With the announcement that Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank is retiring after this term, America is about to lose one of the last reliably entertaining elected representatives left in Congress.
A Democratic stalwart, Frank has spent the last 30 years carving out a reputation as a pugnacious liberal firebrand and perpetual thorn in the side of House Republicans. As the first openly gay member of Congress and the architect of sweeping financial regulations overhaul, he leaves Congress as one of the most noteworthy politicians of the generation.
But Frank will be best remembered for his willingness to excoriate his opponents with a quick wit and sharp tongue. Even his most vocal critics agree that Congress will be a little less fun without him.
In honour of this legacy, we’ve put together a list of the most memorable moments from Frank’s career.
Frank kicked his Congressional career off with a bang in 1980, winning a seat representing Massachusetts' Fourth District.
Frank almost went head-to-head with John Kerry in that race, but Kerry chickened out after meeting with Frank. Kerry was eventually elected to the Senate in 1984.
Source: Boston Globe
Armey's obvious slur in reference to Franks' sexual orientation shook the House of Representatives in 1995, and Frank wouldn't let the then-House Majority Leader slide by with a weak excuse about 'mispronunciation.'
'I rule out that it was an innocent mispronunciation,' Frank told the New York Times. 'I turned to my own expert, my mother, who reports that in 59 years of marriage, no one ever introduced her as Elsie Fag.'
Frank added that he thought Armey had heard 'Barney Fag' mentioned so many times in Republican circles that it just 'popped out.'
h/t Atlantic Wire
In a 2006 budget debate, Frank slammed moderate Republicans for caving to the party leadership and supporting their budget:
'Mr. Speaker we are here today to observe a surrender. Once again our moderate Republican colleagues will hand over their tin swords to the Republican leadership. They are very predictable, they are my friends, and it is nice to have predictable friends. On every important issue, the moderate Republicans have an unfailing three step approach: Ineffectual protest, abject surrender, and denial....If that was the spirit of independence that motivated this country 250 years ago, that would be the British flag up there, and presumably the representative of the Crown. So I hope we defeat this sham, and maybe the moderate Republicans will grow some spines.'
Frank was in fine form during a 2006 debate on the House floor:
'Mr. Speaker, first let's note what a degradation of democracy has taken place here. The majority party has put forward a resolution -- it allows no amendment, there will be a debate in which those of us who think some things are good and some are bad, contrary to every reasonable democratic procedure, will have no option to say so....Mr. Speaker, how can you and your party believe that we inspire people to share power by giving the example of its monopolization in an abusive fashion. I just hope that the members of Parliament in Iraq who may hear about this will remember an important point -- please do not try this at home.'
Watch the video below.
Frank somehow managed to make House procedural rules funny by getting into a procedure-off with North Carolina Republican Patrick McHenry.
'The gentleman has asked a parliamentary inquiry and has received an answer,' Frank yells at Henry, in response to an apparently routine amendment request. 'The chair regrets that he does not like the answer but he cannot change that.'
It goes on from there. By the end of it, the Republicans appear not to know whether to laugh or cry.
Watch the video below:
Republicans and Democrats were going at it over the costs of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's air travel, when Frank interrupted to point out the ridiculousness of their argument.
'I hadn't really expected to be here but I was walking by and I thought I heard someone yelling, 'the plane, boss, the plane!' and I wanted to come in and see what was happening,' Frank said, with a huge grin.
Video below. Frank jumps in around the 1:15-minute mark.
At the height of the 2008 financial meltdown, Frank faced off with formidable Fox News host Bill O'Reilly in a series of heated arguments about the roots of the housing crisis.
O'Reilly ripped into Frank for allegedly propping up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, highlighting a series of damning clips where Frank defends the mortgage giants. But unlike many of the show's guests, Frank didn't take O'Reilly's abuse lying down.
Here's a sample:
O'Reilly: 'Stop the B.S. here, stop the crap. From August 07 to August 08, this industry declined 90% under your tutelage. But no, it wasn't your fault, oh no! People lost millions of dollars, it wasn't your fault. Come on you coward! Say the truth!'
