Bill Frist gets his war room (just not this one)

Out-messaged too often by Harry Reid's operation, the majority leader decides it's time to get serious.

Published January 19, 2006 7:35PM (EST)

Republicans on Capitol Hill are so outraged by the work of the war room started by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid that they're opening one of their own. As Roll Call reports today, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is launching a rapid-response operation for Senate Republicans -- aides call it the "peace room" -- in the hopes that he can recover from humiliating stumbles on Terri Schiavo, Social Security, the nuclear option and the investigation into the Bush administration's manipulation of prewar intelligence.

Roll Call says Frist's move might be viewed as a "back-handed compliment to the success" of Reid's operation. It also might be viewed as just a little ironic. Earlier this week, Senate Republicans and their aides were arguing that Reid's "war room" was violating Senate ethics rules by using his taxpayer-funded office to release information about the ethical problems of the opposing party. "The fact that Sen. Reid is using his taxpayer funded 'war room' to create and distribute political documents in order to attack Republicans on ethics issues is absolutely hypocritical and absurd," Brian Nick, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a statement. "Does Mr. Reid think that using an official government office for political purposes is ethical?"

Imagine that -- someone using an "official government office for political purposes." It's not like the White House has used its Web site to launch attacks on Democrats in Congress. It's not like George W. Bush has traveled from military base to military base to sell his war and attack his critics. And it's not as if Bill Frist himself has used the halls of the Capitol to accuse Democratic leaders of lacking "convictions," "principles" and "ideas" and to say that he "can't trust" Harry Ried.

For better or for worse, what people do in a lot of those "official government offices" in Washington is this thing called politics. By opening his own war room -- even one with an Orwellian joke of a nickname -- Frist is just hoping to do it better.

By Tim Grieve

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

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Harry Reid War Room