Jeff Jacoby

BARNEY FRANK may be the only member of Congress who has ever made headlines for not acting like a jerk.

When the longtime Massachusetts representative found himself last year facing -- for the first time in decades -- a surprisingly strong Republican challenge, journalists noticed something strange: He wasn't being as nasty as usual. He wasn't responding to questions with his trademark put-downs. He wasn't condescending to critics with quite as much sneering contempt.

"Barney Frank reinvents himself as a nice guy," wrote Jonathan Strong in a story for The Daily Caller. The Boston Herald's Margery Eagan, "bracing to get hammered" when she asked Frank some questions, was amazed when, instead of insulting or berating her, he answered her questions "almost diplomatically."

But Frank's unwonted restraint vanished on election night. In what may have been the most graceless victory speech in US congressional history, he savaged the Herald, accused Republicans of engaging in "vituperation [and] anonymous smears," and proclaimed his re-election "a victory for a concept of government which eschews anger and vitriol."

Which was quite a proclamation, coming from someone who is as renowned for his invective and browbeating as for his liberalism and smarts. When Frank eventually goes to his eternal reward – and I wish him many more years of activity and good health – it's safe to assume that the words "He eschewed anger and vitriol" will not be engraved on his monument.

Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby is an Op-Ed writer for the Boston Globe, a radio political commentator, and a contributing columnist for