When Barney Frank announced the other day that he was shuffling off stage after three decades in the Congressional limelight, I was brought back to 1980, when some very thoughtful friends from Harvard told me to watch him. Paul H. Weaver had been an aide to Irving Kristol, the godfather of neoconservatism, which was lustrous in those days, and rightly so.
Paul was one of the brightest young neo-cons of his generation. I always took him seriously. He thought that Congressman Frank was principled, stupendously intelligent and of good cheer — a wit. It seemed Frank was going to be another Daniel Patrick Moynihan, or at least an Allard Lowenstein, the former congressman and principled liberal activist who had recently been murdered.
Amidst all the media coverage of Rep. Barney Frank's (Mass.) retirement from the U.S. House of Representatives, the media largely praised the retiring Democrat while overlooking the scandals of his tenure in office and his crucial support to government policies that helped fuel the housing bubble, NewsBusters publisher Brent Bozell told viewers of the December 1 edition of Fox News Channel's Hannity.
"Why isn't anyone in the media talking about the obvious? This is a man who single-handedly presided over the collapse" of the U.S. housing industry, Bozell reminded host Sean Hannity in the popular recurring "Media Mash" segment. "Barney Frank in 2003 fought George Bush when he tried to do something about it."
Liberal Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank defied the conventional wisdom of MSNBC, a network he contributes to, and angrily vented in a column that Barney Frank is a "mean," "ornery" "S.O.B."
In his November 30 column, Milbank derided the Congressman as "one of the most notorious bullies, known for berating staff, alienating allies and causing aides to cower in fear of his gratuitous and frequent browbeatings."
Richard Harris wasn't the only NPR staffer wondering about the backwardness of America on Tuesday's All Things Considered. At the end of a completely supine interview with Barney Frank, anchor Guy Raz asked Frank if he was pleased at how far America had come from its backwardness on gay liberation from when he came out of the closet in the Reagan years.
"I want to ask you about a decision you made in 1987," Raz declared. "You went public to tell people you were gay. That was controversial at the time. Are you heartened at the distance America has come?" Frank said "without question," and said "prejudice" was very close to being eliminated in America:
During what he billed as an "official exit interview" for retiring Rep. Barney Frank, Hardball host Chris Matthews asked the Massachusetts Democrat if he believes in good and evil and moreover, does he believe that "there's some people like Newt Gingrich that personify one side of this Manichean struggle in our life."
Frank, no fan of Gingrich, seemed taken aback by how strident Matthews feels about the former Republican Speaker of the House (video follows page break; MP3 audio here):
Barney Frank's retirement announcement could have come as early as 1989 but back then the Democratic congressman from Massachusetts relied on the liberal attitudes of his constituents and his friends in the media to see him through a prostitution scandal, friends like the Boston Globe's Tom Oliphant. On the August 26, 1989 edition of the syndicated Inside Washington, Oliphant had no fear that Frank would survive the scandal of his apartment being used for a male prostitution ring as he proclaimed Frank to be "a man of surpassing integrity."(video after the jump)
Yesterday we noted how the Washington Post devoted both an A-section front-pager and a Style section front-pager to celebrating the career of Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who announced his retirement from the House on Monday.
Today the Post's "In the Loop" columnist Al Kamen continued the paper's celebration with a look at "Frank's Greatest Hits", a collection of the Massachusetts Democrat's notable jokes and put-downs.
NPR's Tovia Smith sang the praises of Congressman Barney Frank on Monday's All Things Considered: "Frank has proven both piercing and pithy, zinging one-liners....bold and unabashed." Smith barely included any dissenting voices in her report, playing four sound bites from the staunch liberal and his supporters, versus only two from opponents.
Host Melissa Block noted how Rep. Frank is a "leading liberal voice and one of the first openly gay congressman" in her introduction for the correspondent's report and added that "because his district has just been redrawn, he'd likely face a grueling reelection campaign." Smith continued by stating that "some of the Democratic strongholds he's represented for decades have been replaced by more conservative towns."
Anyone who made the easy prediction that the Associated Press would fail to bring up Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac in its fawning tribute to Barney Frank after his retirement announcement yesterday was correct. Anyone making the easy prediction that the AP would lionize him as a "gay pioneer" was also spot-on.
Also predictably, the wire service's Bob Salsberg and David Espo failed to mention that Frank advocated abolishing Fan and Fred as a dishonest survival tactic during his final reelection campaign in 2010, and of course did nothing visible to make that happen this year. What's really odious in this regard is that the AP pair gave him credit (pun intended) for how he "worked to expand affordable housing," when the Community Reinvestment Act-driven subprime crisis Fan and Fred engendered has sent the housing market levels not seen since World War II. What follows are excerpts from the AP. After that I have a few contrary and clear-headed paragraphs from an Investor's Business Daily editorial, and a little reminder of a 1999 "Present" vote which should have generated controversy, but didn't:
The Washington Post responded to yesterday's retirement announcement by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) today with not one but two well-placed positive stories. "Longtime lawmaker brokered critical deals as skilled negotiator," gushed the subheader to Paul Kane's 20-paragraph page A1 article.
"Fearlessly, Frank made his mark," blared the below-the-fold Style section front page article by Robert Kaiser. "Longtime lawmaker was one of the few to display a personality," the subheader approvingly noted.
New York Times editorial board member, and former Times reporter, David Firestone is filling in for Andrew Rosenthal this week at the paper’s opinion blog The Loyal Opposition. He has apparently been tasked to make Rosenthal seem balanced by comparison, judging by his Monday posting with the laugh-line headline “Barney Frank, Moderate.”
Firestone was paying tribute to liberal Democrat Rep. Barney Frank, who has represented the Fourth District in southern Massachusetts for the past 30 years and is retiring now, unwilling to stomach the challenge of running in a redrawn district. Firestone termed Frank, who has earned a lifetime rating of 4 out of a possible 100 from the American Conservative Union, a “centrist.” But if Barney Frank isn’t a liberal, than who in Congress is?
“The first line in Barney Frank’s political epitaph,” The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes predicted on Monday’s FNC Special Report upon news the longtime liberal Democratic Congressman won’t seek re-election, will “be the housing crisis.” But that isn’t what those who decide the first draft of history considered relevant.
ABC, CBS and NBC didn’t mention Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac as they instead touted him as “one of the most familiar, powerful and colorful characters on Capitol Hill” (ABC), as “the Congressman who co-authored the overhaul of financial regulations after the crash” (CBS) and all noted his sexual orientation. NBC’s Brian Williams: “Among his legacies – besides his legendary sharp tongue – he was the first Member of Congress to publically acknowledge he was gay back in 1987.”