Sunday, September 17, 2006

Per Frist, We Can't Armor the Humvees, But We Can Include Online Gaming as a 'National Defense' Interest

In case you haven't heard, Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN), the U.S. Senate Majority Leader, ran into a wall in his efforts to push straightforward legislation outlawing Internet gambling through the Senate. This was no surprise, given that the support for such a measure pretty much stopped at the boundaries of the conservative right, with a few add-ins from groups such as the NFL (which consistently seeks to eliminate all forms of betting on NFL games), and a couple of groups interested in promoting their own nanny-society, and special-interest (re: Indian gaming) beliefs. So it didn't work as Frist had hoped, nor was it likely to.

Never doubt, though, that the good Senator has far more nefarious plans --- and in this case, they're more than a bit disgusting.

Frist's latest ploy, according to several published reports, is to backdoor his version of the anti-gambling legislation onto an upcoming Defense appropriations bill, which anyone with a sense of American-born dignity and value should find nausea-inducing, at the least. That Frist attempts these things all the time should come as no surprise; his highly polished persona softens the fact that he's always been about two things: image and money.

Under closer examination, Frist's latest maneuvers with the anti-gambling legislation now seem to be part of a greater ploy --- to cement his status as the leading Presidential candidate of the fervent political right as the Iowa caucauses approach. He's looking for specific hooks upon which to hang his claim as the defender of all things right and decent... as defined by those rather conservative groups. And as mentioned, Frist's beliefs about proper Defense appropriations have little to do with anything but the bottom line: he cast an important vote against a $213 Million supplementary appropriations bill designed to armor besieged Humvees, in April of 2005.

Frist has always been about the money and the pandering, and it's where his own ethics have most often been in question. The online site Beyond Delay lists him as one of the 13 most corrupt members of Congress, in large part because of a million-dollar scheme designed to funnel campaign donations into the stock market to generate additional revenue. Problem is, that one ran into a bit of bad luck --- the market actually dipped, and the surreptitious investment lost money. The Frist solution? They resurrected the dormant 1994 campaign-fund committee, arranged for a $1.44 million loan with the 1994 and 2000 campaign funds as co-recipients (though as you can imagine, the 2000 fund got the money). Then, the erstwhile Friends of Frist, or whatever they call it, retroactively reported the loan on the all-but-historical '94 campaign-fund reports, and omitted them from the 2000 legal campaign reports as made to the Federal Election Committee, a clear work-around of campaign requirements.

We won't even get into the scandal involving the dumping of stock by Frist, part of his holdings in a large, private hospital chain owned byhis family (H.C.A., Inc., the nation's largest such chain), a month prior to that company's stock diving 10% on a very weak earnings report. (Frist was a wealthy physician before entering politics.) Let's just say that this one puts Martha Stewart to shame.

This isn't intended to be a character-assassination piece. Rather it's intended to clarify for readers here exactly who this opponent is --- an angle shooter of such skills as to put the Mike Matusows and Jamie Golds of the world in the "pale imitator" class. Frist is very good. Very smooth.

And very, very powerful, in that soulless, political way.

This one's not about right or wrong; it's about image, about Frist trying to shape himself as a defender and an upholder and a true believer, and it's clear that common decency and such considerations need not be a concern, when the greater aspirations of a Presidential hopeful are at stake.

So spread the word. By shining as much light as possible at the extent of Frist's shenanigans, he'll be pressured to de-couple the anti-Internet gambling debate from those other, far more important Defense concerns. Let the anti-Internet gambling issue stand or fall on its own merits, or lack thereof.

But tying it to a Defense bill is sick. Shame on you, Senator Frist.

No comments: