In what may be just another instance of making virtue of necessity (but may also be the simple truth), Tennessee's GOP Senator Bill Frist said Saturday that his party's hard-fought senatorial primary between Lamar Alexander and Ed Bryant was "a good thing" for both candidates -- and for the Republican Party.
Since Senator Fred Thompson's surprise declaration in early March that he would not seek reelection, Alexander, a two-term former governor of Tennessee, and 7th District congressman Bryant have been locked in a primary struggle that has often been bitter.
As chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, Frist is intent upon regaining control of the Senate for his party. While acknowledging that there was "some pressure" for him to state a preference for one of the two would-be successors to his retiring colleague Thompson, Frist,Tennessee's junior senator said only someone like Democrat Phil Bredesen could have forced him to make such a choice.
"It's a matter of money. If Bredesen had been the Democrats' Senate candidate, we'd have had to focus very quickly on solidarity and fund-raising, and that would have probably caused me to indicate a preference," Frist said.
But multi-millionaire Bredesen,the former mayor of Nashville, is a candidate for the governorship, not the Senate, and Frist said he did not regard the Senate candidacy of Nashville congressman Bob Clement, the Democrats' consensus choice, presented the same urgency.
Nor, Frist indicated, would a senate candidacy by Memphis' Democratic congressman, Harold Ford Jr., have been a compelling reason for him to intervene in favor of one of the Republican hopefuls.
"Frankly, I think it's been good for Lamar to face some competition and sharpen his game, and it's obviously a good opportunity for Ed to indicate his ability, also," Frist,the Senate's only doctor, said at the Davis and Kidd bookstore in East Memphis, where he signed copies of his new volume, When Every Moment Counts (Bowman and Littlefield, $14.95, 182 pages), which deals with the threat of bio-terrorism.
"Let's face it. Nobody even knows Clement is running, and the primary contest is a good way for both of our guys to get their message out and build up their momentum," said Frist, widely regarded as a likely ultimate successor to Vice President Dick Cheney and, beyond that, as a future candidate for the presidency.
Frist's new book is the third he has authored; the others were chronicles of his experience as a a transplant surgeon and of the historical line of Tennessee's senators, respectively.
The new volume reprises the bio-terrorist threat to the United States in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks of last year and Frist's own emergence as an authority on preventive measures.
The book also contains information on the nature of the most deadly bacilli -- plague, anthrax, smallpox, etc. --which may confront us in the future.