The idea that Massachusetts could lose Barney Frank in our congressional delegation never crossed my mind before yesterday, but I'm told that he's been signalling he's ready to go for a couple of years now. The New York Times' Abby Goodnough had a nice item about his departure announcement, which includes a great kicker about his famous combativeness with reporters and, well, everyone:
Mr. Frank’s famous petulance was on display at times on Monday; he dismissed what he called a “gotcha” question from a reporter about his personal investments and, upon learning she worked for Fox News, said, “Quelle surprise.”
He also said he looked forward to leaving office so that “I don’t even have to pretend to try to be nice to people I don’t like,” leading another reporter to ask, “Have you ever?”
“Some of you may not think I’ve been good at it,” Mr. Frank said. “But I’ve been trying.”
I have to say, I am really looking forward to the "Barney Frank greatest hits"—the quips, the tongue-lashings, the one-liners, the improvisational heat that also shed light (Mother Jones already has one up here). The one that comes to my mind is his pro-choice quip that Republicans care about children from conception until birth. What's your favorite?
Meanwhile, you might have missed some of the thoughts bubbling out of the LGBT community. Paul Schindler, longtime reporter on LGBT issues, posted some interesting memories of Rep. Frank's relationship with the LGBT community in Gay City News, including this:
On a warm summer evening in 1980, the dance music at Buddies, then Boston’s premier gay bar, stopped at an uncharacteristically early hour, and an announcement came over the speakers that Pope John Paul II had ordered Father Robert Drinan, a liberal Democratic congressman who entered politics via the anti-war movement, to give up the seat he had held for a decade. Distressing as the news was that the conservative pope was reaching his long arm into Massachusetts politics, that coin had a flip side.
State Representative Barney Frank, a friend to the gay community in eight years on Beacon Hill, was headed to the bar to begin gathering petition signatures to succeed Drinan. Frank was not yet out, though certainly many in the crowd made the implicit assumption he was gay. At a time when few in the LGBT community were yet pressing closeted politicians to risk their careers by speaking openly about their sexuality, none among those who mobbed Frank to sign his petition that night raised the question of his going public about being gay.
Denis Dison at The Victory Fund posts this, about Frank's position as a gay political trailblazer, and says that "out" numbers might grow next year:
- Barney Frank is the second openly gay American to serve in the U.S. Congress, coming out while in office in 1987. (The late Rep. Gerry Studds, D-Mass., came out publicly while serving in office prior to Frank.)
- Just seven openly gay or lesbian Americans have ever served in the U.S. House, and none have served in the Senate.
- Only three non-incumbent, openly gay or lesbian candidates have been elected to Congress (Rep. Tammy Baldwin in 1998; Rep. Jared Polis in 2008; Rep. David Cicilline in 2010).
- When Barney Frank came out in 1987, fewer than 50 openly LGBT Americans were serving in public office at any level of government in the U.S. Today more than 500 are.
- The Victory Fund has already endorsed three non-incumbent, openly gay candidates in 2012 Congressional races, including: Wisconsin State Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-2); Mark Takano (CA-41); Washington State Rep. Marko Liias (WA-1). It has also endorsed the reelection bids of Rep. Jared Polis (CO-2) and Rep. David Cicilline (RI-1). Victory has also endorsed Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., in her bid for the U.S. Senate.