The Fristing of Dr. Bill, #2: Editors Do It With Sharp Pencils! David Firestone's Saturday NYT Fristing pushes another allegation that in 1994 the incoming Senate Majority Leader made "comments that were seen as racially insensitive."
Mr. Frist, going to a largely black march against crime, had asked a worker to obtain imprinted pencils to distribute, requesting unsharpened pencils.
"I don't want to get stuck," he told the aide.
"most everyone in the newsroom at The Tennessean, where I worked at the time, knew it and was embarrassed by the story."
Hobbs' insider perspective carries some weight. (Hobbs' wife worked on that Frist campaign, so he's not exactly unbiased, as he admits -- but he notes he didn't know her at the time of the Sharp Pencils Incident. They met six years later.) I would only add that even if the worst interpretation is given to Frist's words -- namely that he was seriously worried that he, Frist, might get stabbed by one of the people to whom he'd given the pencils -- it amounts to a Kinsley Gaffe, an accidental telling of the truth. Was it racist to worry about crime in the neighborhood that Frist was going to? If if wasn't rational to worry about crime in that neighborhood, why were they holding a "march against crime" there? As Tina Mercer, daughter of the march organizer, told the Memphis Commercial Appeal (in the course of somehow condemning Frist):
''We hit the tough neighborhoods because that's where the trouble is."
If that was "where the trouble is," then it doesn't seem crazy or racist (as opposed to, maybe, neurotic) to worry about getting assaulted. P.S.: It's of course not clear that Frist was worried about getting stabbed, as opposed to accidentally pricking himself while handing out the pencils. (Doctors tend to be very conscious of the threat of accidental prickings, since they have to worry about getting stuck with infected needles.) Rev. James Thomas of the Jefferson Street Baptist Church in Nashville, told the Commercial Appeal at the time: ''I couldn't say it was absolutely a racial statement, the one that he made. He could have just been saying he didn't want to get stuck." ... [I don't want to see the Nexis bill for these items--ed. Without Nexis I am nothing.] 12:03 A.M.
Sunday, December 22, 2002 The Fristing of Dr. Bill, #1: Muchas Gracias, Senor Sasser! Josh Marshall notesthat in 1994 Bill Frist attacked his opponent, then- incumbent Senator Jim Sasser, as follows:
Sunday, December 22, 2002
The Fristing of Dr. Bill, #1: Muchas Gracias, Senor Sasser! Josh Marshall notesthat in 1994 Bill Frist attacked his opponent, then- incumbent Senator Jim Sasser, as follows:
"While I've been transplanting lungs and hearts to heal Tennesseans, Jim Sasser has been transplanting Tennesseans' wallets to Washington, home of Marion Barry."
Marshall doesn't see "what on earth this had to do with a Senate race in Tennessee." He concludes "the answer is obvious: nothing" and thus accuses Frist of dabbling in "racial code words and appeals." Does Marshall know that in the early '90s Sasser was chair of the Senate subcommittee in charge of the District of Columbia -- at a time when Congress exercised considerable control over the District's budget (and when federal taxpayers picked up the tab for a large chunk of that budget)? For at least part of that period, Marion Barry was D.C. mayor -- and nobody would call the bureaucracy tolerated by Barry and Congress lean and mean. (Barry's successor had to stage a round of layoffs immediately on taking office.) When Barry made his comeback after his drug conviction -- successfully winning election in 1994-- he boasted of his ability to get funds for the District: