Frist discusses Iraq resolution

By Julie Fann
STAR STAFF
jfann@starhq.com

  
United States Senator Bill Frist, R-Tenn., on Wednesday predicted a resolution concerning a possible war with Iraq will soon be written and reach the Senate floor for debate. No decision has yet been made, however, over whether or not such a resolution should be formed.
   "The president and his administration are just beginning to make a case with the Senate and House through a series of classified, top secret meetings in which information is being exchanged. It is too early for me to make a decision (about going to war) because I don't yet have enough information," Frist said.
   Strategic details regarding Iraq are complex, said Frist, and lawmakers are looking for strong leadership before making a decision that could possibly have regrettable repercussions.
   "It's not like you go in and the president says, 'These are the 20 things Saddam Hussein has done and will do.' It's somber for me as I listen and take notes. The president, whether it's today or as he talks to leaders, will have to build confidence," he said.
   Over the course of the next few weeks, Frist will be participating in all briefings given by the president and his administration, hopefully gaining knowledge that will help in reaching some type of solution about America's relationship with Iraq.
   "This issue could be used by Democrats or Republicans in a partisan way, something that I strongly discourage, and it's difficult to say how things will come out on both sides," Frist said, emphasizing the different issues of concern that define the two parties during an election year.
   Republican issues in the campaign are lower taxes, more jobs and homeland security, whereas Democrats are lobbying for corporate responsibility, social security and prescription drugs.
   "When the ground shifts to homeland security, it shifts toward what are Republican concerns. Unlike past elections, though, both parties are now concerned about having leadership that can be trusted. At the end of the day, Democrats and Republicans want education and leadership ability to lead them," he said.
   Frist said the risk of another terrorist attack, or series of attacks, is very real, but he believes that the country is better prepared to handle such a tragedy.
   "Our vulnerabilities have been markedly diminished. I think we are much better prepared for a response that yields less panic. I think it's inevitable, though, that we will receive another terrorist attack," he said.
   Bioterrorism is a threat that worries Frist, and he believes it is an increasingly real possibility that it will be the avenue terrorists use to harm Americans.
   "I believe that the American people should be allowed to make an informed choice to take the smallpox vaccine. The president has proposed the vaccination of health responders, but I go beyond that," he said.
   Frist spent the end of last week in New York City where a remembrance ceremony for the victims of Sept. 11 was held, as well as a Congressional meeting he referred to as "mainly symbolic." Also, lawmakers in Washington mourned the events of last year at various ceremonies yesterday.
   "It's a solemn time here. It is being relived. Emotions are resurfacing, and people are working through this in very personal ways. It gives us the opportunity to give ourselves to the values our nation sees as important," Frist said.