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Frist Protest at Princeton Is Lesson in Art of the Filibuster

By Charles Babington and Mike Allen
Monday, May 2, 2005

If only Senate filibusters were this enlightening.

Princeton University students and faculty have been talking round-the-clock to protest the legislative strategy of a famous alumnus and benefactor, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). In what some might consider an act of ingratitude -- even by college students' standards -- protesters have lectured, read and generally droned on outside the Frist Campus Center, built with $25 million from the senator's family.

The speakers are protesting Frist's threat to change Senate rules to ban filibusters of judicial nominees. Democrats have used the parliamentary delaying tactic to block confirmation votes for 10 of President Bush's appellate court nominees.

The campus talk-a-thon started Tuesday and continued into the weekend. Some protesters honored Senate history by reading from phone books, but many were more high-minded. They read from biographies of federal judicial nominees, poetry, the Constitution and Shakespeare's plays.

Physics professor Chiara Nappi lectured on the origin and behavior of elementary particles. "I support the efforts of these students in defending the rights of the minority party and attacking conservative attempts to reduce civil liberties," she told the campus newspaper, the Princetonian. "I disagree with what Frist is trying to do, and because he has strong ties to Princeton, we have the duty to take a stand."

Besides, Nappi said, "perhaps I will convince students to study more physics." Try that in the Senate cloakroom.

Ethics Minutiae

With Democrats among the lawmakers rushing to update incomplete or erroneous travel disclosures, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) referred yesterday to missing reports as "technicalities on reporting" and said those should not be confused or equated with larger ethical issues.

One of Pelosi's aides did not report a trip to South Korea last year with a group that had registered as a foreign agent, which would make it ineligible to pay for trips for lawmakers and their aides. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (Md.), the second-ranking Democrat in the House, also has recently filed paperwork that had been missing for past trips.

Pelosi, asked by George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week" about her staff's disclosure violations, said that her own "reporting has always been complete and in a timely fashion."

"The staff didn't have the same experience in traveling, and so some of the filing was done -- was overdue when it was filed," she said.

But then Pelosi went on to refer to disclosure requirements as "technicalities," and criticized Republican leaders for replacing the chairman, two members and two top aides on the ethics committee, formally known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.

"Do not fall into the Republican trap of equating technicalities on reporting -- timing of reporting with not upholding an ethical standard of the House," she said. "I don't get into anybody's ethical issues. That's for the ethics committee to do. But I do have a responsibility to uphold an ethical standard, and when the Republicans gutted the ethical process, purged the committee, firing the chairman and firing the staff, then that became an issue that we all had to play a role in."

Parties Get Head Start on '08 Race

Is it too early to talk about '08?

A new poll of Republican Party insiders gives the early edge in the race for its 2008 presidential nomination to one of its least well-known potential candidates: Sen. George Allen (Va.).

National Journal asked 85 GOP members of Congress, party officials and strategists to predict who would win the party's nod in three years. Allen, a former Virginia governor who is little known outside the mid-Atlantic region, took the top spot, edging Sen. John McCain (Ariz.). Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (Tenn.) came in third, followed by, in descending order, former New York City mayor Rudoph W. Giuliani, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Sen. Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and New York Gov. George E. Pataki.

Allen, at a lunch Friday with reporters and editors of The Washington Post, said that he would leave poll interpretation to the pundits and that he is focused on winning reelection in 2006. "You can never predict the future." But he added this when asked whether he believes he is qualified to be president: "Common-sense Jeffersonian principles that work so well for Virginia, I think, make this country more competitive when applied to the national level as well, whether that's advocated by me or somebody else."

The 90 Democratic insiders surveyed were much more in agreement on who would win their party's nomination, giving the overwhelming edge to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.). Former senator John Edwards (N.C.) came in second, followed by outgoing Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner, Sens. Evan Bayh (Ind.) and John F. Kerry (Mass.).

The rest of the top 10? New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.), retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark and former vice president Al Gore.

Researcher Brian Faler contributed to this report.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company