Sunday, December 10, 2006

Senator Frist; Citizen-Legislator

Senator Bill Frist paints a wonderful ideal in his farewell address:

I believe today, as I believed when I came here, in the ideal of a citizen legislator. And bittersweet though it might seem today—it is right.

I hope that my service, that the example of someone who had never served before, spent his life pursuing another profession, coming here and rising from 100 in seniority to Majority Leader, the example of a committed doctor who has been able to find purpose and fulfillment in serving others through public service – through elected office will inspire others to seek office. And those that come to serve after me as true citizen legislators will bring fresh perspective and new ideas that will in ways small and large make this country and this institution better.

And you’ve heard me talk about—even champion—term limits.

Today, self-imposed term limits are the extreme exception—not the practice in this city. As a consequence, we are moving toward a body with a two-year vision, governing for the next election — rather than a body with a 20-year vision, governing for the future. As we consider the future of this institution, I urge that we ask ourselves what it is our forefathers envisioned. Is today’s reality what they foresaw?

I urge that we also consider what our work in this Chamber is really all about.

Is it about keeping the Majority? Is it about Red States versus Blue States? Is it about lobbing attacks across the aisle? Is it about war rooms whose purpose is not to contrast ideas but to destroy. Or is it more?

When the Constitutional Convention met in 1787, delegates considered how best to structure the Legislative Branch of America’s new government. And they were determined not to repeat the mistakes of the Articles of Confederation, which had a unicameral legislature.

Speaking to the Convention, Virginia’s James Madison set forth the reasons to have a Senate:

’In order to judge the form to be given to this institution, it will be proper to take a view of the ends to be served by it. These were, first, to protect the people against their rulers; secondly, to protect the people against transient impressions into which they themselves might be led.’

Let us remember this vision of the Senate—that the Framers established the Senate to protect people from their rulers, and as a check on the House and on the passions of the electorate. And let us not allow the passions of the electorate be reflected as destructive partisanship on the floor.

Taking the oath of office commits each Senator to respect and revere the Framers’ dream.

To my successor, Bob Corker, and to all the Senators who will follow me in service to this great nation: I urge you to be bold, to make the most of your time here, look at problems with fresh eyes and steely determination, and give the American people a reason to believe in you and to hope for a better tomorrow.

In fairness, Frist lobbed plenty of attacks across the aisle while he was in the Senate, but here's hoping for a brighter political future. And three cheers for Frist staying true to his commitment of a two-term limit and reinvigorating the idea of a Citizen-Legislator.

(Side note: and this is why I'm not a fan of political news that can be found via Digg; I think there are actually more "moonbat"-esque liberal comments on Digg than at ThinkProgress. * Sigh. *)

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