John McCaslin

It certainly was a unique appearance by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist - a heart surgeon in real life - before the Federalist Society 2004 National Convention.

As the Tennessee Republican put it: "You've succeeded at an almost impossible task: You've put a doctor at ease in a room filled with a thousand lawyers."

The surgeon says he takes great pride in being "a citizen legislator - someone who sets aside a career for a period of time to serve in public office" - sort of like Jefferson Smith in the classic film "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."

"One of my favorite scenes in that movie is when Mr. Smith takes the oath of office," said Frist. "He raises his right hand and . . . pledges 'I do.' Then the Senate president says with a less than subtle touch of sarcasm: 'Senator, you can talk all you want to now.'"

Wherein lies the problem - unprecedented filibustering in the U.S. Senate.

"A senator takes the floor, is recognized, starts talking and doesn't stop talking," said Frist. "The flamboyant (Louisiana Democrat) Huey Long once took the floor and filibustered for over 15 hours straight. When Senator Long suggested that his colleagues - many of whom were dozing off - be forced to listen to his speech, the presiding officer replied, 'That would be unusual cruelty under the Bill of Rights.'"


Colin L. Powell's stepping down as secretary of state within days of President Bush's winning re-election isn't such a big loss for the nation, says outspoken liberal Rep. Barney Frank.

"The recent resignation, apparently encouraged by the president," opines the Massachusetts Democrat, "has stripped one of the important facades behind which the reality of the Bush foreign policy has been hidden.

"It is deeply regrettable that the president and the secretary of state worked together to keep this facade in place until now, because the fact that the secretary of state would be leaving is the sort of information that would have been relevant to the voters on Election Day."

A member of the homeland security committee, Frank says there "is no clear evidence that Secretary Powell had any great influence on the administration's foreign policy, but his having been around did, I think, help the administration in its effort to appear more reasonable in its foreign policy than it has been."


John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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