Over the weekend I noted the high regard in which we hold Senator Frist — he is a remarkable man — and the closure of the government’s investigations into insider trading allegations against him. I am a news junkie, but I think I would have missed the announcement of the termination of the investigations were it not for the alert provided by an attentive reader. Today’s Wall Street Journal carries the editorial “Frist’s vindication” (subscribers only). The Journal writes:
[I]t’s impossible to undo the damage to his political career. Despite flimsy evidence, the media storm cast a shadow over his office, derailing any thought of a Presidential bid this year. The Nashville heart surgeon chose instead to “take a sabbatical from public life.”
Democrats naturally cared less about the actual facts than about pinning another scandal on Congressional Republicans in the run-up to the fall elections. But what about others who thought it clever or funny or perhaps mandatory to get their share of media attention by confusing accusation with proof of wrongdoing?
American University Professor James Thurber got his name in the paper for quipping that Senator Frist “came in like Jimmy Stewart and was leaving like Martha Stewart.” What a card. As for the press corps, it ran off in a braying stampede in pursuit of the theme du jour, which was Abramoff-DeLay-GOP corruption. The accusations against Dr. Frist fit that template, so there was no need for the herd of independent minds to inspect the evidence and make distinctions. A Washington Post editorial from the day now looks especially embarrassing — and unfair.
As a medical professional with strong Tennessee roots, Bill Frist was the kind of person we’d hope would occasionally choose to participate in politics, as opposed to the permanent political class that now dominates Congress. That his previous engagement in the real world, even carefully and transparently managed, made him an unfair target of political attacks shows why so few people of accomplishment run for office. These are the kind of people that the goo-goo Naderites and their media acolytes end up driving from public life.
Dr. Frist now joins a long line of public servants to be smeared on page one and exonerated next to the classifieds, only to wonder if anyone noticed. As former U.S. Secretary of Labor Ray Donovan asked after his legal ordeal, “Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?”
Despite my high regard for Senator Frist, I thought that a presidential run this year would have been ill-advised. I trust that the Journal’s pessimism about Senator Frist’s future prospects are overblown. Nevertheless, the widespread silence over the conclusion of Senator Frist’s legal ordeal is, as the Journal suggests, appalling. (Thanks to reader Gary Haugen.)
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