I hadn’t been following the ins-and-outs of the FMA debate in the Senate, but I saw some Capital Gang late afternoon yesterday and the whole gang seemed agreed that the GOP leadership had screwed up the tactics and mechanics on these votes. What none of them were willing to say is that there’s a reason this happened. Traditionally, you become Majority Leader of the Senate at least in part because your colleagues think you would be good at the Leader’s substantive job — greasing the legislative machinery. Other factors go into it, of course, but ability to do the job has always played an important role. Important, that is, until Bill Frist got the job. But the Senate GOP caucus has not only taken the unprecedented step of letting Karl Rove choose their Leader for them, but let him pick someone wholly on the basis of his political appeal — telegenicness plus biography — rather than any actual ability to do the job. The results, predictably, have not been good. The parallel to the Republican Party’s sense in 2000 that they could nominate someone because he was “likeable” and a good fundraiser to be president — competence and qualification be damned — is rather obvious. But this stuff is hard. Competence matters.