Friday, August 31, 2007
William Harrison "Bill" Frist, Sr. (born February 22, 1952) is an American physician, businessman, and politician. He is a former United States Senator from Tennessee. Frist was also Senate Majority Leader. Frist is a Republican and was frequently mentioned as a candidate for that party's 2008 presidential nomination, but decided in November 2006 not to run.
Childhood and medical career
Though he was a public policy major in college, Frist was late to take an interest in politics; he did not vote for the first time until he was 36.
Frist first entered the national spotlight when two Capitol police officers were shot inside the United States Capitol by Russell Eugene Weston Jr. in 1998. Frist, the closest doctor, provided immediate medical attention (he was unable to save the two officers, but was able to save Weston). He also was the Congressional spokesman during the 2001 anthrax attacks.
As the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, he helped Republicans win back the Senate in the 2002 midterm election. His committee collected $66.4 million for 2001–2002, 50% more than the previous year. Shortly afterwards, Sen. Trent Lott made comments at a Strom Thurmond birthday celebration in which he said that if Thurmond's segregationist presidential bid of 1948 had succeeded, "we wouldn't have all these problems today". In the aftermath, Lott resigned his position as Senate Majority Leader and Frist was chosen unanimously by Senate Republicans as his replacement. He became the second youngest Senate Majority Leader in US history. In his 2005 book, "Herding Cats, A Lifetime in Politics", Lott accuses William Frist of being "one of the main manipulators" in the debate that ended Senator Lott's leadership in the Republican Senate. Lott wrote that Senator Frist's actions amounted to a "personal betrayal." Frist "...didn't even have the courtesy to call and tell me personally that he was going to run." "If Frist had not announced exactly when he did, as the fire was about to burn out, I would still be majority leader of the Senate today." Lott wrote.
In the 2003 legislative session, Frist enjoyed many successes. He was able to push many initiatives through to fruition, including the Bush administration's third major tax cut and legislation that was against partial-birth abortion. However, the tactics that he used to achieve those victories alienated many Democrats. In 2004, by comparison, he saw no major legislative successes, with the explanations ranging from delay tactics by Democrats to lack of unity within the Republican Party.
In a prominent and nationally broadcast speech to the Republican National Convention in August, 2004, Frist highlighted his background as a doctor and focused on several issues related to health care. He spoke in favor of the recently passed Medicare prescription drug benefit and the passage of legislation providing for Health Savings Accounts. He described President Bush's policy regarding stem cell research, limiting embryonic stems cells to certain existing lines, as "ethical." In an impassioned argument for medical malpractice tort reform, Frist called personal injury trial lawyers "predators": "We must stop them from twisting American medicine into a litigation lottery where they hit the jackpot and every patient ends up paying." Frist has been an advocate for imposing caps on the amount of money courts can award plaintiffs for noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases. .
Frist pledged to leave the Senate after two terms in 2006, and did not run in the 2006 Republican primary for his Senate seat. He campaigned heavily for Republican nominee Bob Corker, who won by a small margin over Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. in the general election.
Frist had been widely seen as a potential presidential candidate for the Republican party in 2008, much in the same tradition as Bob Dole, a previous holder of the Senate Majority Leader position. On November 28, 2006, however, he announced that he had decided not to run, and would return to the field of medicine.
Frist has been married to his wife, Karyn, whom he met at a Boston emergency hospital, since 1982. They have three sons: Harrison, Jonathan, and Bryan. Harrison is a 2006 graduate of Princeton University, Jonathan is a student at Vanderbilt University, and Bryan is a first-year student at Princeton University. The Frist family are members of the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C..
Frist has been a pilot since the age of 16. He holds commercial, instrument and multi-engine ratings. He has also run seven marathons and two half-marathons.
In June, 1989, Frist published his first book, Transplant: A Heart Surgeon's Account of the Life-And-Death Dramas of the New Medicine, in which he wrote, "A doctor is a man whose job justifies everything . . . Life [is] a gift, not an inalienable right."
With J.H. Helderman, he edited "Grand Rounds in Transplantation" in 1995. In October, 1999, Frist co-authored Tennessee Senators, 1911–2001: Portraits of Leadership in a Century of Change with J. Lee Annis, Jr. In March, 2002, Frist published his third book, When Every Moment Counts: What You Need to Know About Bioterrorism from the Senate's Only Doctor. While generally well received, the book later spurred accusations of hypocrisy regarding his remarks about Richard Clarke. When Clarke published his book Against All Enemies in 2004, Frist stated "I am troubled that someone would sell a book, trading on their service as a government insider with access to our nation's most valuable intelligence, in order to profit from the suffering that this nation endured on September 11, 2001." In December 2003, Frist and coauthor Shirley Wilso released Good People Beget Good People: A Genealogy of the Frist Family, Frist has also written numerous medical articles.
In 1998 he visited African hospitals and schools with the Christian aid group Samaritan's Purse. Frist has continued to make medical mission trips to Africa every year since 1998. In Africa, he has operated on people and saved lives. He has also been vocal in speaking out against the genocide occurring in Darfur.
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