Reflections On: Meeting Barney Frank, and Sean Patrick Maloney


With Congressman Barney Frank at the JFK  Jr. Forum’s 2015 Glauber Lecture, “The Importance of Being Dispensable: Downsizing Our Global Ambition.”

The first time I met Congressman Barney Frank was at an event for the Ready for Hillary PAC in downtown Boston in April 2014, which was also attended by Senator Marc Pacheco. I was very glad to have finally met him after hearing about him for so long through the media over, and over, and over again. Barney Frank has a very long political history, a lot of which are worth noting.

Born in New Jersey, his family was Jewish with grandparents immigrating from Poland and Russia (much like my own). He was educated at Harvard College, residing in Matthews Hall during Freshman year, before Kirkland and Winthrop Houses, graduating in 1972. In 1964, he was a volunteer for Freedom Summer. While studying for a PhD in government, he taught undergraduates, though he left before having completing the degree. He had been offered to become Mayor Kevin White’s Administrative Assistant, and took the job, which he did for three years, then served as Administrative Assistant to Congressman Michael J. Harrington of the 6th Congressional District. He later went to Harvard Law School in 1977, where he notably was a student of Henry Kissinger.


In 1971, he decided to run for the 8th Suffolk House district, having strong local ties with Boston’s Ward 5 Democratic Committee, running in favor of United States Senator, and Presidential candidate, George McGovern. He won and served in the Massachusetts General Court for eight years, alongside Speakers David Bartley and Thomas W. McGee, the father of the Massachusetts Democrats Party Chairman and State Senator of the Third Essex District, Thomas M. McGee.

Some others he served with in the Massachusetts House of Representatives with him at the time include current Secretary of State Bill Galvin, former State Representative Saundra Graham of Cambridge, former Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman (2000-2007) and Secretary of Health and Human Services in Governor Michael Dukakis’ Administration, Philip Johnston, current Congressman Bill Keating, activist Mel King, Representative Elizabeth Metayer, and Representative Ted Speliotis.

In 1980, he decided to run for the 4th Congressional District that was then held by Father Robert Drinan for ten years, a Jesuit priest, after Pope John Paul II called for priests to withdraw from political positions.


Archbishop of Boston, Humberto Sousa Mederios, later created Cardinal Medeiros on March 5th, 1973 to succeed Cardinal Cushing.

During the campaign, the Archbishop of Boston, Humberto Sousa Medeiros issued a warning Roman Catholic voters against candidates who support legal abortions (known for calling it “new barbarism“), aligning himself with the Moral Majority (Rev. Jerry Falwell) on this issue, and notably calling out Congressman James J. Shannon.



From the Boston Globe article, “Frank – on trail with Drinan” from September 1980.


However, Congressman Robert Drinan, and Senator Edward Kennedy both endorsed Frank to succeed Drinan for the Congressional seat. Drinan’s reason for going against the church’s wishes on this was pretty clear (The New York Times, “-99. Notes on People,” 1980):

“I’m the Congressman until Jan. 1. I’m committing political acts every day.”

He won the primary against Mayor Arthur J. Clark of Waltham, 33,652 to 29,339 votes, facing Republican Richard A. Jones in the general, and winning 54% to 49%.

In 1982, due to redistricting, he faced Republican Congresswoman Margaret Heckler, with the district retaining the “4th” number, but comprising an awful lot of geography from Heckler’s district. He focused initially on her support for President Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts, and defeated her with 60% of the vote.


From 1984 until 2008, he won re-election twelve times with at least 67% of the vote. In 2010, while running for his sixteenth term, public opinion had since shifted when he defeated Heckler in 1982. His opponent was Sean Bielat, a U. S. Marine veteran and businessman. He defeated Bialet after a very heavy battle, 54% to 43%.


In November 2011, he announced he would not seek re-election. Joe Kennedy III, the son of former US Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II and the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, launched an exploratory committee, and decided to make a run for the seat. Frank, notably endorsed him for this seat, roaming the district with him and hosting events, saying:

“He has campaigned as hard as it is possible for someone to campaign. He’s campaigned harder than I ever did. He would go door to do, he would doing things that I was, frankly they’re not fun and I wouldn’t do them. He was really almost leaning over backwards to show people that he wasn’t taking them for granted.”

