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May 27, 2005


It would be a cost-free way of forestalling the nomination.

The typical way for Specter, over the last few years, to do anything other than toady up to the powerful in his party. As you say, it's possible for him to legitimately pursue his treatment in lieu of peforming his duties in the Senate without trying particularly hard to manage his schedule in a manner that would have allowed him to do both.

Interesting theory emptywheel, and one I think is probably correct.

I guess the thing I'm most fascinated by is that this SHOULD be a readily apparent excuse, to anyone who looks closely at it. Frist has to know, at least, that Specter is pulling a fast one (and given how crummy he looked and sounded after the vote, I think he had figured it out by that point). And all the reporters covering this SHOULD at least suspect that Specter pulled a fast one. But given the whole taboo on cancer, they can't talk about it (see, I knew that cancer treatment would come in handy sometime, I get to talk about it!!) Specter has managed to send Frist a very strong message ... while ensuring the party still has cover for what was a serious rebuke.


(see, I knew that cancer treatment would come in handy sometime, I get to talk about it!!)

...is one hell of an example of finding a silver lining. ;-)

Oh, there was another silver lining. For all 9 months of cancer treatment, my chronic back problems caused me no problems at all. I've got a joke with a friend who, like me, has bad knees. "Want to know how to cure knee problems? Get back problems. Want to know how to cure back problems? Get cancer."

So far he has stuck with the bad knees.

What about Inouye? Did they pair up?

In the words of a famous student of jurisprudence, "not proved". But likely.

The good folks in the Senate have the week to talk to the folks back home. but the media (see On Bolton, The Nuclear Option and The Perception Of Power - Part V: Purge The Moderates) are getting more assertive about pointing to this as a frist/GOP loss of control and fractured party.

Stem cell votes are only going to highlight Specter's oppo to Bush policy yet again when he returns. Now, on that count, he's already said Bush is a jerk and 'don't threaten me, I've got the votes' to override a Senate veto.

So what's Bush going to do? Voinovich him? Jeffords him? Chafee him?

Bush and Frist are running low on options here, and none of them stop Bush from being embarrassed over SS and stem cells, let alone Bolton. And anything that embarrasses Bush in the Senate embarrasses Frist.

Bolton, otoh, might get recess appointed just to spare Frist looking like more of a loser than he is. But the CW is still that Bush stays as far from Bolton as he can in case Bolton loses.

Seems to me Frist and Bush, not Specter, are in the hot seat going forward.

from Steve Clemons' blog (comments);

Also, very revealing:--

"Voinovich later told reporters that all senators are under “overwhelming pressure” to “go along with the president” even though “very few people are enthusiastic” about the choice of Bolton to be U.N. ambassador."


Reason enough for Ol' Scottish Law to disappear. Arlen rarely is designated as a Profile In Courage.

I saw that, Dem. Although a little part of me wonders whether it wasn't understood--say by Collins and Snowe--that Specter would go AWOL, thereby saving the rest of those under overwhelming pressure from having to show their cards. I can see it now: "Oh, I've got a good idea. Why don't we get Arlen to no-show on account of cancer treatment? What a good way to send Frist and Bush a message, without making the Republicans look bad.

I agree, btw, that Frist and Bush are in the hot seat. (Frist more than Bush--Bush they're just going to keep on the road on his bamboozlepaloozas so he doesn't make any public mistakes.) But I'm not obsessed with them... 8-p

praktike: I've been wondering about Inouye myself. He seem to have been absent this week. I'm wondering if he's ill. He is, after all, 80 years old.

As to Inouye, someplace I read he left for Hawaii so he could attend a reunion of the survivors of his WWII outfit scheduled for Friday Night and he had to meet a difficult plane schedule.

If Spector did quietly leave for the Chemo Clinic, and not tell Frist he would be gone for the vote, I wouldn't at all be surprised if he hasn't done some thinking in recent months about what's relly important in life -- and in response to the Religious Right Pressure, and the WH pressure, simply decided to make himself less subject to some of these pressures. I did the chemo thing thirty five years ago -- when it was in fact totally experimental -- and something is to be said for the experience of looking down the mussel of the gun, hearing demands on you from the "normal world" and just turning away. Spector has danced to many tunes during his life from the requirements of the Warren Commission Bullet theory to the seeming current needs to appease the Religious Right. I wouldn't be surprised if he is expressing a very personal attitude about what is really important now.

Ahhh, OK, Inuoye isn't gone becuse he's ill. I feel better.

So I cross-posted on DKos, and a couple of folks say that CSPAN said after the vote that Frist knew he didn't have the votes at 4.

But if I'm not mistaken, DiFi and Salazar were still up in the air (at least publicly--and DiFi said she wouldn't let folks know how she was voting before she voted) until around 5 or 5:30. 56 + Frist + Specter + DiFI + Salazar would be 60.

