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Pork or principle?

"Pork or principle?" Continued...

Issue: "Bob Geldof: Whose jubilee?," June 25, 2005

Mr. Thune countered that even a freshman Republican would have a better chance with President Bush than the seasoned Democrat. Especially with help from his friends. In the parking lot outside the base, Dr. Frist said he saw a bright future for Ellsworth, adding that he intended to protect the base during the BRAC process.

But more than a year later, after the BRAC realignment was announced (including plans to add more than 1,000 military jobs to Dr. Frist's home state, Tennessee), the majority leader released a statement attacking the plans to take jobs away from two Tennessee bases-and not a word about Ellsworth.

Right now, saving Ellsworth is all about clout-a code word for the politics of pork barrel. Clout is bringing home the bacon. And clout is something Mr. Thune will have to create, perhaps out of thin air. Freshmen senators aren't supposed to have any.

It's a task for a senator beyond Mr. Thune's years. Win, and he'll be heralded a hero of the state. Lose, and he'll face an angry public and an electorate in 2010 that may still be filled with people who lost their job when Ellsworth closed.

Back at the Free Congress luncheon, Mr. Thune tells about an encouraging word. "This guy came up to me afterwards and said, 'You're doing exactly what Jesse Helms would have done if he were here today.'" He may just have to copy the fiesty Helms style to get the job done.

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