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  1. #1
    countybear's Avatar
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    Barney Rubble Franks... speaks.

    GQ Blog on men.style.com

    A June, 2009 interview from GQ blogger, with comments added by poster (me); in blue

    Part 1:
    The Chairman Speaks

    Barney Frank on how we got into this mess, what he thinks of Arlen Specter, and the difference between secrecy and hypocrisy

    By Lisa DePaulo

    He’s not a small-talk kind of guy. There’s not even a hello or a handshake when I walk in. There is no acknowledgment of any kind. He’s at his desk, shuffling through papers, doesn’t even look up. I stand there a while, foolishly, then take a seat in front of his desk. Still nothing. He takes a call, hangs up. Doesn’t look up once to make eye contact. I wait.
    Barney Frank has been plugging away in Congress for more than a quarter century now, fighting the good fight through “too many” Republican administrations. He was the first congressman to come out of the closet (voluntarily), in 1987, and two years later was publicly humiliated by a sex scandal (remember that live-in hustler?) that nearly ruined him. These days he’s chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, and he’s dealing, every day, with an epidemic of foreclosures and simmering rage over executive compensation and regulation-averse senators. So his brusqueness is well earned. We meet with him just before the credit-card reform bill he sponsored became law—consumer protection is one of the many causes he’s fought for for years—to talk about his agenda, his relationship with Barack Obama, Arlen Specter’s defection, and his much (much) younger boyfriend. But first he needs to look up from his desk.
    Take your time.
    [Takes another call.] Let me get back to you. I’ll call you back. [Hangs up. Takes another call, this time from his secretary.] Who is Mr. Mueller? Okay, yeah. I’m just too busy to get involved in that. [Hangs up. A few more seconds pass, some rearranging of paper, and then, finally, he looks up.] Okay, please go ahead.

    So I guess you have a lot going on right now.

    I was just asking one of your staffers what was on the agenda for you this week—
    A very big week. We will be voting on a bill to reform the granting of subprime mortgages, where there’s been a major Democrat and Republican fight. Um, it’s really the single biggest cause of the financial crisis: mortgages going to people who shouldn’t have them. We’ve been trying to stop that.

    Really Senator? Seemingly you have forgotten your romantic relationship with the former Fannie Mae executive Herb Moses, wherein you accepted tens of thousands of donations from this very same purveyor of sub-prime mortgages you now claim were championed by the Republicans...

    The Washington Post reported Frank, who is openly gay, had a relationship with Herb Moses, an executive for the now-government controlled Fannie Mae. The column revealed the two had split up at the time but also said Frank was referring to Moses as his “spouse.” Another Washington Post report said Frank called Moses his “lover” and that the two were “still friends” after the breakup.

    In fact, the Democratic party (led at that time by the likes of Bill Clinton), actually kicked the door in on subprime lending by modifying the Community Reinvestment Act in 1995, (original act: circa 1978, signed and championed by Jimmy Carter), and through financial strong-arm tactics literally forced major lenders to break through creditworthiness standards and lend the subprime market heavily...

    Quoting Jeff Poor, of the Business and Media Institute:

    However, on Sept. 17, 2008, former Bush administration Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove elaborated on the Bush administration’s efforts to curb abuses at the two GSEs in 2003. He told Fox News’ “Hannity & Colmes” that Frank was among the most aggressive opponents of White House attempts to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

    Frank was and remains a stalwart defender of Fannie Mae, which is now under FBI investigation along with its sister organization Freddie Mac, American International Group Inc. (NYSE:AIG) and Lehman Brothers (NYSE:LEH) – all recently participants in government bailouts. But Frank has derailed efforts to regulate the institution, as well as denying it posed any financial risk. Frank’s office has been unresponsive to efforts by the Business & Media Institute to comment on these potential conflicts of interest.

