In battle over Bolton, Frist blinks -- again

Hours after saying that he wouldn't seek another vote on the U.N. nominee, the Senate majority leader meets with the president and changes his mind.

By Tim Grieve
Published June 21, 2005 8:14PM (EDT)

What were we saying about the Bolton ball being back in Bush's court? Never mind.

The president just met with Bill Frist. That would be Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, the same Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist who said just a few hours ago that trying again for a floor vote on Bolton's nomination is "not going to change anything."

After meeting with the president, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist now has a different opinion on that matter -- or, at least, he understands that the president does. "The president made it very clear that he expects an up-or-down vote," Frist told reporters outside the White House. So what will Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist do now? "We'll continue to [try to] get an up or down vote for John Bolton over the coming days, possibly weeks," he says.

What happened, Sen. Frist? Did you and the president have a frank exchange? Did he use The Force on you? Was it like that scene in "Star Wars," back when it didn't suck, that time when Obi-Wan Kenobi told the stormtroopers, "These aren't the droids you're looking for," and then the stormtroopers said, "These aren't the droids we're looking for"?

Or was it just some kind of macho face-off between you and the president over which national Republican figurehead was willing to look the weakest? Bush is losing the confidence of the country, and you can't even control the Republicans in the Senate. On the Bolton nomination, the president was pretty much out of good options, but you were the one who blinked. Maybe we shouldn't be surprised; it's not like you haven't done it before. Remember back in February, when you suggested that Bush's Social Security plan might not come up for a vote this year, and then you immediately reversed course and said, "We need to do it this year -- not next year, but this year." We remember that, and somehow, as you walked out of the White House with your tail between your legs today, we're thinking you might have remembered it, too.

We're also remembering this: It's late June now, and a vote on Bush's Social Security plan isn't anywhere close to being on the Senate's agenda. So you can say what you want -- or, more accurately, what the president wants -- about an up-or-down vote on the Bolton nomination now, Sen. Frist. But if we were John Bolton, we wouldn't be packing our bags for the U.N. just yet.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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