The only way Fristie could have known he didn't have the votes (unless Salazar was more up front with Frist than he was with his constituents) is if Specter had already told him he would vote no.

At which point, Fristie probably told him to get lost.

from First Read:

Bill Frist is staggering politically after his double defeat on the filibuster and on Bolton, both of which cast doubt not only on his ability to lead but on his ability to count votes. There are conflicting accounts of whether Harry Reid told his friend Frist that Frist had the votes for cloture, or whether Reid told Frist that Reid himself had the votes to prevent cloture. But MSNBC.com points out that Arlen Specter left DC at 4:00 pm yesterday, "which made it appear at that point that the Republican leadership had more than enough votes to reach the 60 they needed."
So... crystal clear as mud, right?

and more from First Read :

MSNBC.com says that the end result of last night’s vote was that “the Republicans had badly miscalculated their vote tally. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., accused the Democratic leaders of reneging on a commitment that some Democratic senators would vote for ending debate… ‘The Democratic Leader did indicate to the Majority Leader that they intended to help him get votes for cloture,’ said Frist spokeswoman Amy Call after vote.” Reid’s office, however, disputed that assertion, saying Reid had told Frist he would be unable to get him the 60 votes for cloture.

More evidence that if I play poker, I want to play against Frist but not Reid.

(A modified post from the Bolton/Perception of Power thread earlier):

CNN's Inside Politics is doing a marvelous job of bashing Frist... he says the WH isn't happy with him and said Frist had to be 'rescued' by a WH photo-op. Reads the LA Times and Manchester Union-Leader editorials bashing Frist. Says Frist MUST have Bolton. Says the WH really thought they had the votes and was stunned to see what happened.

Frist's not down for the count, but he's being compared to Bob Dole. Not good.

Thanks for those, Dem, they're quite enjoyable.

Maybe I wasn't wrong to be practicing saying, "Majority Leader McConnell" after all. Pity, that. I'm with DH in preferring to play poker against Frist over, say, McConnell.

I called Salazar's office, and they said he had made his decision very early in the day, but couldn't tell me when he let people know about that decision. Although according to DKos posters from yesterday's CSPAN addiction party said that Salazar staffers were saying they didn't know how he'd vote at 4:30.

Reason enough for Ol' Scottish Law to disappear. Arlen rarely is designated as a Profile In Courage.

It's probably worth pointing out that the Voinovich quote no longer appears in that article.

Right you are, Shaun. Interesting.

And that article suggests that Salazar was still up in the air at the vote count. Which means there is no way Fristie knew he would lose unless Specter had already told him.

Inouye likely paired with somebody. Likely Specter.

He paired with Ted Stevens on the Owen vote. Stevens forgot, and voted to confirm anyway. FORGOT! And had to come back to the floor later to put his error on record.

Frist may have still thought he could break somebody. I s'pect the GOP caucus room is operating a bit like Gitmo of the Potomac these days.

But why would you pair with someone on a cloture vote? It's not a straight one-for-one exchange. It's not a matter of how many no votes you get, just a matter of how many yeas. Whereas on the Owen nomination, it WAS a one-for-one vote.

As an aside, the linked Frank Gaffney column is a hoot. There's something desperate, if not delusional, about him starting out by claiming Reid's "mediocrity" - right after Reid has rolled the GOP.

But I suppose that Gaffney is not a member of the reality-based community.

-- Rick Robinson

 >Frist may have still thought he could
 break somebody. I s'pect the GOP
 caucus room is operating a bit like
 Gitmo of the Potomac these days.


The account I put together from various reports this PM seems to be that when Reid and Frist were first agreeing about holding the cloture vote yesterday at 6, Reid told Frist that he didn't think there were 41 votes against cloture and that he would not try to delay an immediate final vote right away in that event.

Then, as a result of some intense lobbying by some other Democrats the wind shifted and so Reid told Frist that it looked like cloture probably would not pass.  Frist said well we agreed to have this vote and Reid said well OK if you want to "role the dice" lets vote.

Then, according to White House reports, everyone there thought it was going to pass and didn't know different until some key votes were cast.

But I don't buy this. I think the White House knew everything that Frist did.   I think that they wanted to hold cloture irregardless: if it succeeded that was a victory to help offset the compromise on the judges and if it failed that would help them make the case that the "deal" was already broken (though they will hold off on actually going nuclear until the Supreme Court is on the line). In order to pretend to be "shocked, shocked" when cloture failed that had to pretend that they didn't know what Reid says Frist knew.

That works fine for Rove, and Bush, and Cheney (who is Bolton's real protector) and for whatever right-winger they want be the next SC Justice, but this win/win plan from the Whitehouse put Frist at risk of looking like a loser if he called a vote and lost (which he did and so he does).  But that too was OK at the Whitehouse because ever since he let the Gang of Fourteen came on the scene Frist has been expendable as far as his bosses are concerned.

