So Long, Barney Frank
An awful lot has already been written about the very colorful career of Barney Frank, America’s only left-handed, gay, Jewish congressman and, now that he’s declared he won’t run for reelection, an awful lot more is going to be said in the coming days. So, to help, weed through things, a few Barney Frank picks:
I’m particularly fond of Frank’s appearances in Common Ground, J. Anthony Lukas’s classic book about Boston in the busing era, where he pops up as an aide to Mayor Kevin White. For instance, Lukas reveals that on the night that James Brown saved Boston, Frank had no idea who the Godfather of Soul was (in fact, Frank thought he was a football player). On a bit more substantial note, Lukas calls Frank the “de facto mayor” in “many technical areas,” and describes him as at least once saving the day by restraining White from calling in the cops to deal with a racially tense situation, and instead letting leaders of the black community calm things down.
Some other good reading for today includes our profile of Frank from December 2008, just after the crash. Then there’s also Jeffrey Toobin’s New Yorker profile of him from 2009. Whether you love or hate Frank, you have to be appreciate his utter willingness to be a huge asshole (if only YouTube existed his whole career). Toobin captures Frank’s frankness perfectly in one scene during an emergency meeting to address the financial crisis. He writes:
The meeting with the President nearly destroyed the good will that had been generated during the previous week. John Boehner, the Republican leader in the House, expressed disapproval of the proposal, arguing that it did not reflect a bipartisan consensus. Frank tried to put McCain on the spot: would he back the House Republicans or Bush and the rest of the congressional leadership? As Frank recalled, “I said, ‘John, what do you think?’ ‘Well, I think the House Republicans have a right to their position.’ ‘Fine. You agree with that position?’ ‘No, I just think they have a right to their position.’ He looks like your old uncle, just shrivelled and shrunk, and he just didn’t look good. And we kept pressing him, saying, ‘What is your plan?’ ” McCain wouldn’t say.
“The protocol is you’re not supposed to talk to the President directly,” Frank said. “We just ignored that.” But the President didn’t bring the group together, and the meeting ended without a decision. The Democrats returned to the Roosevelt Room to plot their next move, and Paulson joined them. As Frank recalled, Paulson “literally drops to the one knee” and begged Pelosi to bring the bailout up for a vote in the House, despite the Republican opposition. “But we start yelling at him,” Frank said. “ ‘Jeez, work on your assholes over there—your guys. I mean, you know, we’re trying to do it, and your guys are playing games.’ ”
And, of course, the height of Barney Frank media are his appearances on the O’Reilly Factor. We can only hope that when he leaves Congress, he becomes a TV pundit.