The front-page story on Majority Leader Bill Frist's leadership ["Senator Frist's Political Rise Slows in Pace," Aug. 8] did not present a historical perspective on how congressional sessions during presidential election years rarely produce major legislative achievements.

The Democrats played the same obstruction game in 1996; I was majority leader that year until I resigned June 11 to campaign for the presidency full time. Similarly, in 1992 and 2000 little substantive legislation was passed.

The story also glossed over the challenges Mr. Frist (R-Tenn.) faces as leader of one of the most narrowly divided Senates in history -- 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats and one independent. With only a one-vote majority and a partisan Democratic caucus, he has done remarkably well, given that 60 votes are needed to end debate and bring a matter to a vote.

For Democrats, who do not control the White House or the House of Representatives, taking advantage of the Senate's rules for obstruction has become their line of defense. This is especially true now that two of their own -- Sens. John F. Kerry (Mass.) and John Edwards (N.C.) -- constitute the Democratic ticket.

The Senate Democrats are not about to allow major legislative initiatives to become law and will continue to deny, until Election Day, this president and Mr. Frist any legislative victories. That no major legislation will pass is because of the rules of the Senate, not Mr. Frist's leadership.

BOB DOLE

Washington