    While the relationship reportedly ended 10 years ago, Frank was serving on the House Banking Committee the entire 10 years they were together. The committee is the primary House body which along with the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) has jurisdiction over the government-sponsored enterprises.
    Stop it or undo it?
    Undoing it and stopping it are two separate things. The easier thing to do conceptually is to stop it from going forward and having it happen again. As to trying to diminish the number of foreclosures, there are programs to do that, but that’s tougher, because once people have made contracts, you can’t just change it. We are trying to get the bankruptcy law changed. That would be the biggest single thing. But the Senate has not yet gone along with that.

    Bankruptcy law changed, Senator? Again? In 2005, a bill authored by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of IA was signed into law, closing many bankruptcy loopholes that existed and ending long-standing abuse of the Bankruptcy laws in the U.S., this of course, was a bill that you voted against. ( http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2005/roll108.xml )

    Ironically, the Republicans, some of them, have said, “Oh, you Democrats, you made us give them to poor people, and that’s what caused the trouble.” The answer is no, we have been trying to put some rules in place to stop this, and we tried when we were the minority. Didn’t work. When we got into the majority in 2007, we passed a bill to stop it, but it got bogged in the Senate. It was a partisan thing.

    No, sir... it was 2005 when Senator McCain attempted to clamp down on what was seen to be a growing problem with the mortgage system and impending economic doom, but you and your cronies blocked it:

    (Dated 07-17-2008) Over a year ago, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson refused to push for reforms of fraud-ridden government-backed mortgage giant Fannie Mae, even though colleagues in the Bush Administration had long been advocating them. Why? Because he thought it would look “political” and offend powerful liberal Senators like Charles Schumer and Chris Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank, who have long blocked any reform of Fannie Mae. Fannie Mae has long been managed by liberal power brokers, who engaged in a massive accounting scandal. Now, a federal bailout of it is being planned.

    (LibertyWeek 29: The Mother-in-Law of All Debts|OpenMarket.org
    So now we’re trying again this year. And with a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate, we think we can get it done.


    When you look at this mess, how do you see it ending?
    I think…As a national economic crisis, I think by the end of this year it winds down. A lot of people are still gonna be hurt, people who’ve lost their homes and lost value. And how it ends is, housing prices go down; people begin to buy the houses which have now become so cheap—and the interest rates are so low—that it starts to go back up again that way.

    Really Senator? With a trillion invented dollars flooding the market, the dollar's real value intrinsically plummets, does it not?

    But what about people who are selling too cheap and losing all their money?
    Well, I said some people are gonna get hurt. I just said that. The number one thing that has to be done is to try to reduce the foreclosures. That’s the single biggest thing.

    This commentary rings with visions of Bill Clinton crying on national television and saying "I feel your pain...". Perhaps Barney is deeply concerned, and sincerely wants to reduce the foreclosures... with still more bailouts?

    "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money."
    - Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

    Tell me not, Sweet, I am unkind,
    That from the nunnery
    Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind
    To war and arms I fly.
    - Lovelace

    The opinions expressed by this poster are wholly his own, and should never be construed to even remotely be in representation of his employer, its agencies or assigns. In fact, they probably fail to be in alignment with the opinions of any rational human being.

  2. #2
    countybear's Avatar
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    Part 2:

    Did you read Paul Krugman today?
    Not yet.

    He was writing about how the pay on Wall Street is back up, the bonuses are back up. How is that happening?
    Well, itís about the free-enterprise system, and thatís the way America has always worked. In 2006, I tried to deal with that, and the Republicans said no. We passed a bill on it in 2007; it didnít pass in the Senate. But thatís free enterprise. People are gonna make as much money as they can unless thereís a rule that says they canít.

    Interesting that your net worth hasn't suffered...

    Except thatóas Krugman pointed out today, which was interestingóitís one thing when itís free enterprise, but itís quite another whenó
    No, youíre asking me to justify it. Iím not justifying it.

