Just about every Democrat in Massachusetts has a Barney Frank story, and very few of them would earn him the Citizen of the Year award.
Frank belittles members of Congress. He berates Capitol Hill staffers. It’s not that he doesn’t suffer fools; he doesn’t really suffer anyone.
Now that he’s in his first competitive reelection campaign in 28 years, fending off justifiable questions over his role in the collapse of the housing market and a candidate good at asking them, Frank has toned down his act. But as Barney 2.0 learns to say “Please’’ and “Thank you,’’ his longtime partner apparently hasn’t read the updated script.
That's when the column takes a bizarre turn, detailing how Frank called the writer back twice in succession to offer different clarifications and excuses for his partner's boorish behavior:
When I called Frank yesterday to ask if he condones his partner goading and mocking an opponent, he told me that “Jimmy’’ is a talented amateur photographer putting together a photo essay of the campaign.
When I asked if Frank planned to apologize for Ready’s behavior, Frank said: “Jim should have broken it off and not responded. But Bielat shouldn’t have initiated the conversation. I don’t see what was inappropriate about taking his picture.’’
I’ll mark that down as a no.
A few moments later, my phone rang again. It was Frank, adding, “Jim’s new to political campaigning. He takes it more personally than someone who’s used to it.’’
After we hung up, Frank called again, saying, “You know, he calls me dude. I didn’t realize that was troubling people. He calls all sorts of people dude.’’
There’s a larger point to all of this. For the last three decades, the political establishments in Boston and Washington have excused Frank’s consistently obnoxious behavior as Barney being Barney. Maybe they’ve done it because he was unique as an openly gay congressman. Maybe it was out of deference for the way he unapologetically and effectively carried the flag for the most liberal of causes. Maybe it was out of fear that he’d train his quick wit and substantial intellect against anyone who happened in his path.
But now voters are looking to D.C. and wondering what has gone wrong in a city and a system that is having such a hard time getting things right. The same character flaws that were forgiven in good times might wear thin when times are tough.
This race is far too entertaining to observe from afar. I'm heading to Massachusetts tomorrow and will meet with Team Bielat over the weekend as part of Townhall's ongoing "ON THE ROAD" series.