Frank is on the left. Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts just did conservatives a huge favor. He announced this week that he wouldn't seek another term in Congress after his district was redrawn and it was clear he was going to have to fight to keep his seat.
Frank, 71, was first elected as a member of the House of Representatives in 1980. He is feisty, openly gay, hilarious, and as liberal as they come. In short, he is a hero to some (like me) and hated with a passion by others (think all Red States).
Being the first openly gay member of Congress is only the tip of the Frank iceberg. He is hilarious and witty and his one-liners are among the best in politics. His legacy will largely be tied to the Dodd-Frank Act, the controversial financial reform bill that he helped steer through Congress along with now-former Senator Chris Dodd. He addressed that when he talked retirement. Frank said:
Being vilified by some of those people is a badge of honor. My one regret about leaving is that some of these people may derive some comfort from it, but they shouldn't, because I’m going to be there fighting them just as hard in this other venue.
And that's Frank in a nutshell. If you love him, you love him, and if you don't, well, he probably doesn't love you either. Here are some of his best lines over the years:
- On Reagan's work ethic: "You had Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan talking about how they were friends after 5 o’clock -- although if you knew Reagan’s work habits it was really, like, after about 2:30.”
- On Republican amnesia: "Memory eventually fails us all, but apparently the decline strikes one party far more than the other."
- On being gay: "Gay people have a different role than other minority groups ... Very few black kids have ever had to worry about telling their parents that they were black."
- On being gay (again): “I do not think that any self-respecting radical in history would have considered advocating people’s rights to get married, join the Army, and earn a living as a terribly inspiring revolutionary platform.”
- On religion: “If this is a Christian nation, how come some poor Jew has to get up at 5:30 in the morning to preside over the House of Representatives?” -- 1984, quoted in The New York Times in response to a lawmaker declaring America to be a “Christian nation.”
- On the Iraq war: "The problem with the war in Iraq is not so much the intelligence as the stupidity."
- On abortion: "Conservatives believe that from the standpoint of the federal government, life begins at conception and ends at birth."
For those who are happy Frank is leaving, congratulations. You have your wish. Don't hold your breath for his district to elect a reactionary, but no one will be Frank.
For those of us who will miss him, this is a sad day. But he was one of the best and his legacy won't be gone any time soon. Thanks for a great four decades!
Did you like Barney Frank?
Image via Leader Nancy Pelosi/Flickr