Barney Frank: The Exit Interview

Interesting stuff. He’s always a pleasure to read; I really wish others would emulate how he doesn’t take any goddamn shit from reporters.

[quote]What about Congress itself back then? You came in at a slightly strange time for a newly elected Democrat, at the beginning of the Reagan years.

But I came in somewhat sheltered, because my district adjoined Tip O’Neill’s district. I came in under the patronage of the speaker. I got to sit at the big-kids’ table. Tip put me on the committee that dealt with urban affairs and housing, then called the Banking committee. He’d arranged to have a Massachusetts member on every important committee: There was a Massachusetts member on Appropriations, on Ways and Means, on Energy and Commerce. The one substantive committee for us that had a vacancy was that one.

I had been in the state legislature for eight years. And legislating is very much a common thing—it’s not so different from one body to another. I mean, I can read Trollope about the nineteenth-*century British Parliament and see similarities.

What are they?

In every other thing you do where there’s a formal relationship, one of two principles applies. Either there’s a *hierarchy—there’s somebody who can hire and fire you and give you orders—or there’s no formal ongoing relationship, but you use money—I will sell you this car if you give me money, I will perform this operation if you give me money. Legislators have a formal set of responsibilities to work together, but there’s no hierarchy. There is nobody in the House that can give anybody else an order. The speaker’s more influential than a freshman member of the minority party, but nobody can order you to do anything. Every two years, the people in Massachusetts can fire me. But nobody I work with can fire me.[/quote]

Also, he knows who Trollope is.

I bet he’s met many Trollope’s in his day.

But yeah, I agree, that it’s nice to see someone who just doesn’t give a damn about sugarcoating things. That doesn’t mean I agree with him on everything, of course, but I admire his attitude.

That’s something I agree with, and it’s interesting to hear an actual politician say it. I think that insofar as there has been a push for young (and otherwise disinterested) people to get involved in politics, it’s largely emphasized involvement, not results. I think this is true of very, very many protests. We do things because it makes us feel good, not because we think it will accomplish anything.

Sadly, that’s likely true. That’s why I don’t participate in the facebook awareness movements, where you change your name or locations to raise awareness about child abuse or something. I’m not sure why I need to announce that I denounce child abuse. Is anyone NOT aware that this is a bad thing?

I disagree with Barney Frank on ton of issues, and I think he routinely cuts ethical corners.
But I will say the House will be less interesting place, and significantly dumber without his presence.

There have been many times I supported Frank and just as many when I disagreed with him, but I always felt that his positions were those of an intelligent man and that he arrived at them through thought, not ideological purity. He was also always a champion of legalized online poker, a cause dear to my heart (and bank account) that I hope he continues to advocate once retired.

The poker players alliance hired former Senator D’Amato (NY-R) to lobby for legalizing online poker. Getting Barney to this in retirement would be a big improvement.

But isn’t part of that just because the media is expected to be adversarial?
Who expects it to be adversarial? Where did you read that? Did you read that in the First Amendment? Where did you read that the media is expected to be adversarial? It should be skeptical, why adversarial? Adversarial means you’re the enemy. Seriously, where does that come from?

Okay, maybe “skeptical” is the better word.
But that’s a very different word. You reflect the attitude: adversarial. And there is nothing in any theory that I have ever seen that says when you report events that you’re supposed to think, I’m the adversary, so that means I want to defeat them, I want to undermine them, I want to discredit them. Why is that the media’s role? But you’ve accurately stated it, and I think it’s a great mistake.

Do you think I just showed my hand there?
No, I don’t think you showed your hand personally. I think you reflected the Weltschmerz.

But you know the old aphorism, “Afflict the comfortable, comfort the afflicted.” I think that’s more what I was trying to get at.
When have you comforted the afflicted? I don’t see that in the media. I don’t see reporting that comforts low-income people or the environment. I think it’s negative about everybody.

But that’s a different problem. It’s the problem of sensationalism: The bad news is the stuff that gets the headlines.
That’s because you choose to give it the headlines.

Does that affect the way members of Congress operate?
Sure. People are response mechanisms. People understand you’ll get more news for being negative than positive. It affects the way people act in hearings.

That’s true. You go to these hearings, and there’s always grandstanding.
That’s because you guys give play for it.

Holy shit. Can we have more argumentative interviews like this everywhere, please?