Paul Greenberg

What?! Barney Frank is retiring from Congress? I'm surprised. Surely he could have stayed on and done even more damage to the American economy. His constituents in Massachusetts might have forgiven him just about anything, and have.

Congressman Frank was largely responsible for inflating the housing market over the last decade, a decision that set off a chain reaction of fiscal disasters. It led to the Panic of '08-'09, and then the Great Recession that followed in its wake, and which still refuses to disappear. But that was just the start. So much more mischief still waits to be done.

Indeed, is being done as one politically motivated scheme after another is rolled out on Capitol Hill. Naturally, each will go by the title of Economic Stimulus. Even as the term grows suspect. By now, it can scarcely be uttered without irony.

Congressman Barney Frank, much like this administration, has a certain genius for describing dismal failures as great successes. If he lacks a sense of responsibility, he's never short of nerve. The man is a great salesman -- even if, sooner or later, what he's selling tends to go poof. Like the housing bubble.

The moral of the story: A fellow can go far in this country if he's a smooth talker.

Newt Gingrich is the latest example of that axiom over on the starboard side of American politics. For the moment, he's the leading non-Romney to lead the pack at this stage of the jumbled race for the GOP's presidential nomination. His fall and then rise in the polls is only the latest twist in a presidential race that already seems to have gone on forever.

Many another surprise doubtless awaits. That's politics, jury trials and horse races. All are unpredictable. No matter what the pollsters and oddsmakers may claim.

These days Mr. Gingrich is vociferously opposed -- he tends to be vociferous no matter what subject he's addressing at the moment -- to the kind of private-public deals that led to the housing boom-cum-bust heard 'round the world. But that didn't stop him from accepting a million or two from Freddie Mac back in its heyday. For what, exactly? For his services as an "historian," he explained at one point; for his "strategic advice" at another. Both of which sound like euphemisms for telling that outfit how to go on feeding at the public trough.

Fast on his feet, the new Newt explains that he told Freddie Mac its policies were "insane." But its chief lobbyist, Mitchell Delk, doesn't remember his saying any such thing. Which figures. Because it's hard to imagine a seasoned political operative telling the folks paying him so handsomely that they're crazy.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.