    No, Iím notó
    Please. I have to have one rule: If you want me to explain something, and if youíre gonna assume that when I explain it I support it, then I canít explain it to you.

    Oh no, I donít at all.
    Well, your questionó

    Iím just angry about it, I guessÖ
    The rules are, you can pay as much as you want. Now we have put some restrictions on the compensation. We want to put some more on. Again, the House passed a bill thatís pending in the Senate to do this. Going forward, I want to pass legislation that will do two things. First of all, the shareholders get to vote on whether they like the pay package. It wouldnít be binding, but I donít think many companies would reject what the shareholders said if they thought it was too high. Secondly, we have to have rulesóand this is the worst part of it: Itís not just that they make too much money, but the incentive structure is wrong. If you are one of these top people and you make a gamble with the companyís money and it pays off, you get extra money. But if you make a gamble with the companyís money and the company loses money, you donít lose any money. Heads you win, tails you break even. Well, if I told you that if you took a risk and if it paid off, you would get money, but if it failed you wouldnít lose anything, what would you do? Take another risk. So weíre gonna have to put rules in to stop that.

    Indeed, sir.. we simply cannot tolerate people being too successful, can we?

    Do you feel optimistic about that, though?

    Whatís going to be the hardest fight?
    I think gettingÖThe hardest, most important thing is getting the authority in the federal government to say that nobody can take so much risk with so little capital to back it up that they become a threat to the whole system.

    Isn't that the entire causation behind 'the mortgage bubble' bursting? Isn't that also what your voting record and actions in Congress has actually supported and enabled over the past ten years or so??

    So that no one can be in the position of Lehman Brothers or AIG, where they canít meet their obligations and we have two bad choices: either we let them go bust and it has terrible consequences for everybody else, like Lehman Brothers, or we have to bail out their creditors.

    Ah, again with the bailouts... the government as an answer to everything. Thus sums up the entire platform of you and your constituents: Inflate government to the point of intrustion into the private sector, blame others in government for the problem, then tout government as the only reasonable cure for the illnesses caused by the consequences of government intervention. The result? More government intervention, more profit for you and your supporters, and increased government power over the people. The problem is, Mr. Frank, the government's resources are leeched from its people to begin with. You aren't playing with the 'government's' money, you are siphoning ours.

    How much does Bill Clinton deserve blame foró
    Oh, very little. The bad loans, subprime loans, are the cause of this. [Pulls out a chart.] This is a chart as to what percentage of overall loans were subprime loans that went bad. Of the loans that went bad, what percentage were subprime loans? Look at that chart. Look when it starts to spike. [It starts to spike in 2003.] And here, this one too. [He pulls out another chart.] Loans in foreclosure by type. Theyíre all together, and then the subprimesó

    Start to spike in 2003.
    We gotta make our argument to the Republicans. Many of us wanted to build affordable rental housing for low-income people. They said, ďOh, rental housing is not good; itís bad for peopleís spirits. We want them to become homeowners.Ē So the Bush administration pushed hard to make people homeowners, and that was the result.

    Oh, really? Referring back to the ill-fated attempt by McCain's bill to clamp down on your then-boyfriend's Fannie Mae, you fought like hell to derail any attempt to shut down the sub-prime market bleed...

    When you look back at decisions you made regarding banking and regulation, what would you do differently?
    I would have pressed harder for regulation of hedge funds and other things. We tried. But the whole Senate was against us. And, uh, we did try hard on subprime. We got shut down. I guess regulating hedge funds, derivatives, I backed off too easy because of the opposition. I donít think we would have succeeded, but we should have pushed harder.

    You wouldn't be telling us a... (dare I say it?) LIE, would you Senator?

    You donít think you could have succeeded?
    No. Senate members overwhelmingly donít regulate, as recently as two and a half years ago. I became the chairman of the committee in waiting in 2006, and overwhelmingly I was told by people, ďOh, you gotta deregulate, you gotta relax, youíre driving business overseas.Ē I wanted to regulate hedge funds. Make them register with the Securities and Exchange Commission. A lot of Democrats said, ďOh, donít! Jeez, if you file that out and take a position, please donít make me do that. You canít win anyway.Ē So I dropped it. I should have pushed harder.