Sean Bielat, the same candidate whom Frank had defeated in 2010, won the Republican Primary to face Kennedy in the general this time, but still lost to him taking 64% of the vote.

In 1987, Barney Frank came out of the closet, following a scandal, becoming the first congressman to do so, voluntarily. In 1998, he helped found the D.C.-affiliated group, National Stonewall Democrats, which went ‘on hiatus‘ on January 1st, 2013.


House Majority Leader Dick Armey (1995-2003), who had served under Speakers Newt Gingrich (1995-1999) and Dennis Hastert (1999-2007).

In 1995, Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey was caught having called Congressman Frank, “Barney Fag” as a ‘mispronounciation’ with the following:

Mr. Armey’s reference to Mr. Frank came during an interview yesterday morning with radio reporters who had asked how he was handling payment for a book he is writing, considering the controversy caused by the lucrative book deal negotiated by House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia.

Mr. Armey said he would give all his book proceeds to charity to avoid the kind of criticism Mr. Gingrich has encountered, some of which has come from Mr. Frank.

“Newt is always able to handle a harangue going on around him better than I am,” Mr. Armey said. “I like peace and quiet. And I don’t need to listen to Barney Fag (pause), Barney Frank, (emphasis on ‘Frank’) haranguing in my ear because I made a few bucks off a book I worked on. I just don’t want to listen to it.”

None of the reporters who took part in the interview remarked about the comment at the time. Some said they didn’t hear it until they listened to their tapes later.

According to The New York Times article, “No. 2 House Leader Refers to Colleague With Anti-Gay Slur,” Barney responded that:

“I don’t think it was on the tip of his tongue, but I do believe it was in the back of his mind,” Mr. Frank said. “There are a lot of ways to mispronounce my name. That is the least common.”

And also responding with:

“I rule out that it was an innocent mispronunciation,” said Barney Frank from his office this week, reflecting on the slur that shook the 104th Congress. “I turned to my own expert, my mother, who reports that in 59 years of marriage, no one ever introduced her as Elsie Fag.”

Armey did make an apology on the House Floor, stating:

“Mr. Speaker, this morning I mispronounced the name of my friend and colleague, Barney Frank, in a way that sounds like a slur. Let me make this absolutely clear, the media and others are reporting this as if it were intentional and it was not. I repeat, this was nothing more than the unintentional mispronunciation of another person’s name, that sounded like something that it was not. There is no room in public discourse for such hateful language, and I condemn the use of such slurs. After I heard about how the story was being covered, I called Congressman Frank and I told him of my stumbling over his name, and I apologized for the perception created by the press that I would even think of such terms. It was not an attack. It was not even a Freudian slip. I have worked with Congressman Frank in the past. I consider him a friend. I am disappointed that the media, and others, would take this incident, and turn it into a firestorm. A fire-storm. I take the strong exception to the airing of the tape, and even the transcribing of a stumbled word, as if it were an intentional personal attack. I take strong exception to the airing of the tape, and even the transcribing of a stumbled word, as if it were an intentional personal attack. I take strong exception to the airing of the tape, and even the transcribing of a stumbled word, as if it were an intentional personal attack. And I take this exception especially in light of the fact that I went to the press who had the tape, and explained to them, in the best humor I could, that I had simply mispronounced a name, and did not need any psychoanalysis about my subliminals, or about my Freudian predilections, especially from people who are obviously not trained in psychological analysis. With all of the issues the new Republican majority are bringing to the floor of this House, it is regrettable that an unintentional mispronunciation of a name, in a way that would be clearly offensive, had it been intentional, should shift the public debate away from issues like balancing the budget, cutting taxes, and reforming our failed welfare system. Can we not get back to real issues? Can not the press report real events?…”

Continuing the story, according to Barney Frank: The Story of America’s Only Left-handed, Gay, Jewish Congressman by Stuart E. Weisberg, Chapter Eighteen: The Most Hated Man in Gingrichdom, pages 414 and 415:

Barney believed, however, that Armey’s feeling the need to lie about the slur was a sign he considered it a bad thing to do. It showed how the political climate towards gays in this country had changed.

