George Will

WASHINGTON -- Having had their fill of post-election introspection, the 447 Democratic Party luminaries who on Feb. 12 will elect their new chairman surely now yearn for stronger wine and madder music. Many yearn for Howard Dean, the highly carbonated tribune of ``the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.'' Dean is fun -- a scream, you might say.

     But losing is not. So the 447 should wonder whether, after John Kerry's defeat, another liberal Northeasterner is the proper poultice for the party's wounds. Hotline's poll -- 42 percent of the 447 responding -- shows that a refugee from a red state is second behind Dean.

     Martin Frost is a political lifer eager to prolong his engagement in party affairs that began in 1968 when, as a Georgetown University law student, he volunteered at the headquarters of Hubert Humphrey's presidential campaign. Frost's 13-term congressional career ended last November when he was one of four Texas Democrats who were victims of the mid-decade redistricting engineered by Rep. Tom DeLay. Democrats like victims as much as they dislike DeLay, so Frost has a double claim on Democrats' pity, which is their sincerest compliment.

     Frost says that while losing his Dallas seat he nevertheless demonstrated the skills of a political mechanic, skills needed by any Democratic chairman competing with the Republicans' chairman, Ken Mehlman. Frost boasts that for the first time in 20 years Democrats -- four of them -- were elected to Dallas County offices, including a Hispanic lesbian as sheriff.

     Frost ran unsuccessfully against Nancy Pelosi for House minority leader, saying he thought her too liberal. She has encouraged, but not endorsed, the candidacy of former Indiana Rep. Tim Roemer, a member of the 9/11 commission, who is more conservative than Frost.

     Roemer, however, is the combined first or second choice of just 11 percent in Hotline's poll, partly because he committed the unpardonable faux pas of suggesting that Democrats unwisely regard every wrinkle in the pro-abortion agenda -- including opposition to parental notification and support for partial-birth abortions -- as sacraments of the Church of Choice. Frost, who clerked for the lower court judge who made the Roe v. Wade ruling that the Supreme Court sustained, says, ``I think we could get right on parental notification -- with a judicial bypass.'' That will not get him excommunicated.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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