    At the end of the day, how much treasury money do you think is going to be spent fixing, bailing outó
    Not nearly as much as you may think. [pause] Much less than the 700 billion we put out. Weíll get most of that back.

    Will you, really? My question is... when will the American people (who really foot this bill) see a return on their investment?

    Thatís good news if thatís true.
    Letís put it this way: much, much, much, much less than the war in Iraq. See, it troubles me when people talk about all this deficit spending. The biggest single thing that added to the deficit was the war in Iraq, which I thought was a bad mistake as a war anyway. That cost us a trillion dollars.

    As of June 24th, 2009, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost us $915 Billion. Please check your math, as thus far, financial market bailouts and stimulus has topped $2.56 Trillion. Given latest census figures, that's about $24,269 per American household. But, then again.. numbers have become meaningless now, haven't they?

    What is your relationship with the president?
    Oh, very good. Because I think heís very smart and able, and I am in a position where we work closely. Heís got three major domestic objectives: health care, global warming, and financial regulation. And by my committee chairmanship, Iím in one of those. [Points to a picture on the wall of him, Obama, and another guy.]

    I'll comment on this as soon as I finish vomiting...

    Nice picture.
    Thatís my boyfriend on the end.

    Oh, is thatóhis name is Jim?

    Heís handsome.

    A lot younger than you.
    Thirty years.

    Trophy wife?

    Do you want to marry him?
    I wonít talk about that in public.

    Omitted the further talk about Frank's sexuality and 'outing' himself in 1987. Honestly, its fluff.

    Do you think youíd have survived your scandal today?
    I donít know. Dave Vitter seems to be surviving.

    Deflection is the sincerest form of flattery...

    But has it gotten nastier out there?
    It has. The mediaís gotten more aggressive, and the partisanship has increased. One of the things that happened was Newt Gingrich came to town, and Newt explicitly and specifically said, Look, this is nonsense about weíre friends. We are enemies. He specifically said, It is a mistake to say that the Democrats are honorable people with whom we disagree. They are traitors. They are corrupt. They are immoral. And things clearly deteriorated, didnít they?

    Truth has a way of shedding light on differences...

    Is there such a thing as bipartisanship? Can it work?
    Oh, sure. It does a lot of times. You guys just donít pay attention to it when it does. A lot of what we do is bipartisan. I think bipartisanship means you recognize the differences. You are together with the people with whom you agree, but you donít let the legitimate differences poison your ability to work together when there are no differences. And by the way, look, it was the Bush administrationóHank Paulson and Ben Bernankeówho came to the Democratic Congress last year and said, The economy is about to fall apart. We need you to help us.

    After fighting tooth and nail to stop the downward spiral, and being confounded at every turn, republicans finally walked over and dropped the ball on the democrat's lap. "You made this mess, you fix it." What is sadly amusing though, is that in this context, you, Senator Frank, take -0- responsibility for being the very driving force behind the rudimentary causes of economic failure, when in fact, you and your constituents laid the tracks, greased them, designed the engine, then pushed the bullet train into financial oblivion.

    In 1991, Frank and former Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Mass., lobbied for Fannie to soften rules on multi-family home mortgages although those dwellings showed a default rate twice that of single-family homes, according to the Nov. 22, 1991, Boston Globe.
    Do you see any danger in one-party rule?
    Nope. Not necessarily. And first of all, for the Republicans to claim that is totally hypocritical, since it didnít bother them when it was themóNo, I think thereís more danger in having nobody in charge and nobody to be held responsible. I donít think the New Deal was a bad period in American history, and that was the Democrats in charge.

    Tell the truth Senator... you don't see a problem with it as long as its your party.

