If you thought Congressman Barney Frank was outspoken during his 32-year, 16-term tenure, you haven’t heard anything yet.
Frank provided a no-holds-barred commentary on American politics at a public discussion co-sponsored by the Ford Hall Forum at Suffolk University and the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service at Suffolk Law School.
More than 300 people gathered at the early-morning event to hear Frank chat with WGBH’s Callie Crossley.
According to Frank, there is only one word necessary to describe the current state of Democracy in America: Dysfunctional. During his 90-minute conversation with Crossley, he provided several colorful examples of dysfunction including the rise of the Tea Party, the economic crisis, health care reform, education, and the war in Afghanistan.
Here are some of the highlights of Frank’s commentary:
Frank’s opinion on the transition to dysfunction in America
"The left and the right are so angry at each other, they cannot find consensus. The differences between the sectors have become so embittering that there is little room for compromise."
On the rise of the Tea Party
"Republicans decided that they would never become the majority by discussing policy and honest difference of opinion. They had to show that all Democrats are corrupt, immoral, and treasonous. This degree of anger led to the election of an extreme group of people."
On Super PACs
"Flooding political campaigns with money erases the concept of 'one person = one vote.'"
On public outrage
Frank believes that public outrage is not deeply rooted in American history. It began because there was a much deeper recession than anyone expected.
“People lost their jobs and lost their homes,” he said. “The financial crisis literally hit people where they live. At the same time, banks were rewarding their CEOs with huge bonuses.”
Regarding health care reform
"Was anyone in America disadvantaged by the health care bill? Where is the harm? Even Senator Brown, who opposed the bill, admits that his 24-year-old daughter benefits from it."
On Richard Grenell, Mitt Romney’s adviser on foreign policy
"Ric was hired to be a foreign policy guy. Romney’s people said ‘give us your advice but lay low.’ What they were really saying to him was – ‘Rosa, just ride a few more miles in the back of the bus.’
"Gays and lesbians don’t discuss sexuality anymore than straight people do. When we discuss it, it is called coming out. When straight people discuss it, it is called Talking."
How did these damn politicians get into office?
"When the public doesn’t like a politician’s actions, I think, no one parachuted into the chamber through the dome. My question is . . . why did you vote them in?"
Stay tuned for more -- Frank will be back at Suffolk as commencement speaker at the College of Arts and Science graduation on Saturday, May 19.
Barney Frank represents the Fourth Congressional District of Massachusetts and is the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee. He helped pass the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, a law that modified the nation's financial regulatory system in the wake of the financial crisis. Frank began his career in the Massachusetts Legislature, where he served for eight years before winning a seat in the U.S. Congress in 1980. He is widely recognized for his work on national issues, yet Frank also has been attentive to his constituents, making gains for New Bedford fishermen, fighting to bring commuter rail to the Southcoast region, providing affordable rental housing, and supporting many local organizations and businesses. In 2011, he announced that he would not be seeking reelection after his current term.