Steve Gunderson, a gay Republican from Wisconsin, defended the majority leader: “Dick Armey does not have a malicious bone in his body.” Barney responded, “He may not have a malicious bone in his body but he did have a malicious thought in his heart.”

The next day, in a previously scheduled speech to the Consortium for Psychotherapy in Boston, Barney discussed Armey’s claim that the slur was a mispronunciation. He told the audience of psychotherapists that the majority leader was straining credibility “by suggesting that professionally you could all be replaced by speech therapists.” He discussed his relationship with Armey and other bigoted legislators: “We have a rule around here that you aren’t suppose to take things personally, but I take personal things personally. I do not say, ‘Oh, well, that’s just politics’ when people make personal bigoted remarks.” Although Barney had worked with Armey in some areas before the “Barney Fag” incident, they did not have any kind of working relationship or personal dealings after it. However, when the Washington Post subsequently misidentified Armey as Barney Frank in a photo caption, Barney could not resist approaching Armey on the House floor and asking, “Which one of us is going to sue?”

In a letter to campaign contributors, Barney mentioned that the Democratic political consultant, James Carville had criticized Dick Armey for the “Barney Fag” utterance and in the process referred to him as “Barney Fife.” “Mr. Carville, who is a friend, explained that he obviously was thinking of The Andy Griffith Show when he referred to me in that way and he contrasted what I made him think about with what Mr. Armey thinks about when I am the subject,” Barney wrote, “I await the next variations of my name-Barney Google, Barney Rubble, or Barney the Dinosaur, depending on the generation of the speaker.” He pointed out the contributors, however, that “people have gotten my name right where it is most important-as the payee on the checks.”

As if to prove Barney Frank’s contention that Armey had said what he was thinking, five years later, as the Republican national convention in Philadelphia, at a late-right party with a small group of journalists, Armey made another disparaging, anti-gay remark about Barney. Humor columnist Dave Barry of the Miami Herald asked him whether he was Dick Armey. He replied, “Yes, I am Dick Armey, and if there was a dick army, Barney Frank would want to join up.”

“It’s a fairly gratuitous reference to my being gay pulled out of nowhere,” Barney commented at the time. “What kind of crude, silly, juvenile jibe is this for a national politician to be making?” He pointed out that the comment by Armey, one of the top leaders in the Republican party, was ironic in light of the message of tolerance and inclusiveness the Republican party tried to convey at their convention. “The problem is Dick Armey really represents the Republican party, not the show they had.” A reported as whether he was seeking an apology from Armey. “I’m trying to think of what I would be less interested in than an apology from Dick Armey-maybe the lyrics to the national anthem of Bhurtan,” he replied.

Barney had “refused to wholly accept Mr. Armey’s apology” on the “Barney Fag” incident.

In 1995 or 1996, during the debate on the Defense of Marriage Act, he explains how he handled it on the House Floor:

In a debate on the Defense of Marriage Act, I got on the floor and said, “I want to understand: How does the fact that I love another man hurt your marriage? What about my relations, voluntary relations with another guy in any way jeopardize your marriage?” I said, “I’ll yield to any member of the House who wants to explain to me how what I would do would hurt your marriage.”

And one guy got up, Steve Largent from Oklahoma, and he said, “Well, I’ll tell the gentleman this: No, it doesn’t hurt my marriage, it doesn’t hurt the marriage of other people here, but it hurts the institution of marriage.”

My response was: “Well, it doesn’t hurt any individual marriages, but despite that it somehow hurts the institution of marriage? That is an argument of someone who ought to be in an institution.” …

But to say he was strong supporter for same-sex marriage nationwide, would be exaggeration. According to PBS NewsHour‘s The Rundown article, “Why Barney Frank Took a Cautious Approach to Same-Sex Marriage“:

In 1996, it looks as if the Hawaii Supreme Court might declare in favor of same-sex marriage under the Hawaii Constitution. Ultimately, they didn’t do it. It was a tentative decision. It was overturned. But before that, many of the gay rights advocates made a serious strategic error. They announced that if Hawaii found for same-sex marriage, under the Constitution, every state would have to honor it. In the first place, that’s not good constitutional law. That’s never been what the full-faith-and- credit clause has meant. And secondly, it just created this firestorm.

