Thomas Sowell

After all the glowing words surrounding the Senate "compromise" in which the Republicans folded their hand despite holding all the high cards, it is worth taking a look at who won what and why.

 The biggest winner is Senator John McCain, who once again sold out both principles and party, to the applause of the mainstream media. Not only is he assured of good publicity, he has pulled the rug out from under Majority Leader William Frist, his probable chief rival for the 2008 Republican Presidential nomination.

 Winning a showdown with the Democrats by using the so-called "nuclear option" to stop the filibustering of judicial nominees would have given Senator Frist the kind of name-recognition that McCain already has and would be a major achievement to solidify the support of the conservative Republican base.

 Now, after having been blindsided by the McCain mutiny, Frist looks ineffective as Majority Leader and questionable as a potential President of the United States.

 Those who claim that Senator McCain has forfeited the support of the Republican base by selling out his party must not realize that McCain never had the support of that base in the first place, as shown by their votes in the 2000 Republican primaries.

 Senator McCain has lost nothing. If Hillary Clinton is the Democrats' candidate in 2008, what alternative would the Republican base have? Vote for Hillary?

 If nothing else, Senator McCain has undermined Senator Frist's authority as Majority Leader in the Senate and made himself the media's favorite Republican. Whether or not that can be cashed in for a 2008 Presidential nomination, McCain has raised his own stock and lowered that of Frist. He is in a position to rule or ruin.

 Is Senator Frist a weak Majority Leader or does he just not have the troops required to get the job done? Senator Frist is a surgeon but he can't transplant backbone to Senate Republicans who don't have any.

 A Senate Majority Leader today may or may not be able to rule with an iron hand, the way Lyndon Johnson did when he held that title half a century ago.

 I don't know Senator Frist but I know someone in Tennessee who does know him and thinks highly of him. I am inclined to think highly of him myself, though I have met him in person only once, when we sat at a dinner table in the White House with the President of Kenya and Mrs. Bush, among others.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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