Last night MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell all but officially made liberal former Congressman Barney Frank a co-host on his program “The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell”. The Massachusetts Democrat appeared on the first 3 segments, spanning 40 minutes. This included a scalding attack on fellow liberal Ben Wikler of MoveOn.org for daring to lead a movement encouraging Senator Elizabeth Warren to challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president.
After Wikler began this segment by explaining his thoughts on the failed draft-Warren movement, O’Donnell cued in Congressman Frank’s attack with this: “Barney Frank, I think you have a candidate you’d like to talk Ben into supporting.”
Congressman Frank then spent significant time praising and defending Clinton as a candidate “left to Barack Obama”, which is what most of Warren’s supporters are looking for. Using that premise, he had some harsh words for Warren supporters who wanted to see her take shot at the oval office:
The notion that- I have to say this- the notion that you amplified her voice? No. Elizabeth Warren’s voice was amplified when she helped us pass consumer finance protection. And in fact, she correctly understood that to the extent she was seen as one maneuvering for the presidency, her voice would have been diminished. The media would have then started criticizing her.
Congressman Frank apparently fears that any debate among potential Democratic Nominees would “weaken” the obvious eventual candidate.
Below is the relevant transcript of the Wikler-Frank exchange:
The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell
June 2, 2015
10:30 p.m. Eastern
LAWRENCE O’DONNELL, Host: Joining us now is Ben Wikler, the Washington director of moveon.org. Ben, how did it come to this? Why did you guys surrender?
BEN WIKLER, guest: Well I wouldn't call this surrender. I would say it’s a long shot for anyone to run for president. We knew when we started that this is not someone playing coy. Elizabeth Warren is not someone who’s dreamed of being president all her life. What we also knew is that she rises to big fights, an we wanted to make the case to her that there's a hunger for Progressive fighters. There are enormous battles to be won on behalf of regular people against special interests who are rigging the game. Now we didn't get our candidate. We obviously wish we had. But we do feel like we moved the debate. The millions of Americans who want these issues debated: who want inequality, and a system where corporate money has too much power: who want those issues talked about. Everyone who has been involved in that fight has won because those are now front and center across the Democratic field. Even Republicans are starting to pay lip service to issues like inequality. That, to us, is a significant step forward.
O’DONNELL: Barney Frank, I think you have a candidate you’d like to talk Ben into supporting.
CONGRESSMAN BARNEY FRANK, guest: Well, let me just say, I was on "Morning Joe" on this network yesterday with Bill Kristol who was doing everything he could to promote Bernie Sanders. The transparency of that was very clear. They don’t want Hillary Clinton to be the nominee because they think she's very tough. I do not understand where the criticism comes from, of her, I think on domestic issues. As Paul Krugman documented, one of our best writers on public policy, Hillary Clinton was to the left of Barack Obama in 2008 on things like healthcare. When president Obama signed the bill that weakened the financial reform bill somewhat- not in a huge way: I wish he hadn't done that. Although it was Republican pressure that forced him into what he felt. Hillary Clinton spoke right out and said she was against it. She was an original supporter of a broader health care bill. Look, I wish that somebody who had a set of further left positions, for instance like mine, could get elected president. And if I thought that, maybe I would have run. Although I think Jim would have not really enjoyed being the first man. But I want to election someone- and when Bill Kristol, on behalf of the Republicans, starts undermining Hillary Clinton, I think that’s a good message.
WIKLER: Mr. Kristol is making the case for Bernie, obviously, as a way of attacking Mrs. Clinton. But if you look at the “Run Warren, Run” campaign, what you're hearing is not an anti-Clinton campaign, but a pro-progressive fighter campaign. And frankly, Secretary Clinton and all the candidates have a chance to move into that exact space. And I think we’re hearing it more and more. Whenever secretary Clinton or the other candidates go to bat for the middle class, against special interest, they get stronger. That is good for the party. I think that's a debate that we need to have, because the more we talk about these issues, the stronger we are.
FRANK: This notion that until MoveOn talks about running Elizebeth Warren- And by the way, Elizabeth Warren is much more sensible than her supporters. The notion that- I have to say this- the notion that you amplified her voice? No. Elizabeth Warren’s voice was amplified when she helped us pass consumer finance protection. And in fact, she correctly understood that to the extent she was seen as one maneuvering for the presidency, her voice would have been diminished. The media would have then started criticizing her. The purity of her concern for issues has been one of her strengths. And she understood better than others that seeming to be toying the presidency would have diminished her influence, I believe, rather than strengthen it. As far as the issues are concerned, yeah, we have been there for a while. I'm glad to hear that this is not an attack on anybody. I do think there is an effort, frankly, for people to claim more credit than is necessarily the case. And, again, I want to stress we have a serious problem in November with money. We are going to be outspent significantly by all that republican money. I don’t understand why some of my friends on the left think that we should do to ourselves this year what the Republicans did four years ago weaken who will be the nominee. I want to save our money and if people have a specific issue that they want to push, I'd like to hear it. I believe that Hillary Clinton has, in fact, been there for some time.