Is he the U.S. military’s worst nightmare? Imagine, a radical homosexual with his hands on the military’s purse strings.
It’s hard to believe that after 15 years of repressive, misguided military policy (“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”), which stigmatized and prevented gay men and lesbians from serving honestly and openly in our country’s Armed Forces, the military’s budget is currently being presided over by an openly gay man – chairman of the Committee on Financial Services, U.S. Democratic Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusett’s 4th Congressional District.
In Jeffrey Toobin’s recent New Yorker article, when discussing the political future of gay rights with the Congressman, Frank is quoted as saying, “We’re going to do three things in Congress. First, a hate-crimes bill – that shouldn’t be too hard. Next, employment discrimination. We almost got that through before, but now we can win even if we add transgender protections, which we are going to do. And finally, after the troops get home from Iraq, gays in the military. The time has come. Guess who has their hands on the U.S. military’s purse strings? An accused radical homosexual!”
And, you’ve probably seen him on TV; more now than at anytime in the past 28 years he has served in the House of Representatives. Barney is “a good ol’ 69 year-old Jewish boy” whose demeanor and look belies the stereotypical images of today’s gay men. Elegant, sensitive, or fancy he’s not; nor even rugged. No airs, despite his first name really being “Barnett.” He’s just a regular-looking, working-class kind of guy. You probably wouldn’t even notice him if you and he were alone in an elevator. Even when he opens his mouth, which in recent weeks has become more frequent, his voice doesn’t smack of sniffy liberalism or the studied sound of correctness brought on by his Harvard College education or the twang/brogue of his many years in Massachusett’s politics. (Frank was actually born in New Jersey.) In fact, Toobin claims, Barney’s speaking voice is “a barely comprehensible mumble.”
Mumbling? Maybe. But, when Barney mumbles, everyone listens. And, in addition, he’s definitely witty and funny. Earlier this year, when President Obama was being pressed for comments about U.S. international relations and – before being inaugurated and George Bush was a lame-duck – insisting, “that we have only one President at a time,” it was Frank who quipped, “…Obama overstates the number of Presidents we have.”[ad#go-daddy-468×60]
Toobin’s article entitled “Barney Frank: The Story of America’s Only Left-Handed, Gay, Jewish Congressman,” observes, “Of the four hundred and thirty-five members of the House of Representatives, Barney Frank is the only one whose public remarks have been collected…in an account of his life…to be published by the University of Massachusetts Press…he is described as ‘arguably the most unique and fascinating, certainly the most entertaining political figure in Washington.’” (For those looking for traits leading to being gay, Frank’s left-handedness gives additional support to studies which show that male homosexuals are one third more likely than heterosexuals to be left-handed, while lesbians are almost twice as likely to be left-handed as heterosexual women. Hmmm…Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are all left handed but, despite the study, are probably not gay. Or even Jewish!)
A lot of hoopla over a man who as recently as the 2006 election was being vilified by the Republican right-wing in some local Congressional races. For instance, in 2006 in Indiana’s 8th Congressional District. GOP Rep. John Hostettler, was falling behind in his race against challenger Vanderburgh County Sheriff Democrat Brad Ellsworth. Hostettler, resorting to the GOP’s tried and true strategy of fear and smear, launched radio ads claiming that electing Ellsworth would allow “Speaker Pelosi (to) put in motion her radical plan to advance the homosexual agenda, led by Barney Frank, reprimanded by the House after paying for sex with a man who ran a gay brothel out of Congressman Frank’s home.” The good folks of Indiana’s 8th Congressional District, including ardent evangelical supporters of Hostettler, didn’t bite and the demonizing of Frank and gay men didn’t work. Ellsworth won. In 1995, then-Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey referred to Frank as “Barney Fag.” Armey apologized and said it was “a slip of the tongue”. Frank did not accept Armey’s explanation, saying “I turned to my own expert, my mother, who reports that in 59 years of marriage, no one ever introduced her as Elsie Fag.”
Frank has weighed in on California’s Prop 8. Along with others, including Senator Diane Fienstein, he feels that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom forced same-sex marriage onto the national stage by declaring that the City of San Francisco had the right to marry same-sex couples. This in defiance of state law. Barney thought that the timing was not right saying that he hopes people take a pragmatic, strategic approach to gay marriage. “There’s a danger of using tactics that can advance you in the short term but hurt the long-term goal of marriage equality. The most important thing we can do is change the minds of people who voted against us. We know that many African-Americans in California were given blatantly false information about us. We didn’t refute that effectively, and we’re paying the price, because they voted disproportionally against us. I’m already talking to a lot of prominent African-American leaders about what we can do to change that. Thousands of people rallying on the Boston Common don’t get African-Americans to change their votes in California.”
Jeffrey Toobin quotes Barney’s sister Ann Lewis, a long-time Democratic activist, “For Barney, the question has always been: What works? What can government do to see that people have the decent necessities of life? Now he’s right there. Barney’s been preparing for this moment for his entire life.”