That was the excuse the Republicans used to pass the Defense of Marriage Act, which was to say in part, we’re going to make sure that if Hawaii does it, every other state doesn’t have to do it. I was critical of them for instantly announcing that this would be nationalized. I was supportive of doing it locally.

In 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Court did the same thing. The next year the mayor of San Francisco at the time, Gavin Newsom, irresponsibly and without any legal basis, announced that he was going to allow same-sex marriage in San Francisco. He had no authority to do that. He went ahead with it. Of course, what happened was a lot of people thought they were being married. They were bitterly disappointed when they weren’t.

But once again, we were trying to defend same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. He then gives people the impression, oh, once again it’s spreading like wildfire. So though I’ve been for same-sex marriage, but I’m for doing it at a pace or with some political wisdom that allowed it to survive.

In an interview about his memoir, Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage, he has stated he believes that there are closeted gay members of Congress:

Former Rep. Barney Frank says he believes there are still closeted gay members of Congress — and he has no problem with them staying that way, as long as they’re not hypocrites.

The Massachusetts Democrat’s comments came as he discussed his new book, “Frank,” with CNN’s Gloria Borger on Sunday’s “State of the Union.”

He discussed telling then-House Speaker Tip O’Neill that he is gay — and said he thinks there are still closeted gay members in the House.

Asked if he is okay with them staying that way, Frank said: “Yes — as long as he or she is supportive of legal protections.”

“The issue where they lose me is hypocrisy,” he said. “What I think is unacceptable is to vote a certain set of rules as an elected official and then to violate them yourself. But if you are a Democrat, Republican, whatever, and you vote to allow people to do what you do, then I have no demand that you become public.”

Since leaving office, he has discussed his landmark legislation, Dodd-Frank Act, which he sponsored with United States Senator Chris Dodd, which was signed into law on July 31st, 2010 by President Barack Obama, and thinks much of it is continues to exist in it’s current form to this day:

The Republicans — it’s an interesting contrast between the healthcare and this bill. The Republicans voted against the financial reform bill as heavily as they voted against healthcare, but the financial reform is much more popular with the public. That’s why they repeatedly move to repeal all of healthcare but they have never offered or had a vote on repealing all of financial reform.

There have been a couple of the changes they’ve proposed I don’t like, but not nearly a wholesale repeal.

Even if you have a Republican president, House, and Senate, I suppose they will try to weaken some of it, but that’ll be a tough fight because there’s a lot of public opposition to weakening it.

At the time, he was Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, with which he was also the Ranking Member from January 3rd, 2003 until January 3rd, 2007, and again from January 3rd, 2011 until January 3rd, 2013.


Senator John Kerry, with his wife, Theresa Heinz, being sworn in as Secretary of State by Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan on February 1st, 2013.

In 2013, following Senator John Kerry’s announced appointment to Secretary of State, he showed interest in being appointed Interim Senator if Kerry is confirmed:

“I’ve told the governor, that I would now like, frankly, to do that,” Frank said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

The longtime Democratic congressman, who opted to retire at the end of the 112th Congress after serving in the House since 1981, said the recently struck deal to avert the “fiscal cliff” makes the next few months a crucial economic period in which he wants to be involved.

“That deal now means that February, March, and April are going to be among the most important months in American financial/economic history,” said Frank, the former chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

In 2015, he joined the Bank Board of Signature:

Signature Bank (Nasdaq: SBNY), a New York-based full-service commercial bank, announced today the election of former U.S. Congressman Barney Frank to its Board of Directors, effective today. Frank fills the seat left vacant by the recent passing of Alfred B. DelBello, who had served on Signature Bank’s board since January 2003, and also was Lead Independent Director since December 2011.

Frank served as a U.S. Congressman representing the 4th District of Massachusetts from 1981-2013 and also was Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee from 2007-2011. While in Congress, Frank worked to address America’s spending priorities to reduce the deficit and protect funding for important quality-of-life needs at home. He championed the interests of the poor, underprivileged and vulnerable. Frank won reelection 16 times by double-digit margins. As chair of the House Financial Services Committee, he was instrumental in crafting the short-term $550 billion rescue plan in response to the nation’s financial crisis. Later, Frank co-sponsored the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, an extensive set of financial regulations aimed at preventing recurrence of the crisis that was signed into law in July 2010. From 2003 until his retirement, Frank was the leading Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee. Prior to serving in Congress, Frank spent eight years as a state Representative in Massachusetts and earlier, served as Chief of Staff to Congressman Michael Harrington and Chief Assistant to Mayor Kevin White of Boston.