Wow, I quoted totally the wrong part. What a great debut comment for me.

Also, very revealing:--

"Voinovich later told reporters that all senators are under “overwhelming pressure” to “go along with the president” even though “very few people are enthusiastic” about the choice of Bolton to be U.N. ambassador."

DemFromCT: The Voinovich quote no longer appears in the MSNBC article. I guess it was too telling.

Does it strike any as weird that all these accounts describe Reid telling Frist how many votes there are? I mean, we know Frist can't count votes. But is he so pathetic he relies on Reid to do his counting? And why trust Reid? Why not ask, say, McConnell rather than Reid?

And if this is even remotely true (which I don't believe--Frist can't be THAT stupid, he's not George Allen), then what kind of sweet nothings do you think Reid whispered to Frist in the "friendly" run-up to the Nukes vote, to make him trust Reid?

So here's another possibility. Here's a bit from Inside Politics:

Then last night, the White House was stunned, as you heard Dana Bash report, that Senator Frist pushed ahead on the Bolton nomination even though he did not have the votes to win. For his part, Frist pointed his finger at the Democrats.

What if the White House WAS stunned?

Suppose, if you will, Frist is getting fed up--or just taking too much heat from his caucus--that BushCo keeps pushing Bolton. He's got no way to tell the White House to back off; remember, he has already delayed this vote by a week to risk nukes (the White House had asked Fristie to do Bolton before Owen).

So, in consultation with his good buddy Harry Reid, who apparently counts his votes for him, he comes up with a way to tell the White House to fuck off. But finds a way to blame Reid for it (and, I suspect, Reid would willingly accept the blame). This would explain the kibbitzing between all the leadership before the vote (Frist, McConnell, Lugar, Dodd, Biden, Reid, and some other Republican). And then the 50-minute vote count becomes show, to pretend that Specter has gone AWOL. Then the Specter chemo becomes more convenient cover.

Frankly, I doubt this theory. Frist paid too much for losing a second vote this week. But it's remotely (very remotely) possible.

emptywheel, I like the "Frist is a loser" one better. Simple, elegent... and true.

Thanks, Shaun. That IS weird that the Voinivich quote disappeared. I saw it there earlier today.

>Does it strike any as weird that all these accounts describe Reid telling Frist how many votes there are? I mean, we know Frist can't count votes.<

Not really.  These were the votes of Democrats.  Reid could make a good argument that comity and all that stuff (remember) made it proper for him to tell the Majority Leader he was not going to get cloture. 

>And why trust Reid?<

Well he didn't.   Since Frist thinks Reid stabbed him in the back with his Gang of 14 he probably thought that what Reid was saying was a trick.  Like a loser who decides to go double or nothing.

all exceptionally interesting comments. FWIW, I saw the Voinovich quote last night, too.

And, as someone with a chronic health condition, I absolutely second everything emptywheel said about using it when you need it and getting few questions in return. Likewise, I would add that when you really want to do something, very little stops you.

I'd posit the possibility that, after the stress of the last couple weeks, Frist is just that incompetent. After all, remember he's a heart surgeon. That's a different breed of people and they aren't used to compromising with anyone over anything and they also are not used to having their authority -- and right to dictate -- questioned by anyone. In that way, he's much like Bush.

Also, I think we have to pay attention to Frist's post-vote speech. "Looked like a filibuster," etc. He may well think that this was a smart move to keep the filibuster issue alive. We should also remember that they believe their obstructionist charges took down Daschle, the prize scalp to them of 04. So setting up another 'obstructionist' record may have been Frist's goal.

And, RonK, thanks very much for the explanation of Stevens switching his vote ... and, to all, for the info on Inouye about whom I was also worried.

on a lighter note... Want to know how to cure back problems? Get cancer."

I was about 25 pounds underweight at one point and used to say, "Wanna lose weight? Get MS."

"More evidence that if I play poker, I want to play against Frist but not Reid."

Ugh. You really must not be very fond of your money.

The lively theater that has emerged in the Senate since Voinivich's original surprise in the Foreign Relations Committee seems to have distracted a hell of a lot of otherwise smart people on our side of the partisan divide from the actual rules of poker.

There is a devil's brew of self-delusion and misdirected spin being concocted in the Democratic camp...

Petey, when the media are even more deluded (and it favors your POV), go with it.

What about Inouye? Did they pair up? - praktike

No, you can't pair up on cloture votes. "Absent" or "abstain" has the same effect is "Nay". As opposed to the Owen vote, which will be recorded in official papers as 55-43. It would have been 56-44 if Inouye hadn't been away for his Memorial day reunion with his fellow veterans.

PoliticGeek Pro -- You are correct, pairing is meaningless for an abent member on the side opposing cloture, and a vote swap for the convenience of an absent member favoring cloture would be exotic indeed.

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