    But when you put yourself back in 2002, when Republicans ruled the world, you didnít think that was very healthy.
    No, but it wasnít healthy because I disagree with their policies. I never argued that there was something inherently wrong with people winning elections.

    "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money."
    - Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

    Tell me not, Sweet, I am unkind,
    That from the nunnery
    Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind
    To war and arms I fly.
    - Lovelace

    The opinions expressed by this poster are wholly his own, and should never be construed to even remotely be in representation of his employer, its agencies or assigns. In fact, they probably fail to be in alignment with the opinions of any rational human being.

  3. #3
    countybear's Avatar
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    Part 3:

    What’s your relationship like with Larry Summers?
    Pretty good. I’ve known him for a long time.

    Is it unfair that people call him arrogant?
    No. It’s not unfair that people call me arrogant. We’re both arrogant.

    Look, arrogance is kind of a trait—I will say this about Larry and hope I’d say it about myself: There’s kind of a predisposition to be a little brusque with people. But I don’t think it has interfered with his ability to listen and be flexible. I don’t think it’s a dysfunctional trait.

    When you look at him and Geithner, are they less beholden to Wall Street than the Bush guys were?
    Oh, sure.

    Surely as a former President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and serving on the G30, he wouldn't be beholden to Wall Street... nope... not at all.

    Because they work for Obama. There’s no such thing as Summers and Geithner; there’s Obama. They are extensions of him. And he is much less—not beholden to Wall Street, philosophically in tune with them. George Bush was in tune with “Don’t regulate.” Barack Obama is not. It’s a big philosophical difference.

    True statement here (perhaps the only one not relating to sexual preference)... Obama is in tune with "regulate"...

    What’s Bush’s legacy going to be?
    It’s a sad one. It’s a huge deficit and a devaluing of our ability to come together as a people and solve problems. And the financial crisis—this is their deregulation.

    Where do you think the GOP is right now?
    Floundering badly. I think what you have is, the dominant voice right now is a very conservative voice that doesn’t really have a significant following in the country as a whole. Dick Cheney is announcing that Rush Limbaugh is a much better Republican than Colin Powell. Well, that sounds like something the Democrats would want to say.

    In your ever-so-humble opinion, Mr. Frank, however I wouldn't scoff at Mr. Limbaugh's following of over 20 million listeners weekly. Perhaps the Republican "flounder" is caused by many Neo-republicans fighting to bring the party to the middle or left, while its staunchest supporter base is actually right-wing, and damn well proud of it. Then again, its all a matter of perception, Senator, isn't it?

    Let’s talk about Arlen Specter.
    What about him?

    I’m curious what you think about his decision.
    Well, as a Democrat, I’m glad to have him. But as an elected official, I have to say I don’t think he did our profession any good. First of all, to announce that it was done purely so he could survive. Secondly, his performance since then has been very disappointing. In particular, what troubled me was when he was quoted as saying, “Well…” In terms of no Jewish Republicans, the answer should have been, Who cares? That’s not a relevant issue. But then, when he said, Oh, but I’m confident the courts in Minnesota will do justice to Norm Coleman, and then said, Oh, I forgot which side I’m on!—forget about forgetting which side he’s on. What that says is, his view of what the law should be depends on what party he’s in. This notion that your view of what’s an appropriate legal decision depends on your party is shocking for a guy who’s supposed to be this great lawyer.

    What do you think it’s going to be like having him on your side?
    Well, so far, look, it’ll mean he’ll vote with the Democrats more often. But there’s an erratic behavior pattern there that’s very troubling. I think at this point it’s entirely reasonable for some Democrats to think about challenging him.

    Perhaps if Specter were to come out of the closet, this 'cool' welcome would be warmer...

    Omitted the Pelosi torture talk... its drivol.