Alfred B. DelBello served on the Bank’s board until April 2015. He was a partner in the White Plains, N.Y.-based law firm of DelBello Donnellan Weingarten Wise & Wiederkehr, LLP and had held several public service roles including Lieutenant Governor of the State of New York from 1983 to 1985, Westchester CountyExecutive from 1974 to 1983 and Mayor of Yonkers from 1970 to 1974. While serving on Signature Bank’s Board, DelBello made significant contributions not only as a member but also through various committee chair responsibilities, including leading the Audit, Enterprise Risk and Nominating Committees at various points in time.

“We sadly mourn the passing of our fellow Board member and dedicated colleague, Al DelBello, whose vision, guidance and experience continually contributed to the leading reputation for which Signature Bank is now known. Al was always available to us, providing thoughtful counsel and insight whenever necessary. The entire Signature Bank board and all our colleagues were privileged to have an opportunity to benefit from Al’s wisdom, expertise and business acumen. Al was always spot on in seeing the essence of any complicated issue. We will sorely miss his presence in our board room. In Al’s honor, Signature Bank will officially dedicate the boardroom at its midtown Manhattan headquarters, designating it ‘The Alfred B. DelBello Board Room’. A plaque depicting this will soon be placed there as a constant reminder of his commitment and contributions to our Bank and will afford us all an opportunity to pause and think about the advice Al would have offered,” said Scott A. Shay, Chairman of the Board of Signature Bank.

“We are gratified to welcome Barney to the board, which is particularly engaged and energetic. We specifically seek members whose deep and broad experience will prove impactful to the Bank; those who share diverse perspectives and possess strong decision-making capabilities. These characteristics are what help foster the continued success and growth of Signature Bank amid the complicated economic environment in which we compete and truly define the personality of our current board. With a 32-year career devoted to government and his distinguished expertise in financial services, we believe Barney will be an asset to the board, bringing keen insights, far-reaching industry knowledge and vast intellect to his role as well as to our institution and the Bank’s shareholders,” Shay concluded.

Joseph J. DePaolo, Signature Bank President and Chief Executive Officer added: “Barney and his background complement the talent on the Signature Bankboard. One of his fellow Signature Bank board members, Former Senator Alfonse D’Amato, was the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, and, together they round out the breadth and depth of accomplished statesmen who bring substantive intelligence and capabilities to our Board. We all look forward to working together on behalf of the Bank and taking the institution to the next level.”

Frank noted: “I very much look forward to serving in this important position with Signature Bank. With the banking landscape constantly changing, and the ways in which regulations continue to affect both financial services entities and the overall industry, I am confident I can make a positive contribution to the Signature Bankboard. As a commercial bank catering primarily to privately owned businesses, Signature Bank knows firsthand the importance small business plays in the health and vibrancy of our nation’s economy. I am excited to be part of all this in my new capacity as board member and in working with the other directors and management.”

Furthermore, according to The Wall Street Journal article, “Barney Frank–Yes, THAT Barney Frank–Joins a Bank Board“:

 Signature is a $29 billion bank that primarily works with privately-owned businesses. The 14-year old bank has been growing rapidly and performing well at a time when other banks have struggled. Last quarter it posted its 22nd consecutive quarter of record earnings.

“I like this business model in particular,” Mr. Frank said in an interview. “They don’t get involved with exotic derivatives and credit default swaps.” He also described himself as “very supportive of banking.”

Mr. Frank retired from Congress in January 2013 and is now an author, NBC contributor and public speaker, according to his Twitter profile. He said this is his first board appointment. “I was flattered to be asked,” he said.

In 2008, Frank’s sister, Ann Lewis, served as a Senior Advisor to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign. She has said the following:

“Let me start with the biggest number that I think in terms of the general election and the difference women can make,” Lewis said at Clinton’s campaign headquarters in Virginia. “The first number is 20 million. Those are the 20 million single women who did not vote in November 2004. Five million were registered and did not vote and 15 million were not registered at all.”

