In addition to being a tireless advocate for his constituents and the American LGBT community, Rep. Barney Frank is well known for telling things like he sees ’em. I find his candor and passion refreshing, especially in the often stilted world of contemporary American political discourse.
Three of my favorite examples of Rep. Frank’s famously quick wit follow below:
1.) In 1995, Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey infamously referred to Rep. Frank as “Barney Fag” in an interview. Armey retracted the slur and chalked it up to an innocent slip of the tongue. Frank responded: “I turned to my own expert, my mother, who reports that in 59 years of marriage, no one ever introduced her as Elsie Fag.”
2.) During the height of debate in the summer of 2009 over the then-proposed (and subsequently enacted) health reform bill, a constituent confronted Rep. Frank at a town hall meeting in Dartmouth, Massachusetts about his support for health reform, asking why he continued to support what she offensively termed a “Nazi policy.” Frank responded:
“On what planet do you spend most of your time? … You stand there with a picture of the President defaced to look like Hitler and compare the effort to increase health care to the Nazis. My answer to you is, as I said before, it is a tribute to the First Amendment that this kind of vile, contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated. Ma’am, trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table. I have no interest in doing it.”
3.) Rep. Frank made the following remarks at the enrollment ceremony in December 2010 where Speaker Nancy Pelosi signed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal law:
“Four years ago, a Republican running for congress in Indiana said… [that] if [his Democratic opponent] won, Nancy Pelosi would become speaker, and she would let me enact the ‘radical homosexual agenda.’ So let me own up to that agenda: 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.”
If you’re looking for more of Barney Frank’s greatest hits (including an epic takedown of Bill O’Reilly and a confrontation with our favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann), Elspeth Reeve at the Atlantic has a great compilation.