    There’s a new movie out called Outrage, about closeted politicians. Do you still adhere to Barney Frank’s Rule about outing?
    Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I wouldn’t do it myself, but I think people who are hypocrites…The way I put it is, there’s a right to privacy but not to hypocrisy. Sarah Brady—you know who she is?

    Yeah, James Brady’s wife—
    Suppose you found out that she owned an Uzi. Would you think that should be public?

    Same point. Or if a leading antiabortion person had a family member with an abortion. Or vice versa, or if a Democrat’s a tax evader. It’s hypocrisy.

    Tax evaders? Democrats? Perish the thought!!

    Well, it sounds like the number one hypocrite in this movie is Charlie Crist.
    I haven’t seen it, so I don’t know. I will say, without commenting on Crist, he has been much less antigay guy than a lot of others. So if it’s…You know, I differentiate between secrecy and hypocrisy. I think it becomes a problem when you’re a hypocrite and you’re a gay-basher.

    When is it inappropriate to out someone?
    If they’re not being antigay themselves. I think people have a right to privacy. But I don’t think you have a right to engage in an activity yourself and then try to make other people’s lives miserable for engaging in it. There’s no philosophical justification for that.

    But you’ve seen hypocrisy among Democratic candidates that are closeted.
    Not hypocrisy.

    Closeted ones? There’s a few.
    Hypocrisy means that they’re antigay. You’re confusing secrecy and hypocrisy. Sure there are closeted Democrats. There are closeted Republicans. What we’re outing is hypocrisy. I want to go after their hypocrisy, not their privacy.

    But aren’t closeted Democrats in a sense being hypocritical to what the party stands for?
    No. Look, the party doesn’t stand for everybody announcing his or her personal sexual orientation. The party stands for public policies that say you don’t discriminate.

    But in an ideal world, it would be nice if everybody just came out.
    Yes, but that doesn’t make you hypocritical. I’m a great believer in using words very specifically.

    I see that. Do you ever feel, Gee, I hope one of these years I never have to talk about gay issues in an interview?
    Yeah, but not because I mind talking about them. Someday they’re not gonna be issues anymore. But I would like to not have to talk about it, because I would like no 15-year-old to go through what I went through.

    Did you ever, after what Dick Armey said about you [he called him “Barney Fag”]—did you ever talk to him or make up with him?
    Yes, he tried to tell me it was a slip of the tongue, and I said nonsense.

    Would that happen today?

    So what’s Jimmy like?
    Oh, he’s wonderful. He’s open and fresh. He was never in politics.

    And he surfs, right?
    He surfs all year round. He surfs in Maine in a wet suit. And he’s, uh, you know, he’s very caring. It’s nice to have somebody worry about you that way.

    Trophy wife is a surfer boy... how sweet. I suppose being a surfer is better than running a gay brothel out of a Senator's apartment, like his former boyfriend did.

    Omitted more talk of Senator Frank's sexuality... really... enough is enough.

    So—[Phone rings.] That’s Jimmy. [Picks it up.] Hey, I’m just talking about you…Yes, to GQ…And the interviewer thinks you’re handsome.

    “Very,” she just said….“Very,” yes….[Cups phone.] He said, “Wow.” [Huge smile.] .…What? Yeah, she saw the picture of the three of us….The one on the couch of me, you, and the president….Yeah, the one up on the couch….Where are you?...All right. Well, lemme call you back, so I can finish my interview….When you’re home? I will, okay….All right, okay…. [Hangs up.] He says thank you.

    (Projectile vomiting)

    lisa depaulo is a gq correspondent.

    June 08, 2009
    So, after all this, I must ask... What planet have you spent the majority of your time living on, Mr. Frank?

    "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money."
    - Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

    Tell me not, Sweet, I am unkind,
    That from the nunnery
    Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind
    To war and arms I fly.
    - Lovelace

    The opinions expressed by this poster are wholly his own, and should never be construed to even remotely be in representation of his employer, its agencies or assigns. In fact, they probably fail to be in alignment with the opinions of any rational human being.



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