Majority leader wants to be president; too bad he doesn't grasp the SenateSenate Majority Leader Bill Frist wants to be president. It's too bad he doesn't want to be a good senator first. Frist's determination to end the filibuster reveals a lack of understanding of the Senate.

The intention of the Constitution's drafters was to make the Senate a conservative institution. The Founding Fathers also enshrined minority rights in the Senate. If the House of Representatives followed the burning demands of the mob, the Senate would slow things down and take a more deliberate approach.

Extended debate, better known as the filibuster, is a basic element in the Senate's role as a conservative body. The filibuster is the minority's defense, and Sen. Frist is wrong to seek its obliteration.

The critical distinction between the Republicans who run Congress and the Republicans who have preceded them is their obsession with total victory. In other words, Republican congressional leaders nurture a zealousness, born of religious conviction, that they know the one true way. They want to enforce that set of beliefs on the entire Congress and on the nation. That is why the GOP leaders are obsessed with installing federal judges who have demonstrated the willingness to undo decades of judicial precedence in the name of a religious mission.

Compromise, not total victory, is the basis is the legislative art. Sen. Frist doesn't get that.

Democratic senators who believe President Bush's judicial nominees are deeply flawed should oppose their confirmation wholeheartedly. The Senate's role in confirming lifetime appointments to the federal bench is one of its most durable responsibilities

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