Harrumph!

FROM THE ARCHIVE: For our cover in January 2009, The Advocate interviewed Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, who announced his retirement today, and found he doesn’t suffer fools, tolerate tardiness, or think much of gay rights rallies. Meet Frank and his boyfriend in this profile.

BY Benoit Denizet-Lewis

December 03 2008 1:00 AM ET

Congressman Barney Frank smaller (Getty) | Advocate.com 

At the democratic party in Brookline, organizers hoping Frank will speak to the faithful have to pull him away from a television tuned to CNN. The cable network has just called New Hampshire for Obama, and there is little doubt that he is headed for a resounding and historic victory. Frank’s main concern now -- other than his own race, which he doesn’t seem too worried about -- is how many seats Democrats will pick up in the House and Senate.

“It’s looking really good,” he tells me as an elderly woman with Obama earrings grabs his hands and shouts, “Barney, I voted for you three times today -- as all my dead relatives!”

As the crowd of happy (and increasingly tipsy) Democrats hoot and holler in the main meeting room, Frank barrels into a brief speech. “I’ve had situations where the audience was more interested in something else than what I had to say,” he begins. “But this is the first time I’ve been more interested in something else than what I’ve had to say! So this is going to be pretty quick. But it is clear that we are winning big, and we are winning big on the issues. We’re winning big because this right-wing philosophy that the government was the enemy and that the private sector could do it all by itself, that we didn’t need regulation and that there would automatically be fairness in income for everybody, has been thoroughly repudiated by reality. I believe we are going to see the most significant improvements in public policy, in the direction of fairness and quality of life, in ending discrimination, in regulation and environmental protection, and in a decent foreign policy, the biggest change since Franklin Roosevelt came and repudiated Harding and Coolidge and Hoover. We are now repudiating Reagan and Bush and Bush.”

Next, it’s off to a John Kerry–sponsored election party at a Boston hotel, where Frank -- who is tired but running on Election Night adrenaline -- gets word that he’s easily defeated his Republican challenger. (Almost as an afterthought, he’d called the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to find out.) Frank breaks the news to us matter-of-factly, but his long embrace with Ready suggests relief. “You know, when people lie about you, it’s nice to get a chance to refute those [lies] and have people believe in you,” he tells a reporter calling for comment.

“What percentage did you get?” Morin wants to know as we drive back to Frank’s apartment after spending an hour watching election returns at Kerry’s party. “Are you at 72? You owe me a glass of red wine if you’re at 72!” (Frank ends up at 68%.) A few minutes away from Frank’s place in Newton, we learn that the networks have called the election for Obama.

“This is American history being made,” Frank tells us, tired but clearly ecstatic. “This is much bigger than Bill Clinton’s win. Clinton kind of ran promising to be a better conservative than conservatives. This is big. This is the country telling Republicans, ‘You know what? You guys are full of shit.’ ”

In the parking lot of his apartment complex, Frank thanks everyone for a long day’s work and then tries unsuccessfully to open the Jeep’s back door, which Morin is slow to unlock from the front seat. Temporarily trapped, Frank quickly loses his patience. “Steve, can I get out of the car, please?”

With Frank safely out, Morin chuckles. “Now that’s the Barney I know and love.”

Tags: Politics

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