Beginning in 2015, Frank has become the top Wall Street adviser for the Hillary Clinton Presidential campaign, noting the following:

Frank told POLITICO on Wednesday that he has been working with campaign staff including Gary Gensler — a key ally in the eyes of Dodd-Frank supporters and often a foe of big banks during his time as chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which regulates derivatives markets.

“He was a major formulator in this plan,” Frank said of Gensler, a former Goldman Sachs partner and a Treasury Department official during Bill Clinton’s presidency.

Notably, he came out against Senator Elizabeth Warren’s notion that we should implement the Glass-Steagall Act:

“I do think further steps are wise, as Hillary Clinton has talked about, for de-complicating some of these large financial institutions. But going to [Glass-Steagall] and doing that in a uniform way that applies to every financial institution is not the best way to do it,” Frank told The Hill in an interview.

Warren reintroduced legislation to bring back the landmark statute earlier this month with Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Angus King (I-Maine) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).

“Even if we did Glass-Steagall, you’d still have institutions that are too big to fail,” Frank said earlier Tuesday during an economic forum hosted by center-left think tank Third Way.

Quite importantly though, in regards to the current Presidential election cycle, he has written to Politico Magazine, “Why Progressives Shouldn’t Support Bernie Sanders“:

As skillful a controversialist as Bill Kristol is, he couldn’t help grinning. When we were discussing the 2016 campaign on “Morning Joe” last month, he expressed strong admiration for Bernie Sanders and pretended disbelief that I was not supporting him for president. But the strategically driven discipline he brought to the task of lavishly praising a man whose views he usually derides did not extend to control of his facial muscles.

If you weren’t watching the TV and only overheard our discussion, you might have wondered why one of the leading conservative strategists was speaking so approvingly of a tribune of the left. Viewers who saw the broad smile he was unable to suppress had a clue to the answer: Republicans fear that if Hillary Clinton is nominated fairly easily, while they are locked in a bitter, lengthy, ideologically charged series of primaries with a large cast of characters of varying degrees of plausibility, she gets a head start for the real fight.

Of course Republicans recognize that at its most vigorous, a debate between Clinton and Sanders on how — not whether — to toughen financial regulation or diminish income inequality will fall decibels short of the fundamental arguments between Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush on immigration, Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul on military intervention, Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee against many others on how sharply to press against same-sex marriage, and Donald Trump and all of the others on the role of rational discussion in politics. But they believe boosting Sanders’ candidacy is their only way to prevent Clinton emerging as the nominee with broad support early in the process, strengthening her position in November.

They are correct.

I know that there is a counter-argument made by some on the Democratic left that a closely contested nomination process will help our ultimate nominee — that Clinton will somehow benefit from having to spend most of her time and campaign funds between now and next summer proving her ideological purity in an intraparty fight, like Mitt Romney in 2012 — rather than focusing on her differences with the conservative she will face in the election. But neither an analysis of the current political situation nor the history of presidential races supports this.

I believe strongly that the most effective thing liberals and progressives can do to advance our public policy goals — on health care, immigration, financial regulation, reducing income inequality, completing the fight against anti-LGBT discrimination, protecting women’s autonomy in choices about reproduction and other critical matters on which the Democratic and Republican candidates for president will be sharply divided — is to help Clinton win our nomination early in the year. That way, she can focus on what we know will be a tough job: combating the flood of post- Citizens United right-wing money, in an atmosphere in which public skepticism about the effectiveness of public policy is high.

I realize that before explaining why I am convinced that a prolonged prenomination debate about the authenticity of Clinton’s support for progressive policy stances will do us more harm than good, that very point must be addressed. Without any substance, some argue that she has been insufficiently committed to economic and social reform — for example, that she is too close to Wall Street, and consequently soft on financial regulation, and unwilling to support higher taxation on the super-rich. This is wholly without basis. Well before the Sanders candidacy began to draw attention, she spoke out promptly in criticism of the appropriations rider that responded to the big banks’ wish list on derivative trading. She has spoken thoughtfully about further steps against abuses and in favor of taxing hedge funds at a fairer, i.e., higher, rate.

