David Brooks' paean to the pre-Senate Bill Frist is a puzzling piece of work. I mean, I'm as glad as the next guy that Frist broke off his engagement, has loyal friends, and wrote an occasionally self-critical memoir, but really, who cares? Since hitting the Senate chambers, He's been such a stunning flop, such a weak-willed opportunist, such a hapless, outmaneuvered patsy that the conversation on him is really over. After all, good men can be great in private, but the presidency demands great men able to excel in public.
For that reason, Frist's private persona and trail of well-wishing acquaintances is as immaterial as his favorite sandwich, the proving ground was his ability to stand firm and do right while in front of the cameras. Unfortunately, he spent his days slavishly courting interest groups, using the Senate as a promotional vehicle, and finding himself caught hand in cookie jar each time the media turned on the lights. Having Schiavo proved blind after Frist tele-diagnosed her as responding to visual stimuli is just the latest in a long line of embarassments all following the same trend. As great a doctor and man as he may be in public, Frist is an equally poor physician and leader in public. And so long as he's vying for the ultime in public positions, it's that latter judgment that matters.