Frank: What do you mean coward?
O'Reilly: You're a coward! You blame everybody but yourself!
Frank: 'Here's the problem with going on your show. You start ranting, the only way to respond is to look as boorish as you.'
And a little later:
O'Reilly: 'In any private concern, you're out on your butt! But not the federal government!'
Frank: 'I'm not going to bullied by your ranting! Rant all you want, you aren't going to shut me up!...'
O'Reilly: 'This is why Americans don't trust the government!'
Frank: 'No, this is why your stupidity gets in the way of rational discussion!'
The greatest moment in Frank's Congressional career was arguably his takedown of House Republicans over their statement claiming the bailout bill failed because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had hurt their feelings.
When asked about the statement, Frank lashed out with his characteristic quick wit and sharp rhetoric:
'Frankly, that's an accusation against my Republican colleagues that I would never have thought of making...We don't believe they had the votes and I think they are covering up the embarrassment of not having the votes. But think about this: somebody hurt my feelings so I will punish the country. I mean that's hardly plausible. And there were twelve Republicans who were ready to stand up for the economic interest of America but not if anybody insulted them. I'll make an offer: Give me those twelve people's names and I will go talk uncharacteristically nicely to them and tell them what wonderful people they are, and maybe they'll now think about the country.'
Watch the video below.
In what was perhaps the most viral moment of Frank's career, the Massachusetts Congressman lashed out at a protester who asked him why he supported 'a Nazi policy' during a town hall meeting about Obamacare.
Frank, a self-described 'left-handed, gay Jew,' was ruthless:
'When you ask me that question, I revert to my ethnic heritage and answer your question with a question: On what planet do you spend most of your time?' he responded, adding later: 'It is a tribute to the First Amendment that this vile, contemptible nonsense is tolerated -- ma'am, trying to have a conversation with you would be like arguing with a dining room table.'
Watch the video below (exchange starts at around the 10-second mark).
As the most prominent gay member of Congress, Frank is a favourite conservative target who is often accused of promoting a 'radical homosexual agenda.'
So finally, Frank laid out what exactly his 'radical homosexual agenda' entails:
'It's to be protected against violent crimes driven by bigotry, it's to be able to get married, it's to be able to get a job, and it's to be able to fight for our country. For those who are worried about the radical homosexual agenda, let me put them on notice. Two down, two to go.'
Watch the video below.
h/t Ezra Klein
During the January 2011 debate over the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, a conservative reporter approached Frank to ask him about the possibility of gay and straight soldiers sharing showers.
Frank feigns shock and then dominates the poor reporter:
'What do you think happens in gyms all over America?' Frank asks. 'We don't get ourselves dry-cleaned.'
'You have to understand, when you think you are the intellectual leader of the free world, and you find yourself struggling pass Michele Bachmann in a poll in Iowa, it's unsettling. I understand that the poor man isn't getting his due.'
Frank's condescension toward Gingrich is unsurprising -- their feud goes back to the Clinton days -- but his remark also manages to throw in a jab at Bachmann, another object of Frank's dislike. The two have sparred on several occasions, most notably when he called Bachmann out for interrupting him during a 2009 cable news debate about the ACORN scandal.
Frank -- apparently determined to cement his legacy as Congress's quipster -- couldn't resist taking another swipe at his nemesis Newt Gingrich today, even as he was announcing that he won't be seeking re-election next year.
'I did not think I had lived a good enough life to be rewarded by seeing Newt Gingrich as the Republican nominee,' Frank joked. 'It still is unlikely, but I have hopes.'
He added he looks forward to debating the defence of Marriage Act with Gingrich, taking a thinly-veiled jab at the former House Speaker's checkered personal history: 'I believe he is an ideal opponent for us when we talk about just who it is is threatening the sanctity of marriage.'
And later, when discussing his future political life, Frank said: 'Let me be very clear -- I will be neither a lobbyist nor a historian' -- another obvious shot at Gingrich.
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