Thanks, But No Thanks

In the September issue of the Prospect, Robert Reich offers several Democrats, myself specifically included, some entirely gratuitous advice. Not having spoken with me – nor, I think, with my colleagues -- Mr. Reich lectures me that I must “resist (the) temptation” to spend most of my time in a series of shrill, wholly negative attacks on the Bush administration. Among the temptations I am urged to resist is to do a “job…on the Administrations nefarious links to Wall Street.” And he follows the sentence regarding me with the sarcastic question, “Hell, why not try to impeach Bush?”

Unfortunately, in his effort to impart wisdom to us, he adds fuel to the wholly unjustified fire that the Republicans have been trying to ignite in the hopes of keeping us from winning a majority. I know of virtually no support for trying to impeach President Bush among House Democrats, because we understand that this would be entirely counterproductive to what we are trying to accomplish both politically and governmentally.

As for myself, I have consistently said that I want to show that liberal Democrats can be fully supportive of the legitimate functioning of financial intermediaries in a responsible capitalist system, while at the same time protecting the rights of consumers and helping address the problem of growing inequality. I have never argued that this administration has “nefarious links to Wall Street,” and in fact it would be very odd if an administration had no links to Wall Street in these areas.

On the positive side, Mr. Reich tells us that we should not get “caught up in arid policy-wonkdom” -- not, I must tell you, a predilection I have found common among House Democrats -- but says instead we should talk about how to “recreate good jobs with good wages and rebuild the middle class.” I have tried very hard to do that, especially with regard to our hearings with the Federal Reserve Chairs. In fact, Bob Kuttner recently did a column about the report by the Financial Services Committee Democrats on wage issues.

My problem with Mr. Reich's approach is that he is giving credence to Republican assertions that if we win we will be irresponsible, demagogic, and purely negative. There is simply no basis for this. I confess to some personal irritation in addition to my political concern when I am told that I had better not do things that I have no intention of doing, and that I should in fact think about beginning to do things that I have been doing. But the fundamental problem is that Mr. Reich's article urges us not to conform to the caricatured version of us that the Republicans have put forward, and in doing so, he lends support to the notion that this caricature might represent reality.

Barney Frank represents the 4th District of Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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