Bill Frist, former Senate Republican leader, majority leader, and kitten murderer, shows us what "leadership" looks like -- from the sidelines of the debate.
Were he still in the Senate, "I would end up voting for it," he said. "As leader, I would take heat for it. ... That's what leadership is all about."
This is not to say that Frist is entirely happy with everything that is in the bill.
For one thing, he doesn't think it does nearly enough to bring costs under control. In his view, it does not fundamentally change the incentives that providers now have to provide more care, rather than better care. "There is really nothing to bend the cost curve," he says [...]
Frist also faults some in his own party for injecting alarmism into the debate. "Clearly, the death panels and public plan arguments have been overblown," he says. Frist noted that Republicans themselves voted for a Medicare prescription drug bill that would have established a version of a public plan--with the government negotiating directly with drug companies--if private-sector competition had failed to materialize.
There's no way in hell Frist supports this while in the Senate. None. But I shouldn't be so negative -- as a former top leader in the GOP and a physician, his characterization of the public plan is remarkably refreshing. Here we have a conservative Republican admitting that the hysteria over the public plan is "overblown" -- something even some Democrats are finding impossible to do.
And this speaks to a recurring theme of ours in the past few months -- "bipartisanship" doesn't necessarily mean getting Republican votes for the legislation, it's building support among all political factions around America. In polling, the public option consistently gets support from about a quarter of Republicans, and now we can add the former Senate majority leader, physician, and conservative stalwart Frist to that tally.
Congressional Republicans are looking to score political points, not fix problems. At least in Frist's case, that's no longer a concern.