vote.

After praising the good news—that three of the most controversial appointees would get their shot—Frist lamented the potential fates of the others, observing that it was "a shame that well-qualified nominees...are threatened still with not having the opportunity to have the merits of their nominations debated on the floor." Hmm. As one wit at the conservative journal National Review wrote, "who's the majority leader again?"

Well, Bill Frist of course, but if only it were that simple. Truly, it's got to be tough to be in Frist's position right now. On the one hand, the man has aspirations for the presidency in 2008, and it's no secret that he has to ingratiate himself with the GOP's conservative base to get there. But, as the majority leader for the sitting president's political party, it's also his obligation to get the best deal he can for his taskmasters in the White House, who, after waiting all this time for the World's Greatest Deliberative Body to get on with it, are likely content with the half a loaf they ultimately ended up with.

And there may be more of this sort of thing to come. The Bush Presidency is careening toward lame-duckdom (if it isn't there already), and that usually means fewer fealties to ideology as time marches on. Pragmatism becomes the order of the day, and Bill Frist will be caught in the middle, having to choose between the conservative voters he will need for future advancement or the people at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. who no longer have much to lose—but whom Frist must depend upon for future political support. This, by the way, is why you don't see a lot of Senate majority leaders advancing to the presidency. It's also why 2006 is the perfect time for Bill Frist to get the heck out of there and start setting up shop in Des Moines if he's going to have any chance three years hence.

Recall stall

After getting a 93-0 stamp of approval from the state House of Representatives last month, the bill exempting Metro from a law requiring 15 percent of an entire county's electorate to initiate a recall petition for a single Metro Council member hit a snag in the state Senate last week. Sen. Doug Henry bumped the Senate's version of the bill from the consent calendar. (That's legislative gaming for trying to kill a bill.) The senator told the Scene he was initially concerned about recalls "on a whim" but that he has since talked with the bill's supporters and plans to withdraw his objection.

While it's still not out of the woods, expect the bill to reappear.

Signs of the times

Appearing in the front yard of a teacher—oh sorry, educator—near you: blue and white signs with the slogan, "Educating Children: The Most Important Thing Our Community Does." The signs are bankrolled by the "Friends of Public Education" and are meant to drum up support for the Metro school board's $570 million funding request for next year. Just how effective the campaign will be is questionable, since the people behind the signs do not seem to realize that taxpayers' B.S. detectors soar into the red zone when they hear about anything intended for "the children." Which, incidentally, doesn't bode well for the half-cent sales tax increase the mayor recommended in part for schools during his State of Metro address Tuesday. The signs look nice, though.

Mickey's long national nightmare... now over. Yes, the American Family Association has declared an end to its nine-year-long boycott of "anything Disney," a resistance based on the notion that the Disney Co. is anti-family. (Most notably, the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention endorsed this boycott.)

According to AFA President Tim Wildmon, the boycott is no longer a "ministry agenda item" because, "Disney, in many respects, has made an effort to clean up its act in the last couple of years, especially with the resignation of Michael Eisner. He's been a big problem with Disney. And also, they're getting rid of Miramax Films."

There's also the inconvenient fact that the boycott was all but ignored by Christians everywhere, the ones who enjoy their trips to the Magic Kingdom, buy DVDs of Pixar films for their kids and stay tuned to SportsCenter on ESPN. Wildmon, of course, neglected to mention any of these things. Better to just declare victory, go home and find somebody else to annoy.

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