This is reflective of her role in the 1990s, when she was a consistent force for progressive policies in her husband’s administration. And as Paul Krugman documented throughout the 2008 nomination campaign, she was, on the whole, to Barack Obama’s left on domestic issues.

True, not on Iraq. Having myself voted against that terrible mistake, I agree that her position on the war is a legitimate concern for those of us on the left. The question then becomes whether this was a manifestation of a general tendency to support unwise military intervention, or the case of her joining every other Democratic senator who had serious presidential ambitions in voting for a war that the Bush-Cheney administration had successfully hyped as a necessary defense against terrorism. While I wish that she, Joe Biden and John Kerry had not been spooked into believing that no one who voted no would have the national security merit badge required to win the presidency, I regard liberal senators’ support for the Iraq War as a response to a given fraught political situation rather than an indication of their basic policy stance — like Obama’s off-again, on-again support for same-sex marriage. (Yes, I am saying that in deciding whether or not to support a candidate with whom I have disagreed on a fundamental issue, I am more at ease if it was a one-time political accommodation rather than a genuine conviction.) Most relevantly for this discussion, she will clearly be for less military spending and intervention than the Republican nominee. While I admire Paul’s skepticism about an expansive global policing role for America, even the more tempered version of this he now propounds is an absolute bar to his winning a Republican convention.

Of course it is not only possible to accept the legitimacy of Clinton’s liberal-progressive credentials and still prefer that Sanders be president, it makes sense for the most ideologically committed to hold that view. But wishful thinking is no way to win the presidency. There is not only no chance — perhaps regrettably — for Sanders to win a national election. A long primary campaign will only erode the benefit Democrats are now poised to reap from the Republicans’ free-for-all.

Decades ago, Sanders made a principled choice to play a valuable part in our politics — the outsider within the system. He defied the uniquely American aversion to the word “socialism.” We are, after all, the only Western democracy in which no self-identified socialist party has ever played a significant governmental role. While voting with the Democrats to organize first the House and then the Senate, he made clear he did so as a regrettable necessity, not a preference, and cited his nonmembership in the party as an indication of his political integrity. Substantively, he has consistently, forcefully and cogently made the case for a larger federal government role in improving both the fairness and the quality of life in our country, refusing to soft-pedal in the face of declining support for this view in public opinion.

His very unwillingness to be confined by existing voter attitudes, as part of a long-term strategy to change them, is both a very valuable contribution to the democratic dialogue and an obvious bar to winning support from the majority of these very voters in the near term.


With Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney at Harvard’s Institute of Politics.

Prior to becoming Congressman of New York’s 18th Congressional District, he worked on President Bill Clinton’s campaign as Deputy Scheduler to Chief Scheduler, Susan Thomases. After the successful campaign, he was offered a position in the White House staff, and served as Senior Advisor and White House Staff Secretary from 1999 until 2000. In 2006, Maloney ran for New York Attorney General, getting the endorsements of Empire State Pride Agenda, and Karen Burstein, who first ran for the seat in 1994. He came in third against current Governor, Andrew Cuomo. In his “victory” speech, he suggested that he wasn’t going away, stating: “This day may not be the outcome we hope, but I make you a promise that there will be another day.” Following the defeat, in 2011, Maloney then worked as First Deputy Secretary to Governor Eliot Spitzer, and then worked as a top aide in Governor David Paterson’s administration. In 2008, he joined the law firm Kirkland & Ellis. In March 2012, he decided to run for the Congressional seat held by Republican Congresswoman, Nan Hayworth, defeating her in the general election. During his run, he got the endorsements of Planned ParenthoodNYS ALF-CIO, and NYSUT. In 2014, Nan Hayworth ran against him again in order to reclaim her seat, but was again defeated. It is notable that Senator Hillary Clinton campaigned for him throughout the district.


4 thoughts on “Reflections On: Meeting Barney Frank, and Sean Patrick Maloney

  1. Pingback: Reflections On: 3rd Annual LGBTQ Conference at Harvard | The Progressive Democrat

  2. Pingback: On Six Massachusetts Elected Officials | The Progressive Democrat

  3. Pingback: Reflections On: Meeting Tim Kaine and Chris Dodd | The Progressive Democrat

  4. Pingback: Reflection On: Meeting Joe Kennedy III | The Progressive Democrat

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