FOX News - "The O'Reilly Factor" - Transcript: Interview With Rep. Barney Frank - Detainee Abuse Photos; Defense Of Marriage Act; Low Income Housing
Interviewer: Bill O'Reilly
Copyright ©2009 by Federal News Service, Inc., Ste. 500, 1000 Vermont Ave, Washington, DC 20005 USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Internet Service at www.fednews.com, please email Carina Nyberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-202-216-2706.
MR. O'REILLY: We're pleased to welcome back to "The Factor" Congressman Barney Frank who joins us now from Washington.
Congressman, we appreciate you being a stand-up guy. And I have a bunch of very simple questions. Because as you know, I'm a very simple man. Let's begin with President Obama NOT releasing the prisoner abuse pictures. Do you support the president's action?
REP. FRANK: Pretty much, yeah. I think that's a decision that he's entitled to make. I was a little puzzled that people were saying that we were going to withhold pictures between 2001 and January 22nd, 2009. I still haven't gotten an answer why he feels this has only happened all during the Bush administration. But I think that is a judgment I trust the president to make. I think he is being very forthright about a lot of things. And given the situation he's in, I think that's a reasonable decision.
MR. O'REILLY: Okay. But you know that Senators Graham and Lieberman were very angry with Nancy Pelosi, yourself, a few other Democratic congressmen. When their bill went to the Senate, you stripped out that provision of banning the photos from public release, you saying you wanted to hear the other side, and the senators saying, hey, we've heard from every top-ranking general, the CIA and everybody else at the Defense Department, they all say this puts U.S. troops in danger. Yet you and Mrs. Pelosi and others did succeed in stripping that out. So you can see why some people are annoyed.
REP. FRANK: Well, only because they haven't looked at the whole situation. We've had here -- and I don't think people ought to be hypocritical. We've had objections, which I've shared, to people going through appropriations bills, which are for spending, and without adequate debate, without any kind of hearings or discussion, putting unrelated provisions in there.
My objection on that was purely procedural. The House passed a bill, it was funding the Iraq and Afghanistan military efforts. And the Senate then unilaterally said, okay, without any debate or anything, we're just going to put this in there. So my objection was procedural.
MR. O'REILLY: Yeah, but why bother with procedure on such a vital issue?
REP. FRANK: I'm sorry, Bill, please.
MR. O'REILLY: Why bother on such a vital issue on procedure?
REP. FRANK: Well, could we have a rational discussion without interruption on this important issue?
MR. O'REILLY: I think we are. No, no, there are always going to be interruptions. You've seen the program.
REP. FRANK: No, I don't accept that. I don't accept that this is more complicated than your yelling would make it look like.
MR. O'REILLY: I didn't yell, Senator (sic). If the volume is up on your ear piece, we'll turn it down. But why bring up procedure --
REP. FRANK: May I answer --
MR. O'REILLY: -- in a vital life-death situation like this?
REP. FRANK: Because the timing was not a problem. There was no chance that those photos were going to be released. If it was an emergency situation where the only way to stop the photos from being released was to ignore legitimate procedure, that would be a different story. The president said he wouldn't do it. The courts had in fact said that they would uphold that for some months. So the notion that, oh, it's important, ignore the congressional procedure, that's how we get in trouble. These last-minute amendments, and they're often very good ones, but either people believe in the procedures or not.
If there was an emergency, it would be a different story. But there was no --
MR. O'REILLY: Why didn't you come out and say, listen, I support the Graham-Lieberman bill, but I'd like to do it in a different way? I didn't hear that from you.
REP. FRANK: I did say that.
MR. O'REILLY: When?
REP. FRANK: Well, I'm not responsible for everything that you hear.
MR. O'REILLY: When did you say it?
REP. FRANK: I did -- I consistently said during that discussion that I thought it was a mistake to do this in this form, violating the procedure, to put it into an unrelated appropriations bill. I think the problem of taking appropriations bills that have to pass and putting other issues in there is how we get into trouble. If there was any danger --
MR. O'REILLY: I didn't hear you say it. I mean, you could have said it a little louder.
REP. FRANK: Well, I'm sorry that --
MR. O'REILLY: I mean, all right, I cover this pretty closely.
REP. FRANK: No, excuse me. No. No. No. No. No. We're not going to stop with you saying -- no, I'm sorry, Bill, but I'm not going to let you suggest that I didn't say it. I said it, I said it regularly.
MR. O'REILLY: You said it, I believe you. I didn't hear it. Maybe you should have said it louder.
REP. FRANK: Well, I wasn't talking only to you.
MR. O'REILLY: Next time tell me and I'll say it loud. You know how loud I can get. Next time tell me, I'll say it real loud.
Okay, now, Defense of Marriage Act. Justice Department comes out in response to a lawsuit and says, hey, the Obama administration wants to keep traditional marriage the federal law of the land. And I guess you disagree with that, right?
REP. FRANK: No, I didn't say that. Again, that's not --
MR. O'REILLY: No, no. I guess you disagree with it.
REP. FRANK: Well, you guessed wrong. May I respond?
MR. O'REILLY: Okay. Sure.
REP. FRANK: What I said was, first of all, I defended the president against some of my fellow gay and lesbian and other activists who criticized the president. Let's define his position. He didn't say he wants to keep that there. He wants to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. What he said was, as president of the United States, he is constitutionally obligated to defend the law, even if he didn't like it.
And what I said to many of my gay and lesbian friends is, don't be hypocritical, just as I said on the procedure. When George Bush ignored laws that we thought were important that had been passed, we were critical. We should not be in the position of giving Obama the right to do what we said Bush shouldn't do. But President Obama, to his defense, wasn't saying he liked that law. He was saying that it was his constitutional duty to uphold it in the court case. But he did like it to be repealed. And I agree with both positions.
MR. O'REILLY: Now, President Obama has gone on record as saying that he believes marriage should be and should remain between a man and a woman, exclusively.
REP. FRANK: Yes, but that's not what you asked me.
MR. O'REILLY: No. That's what I'm asking you now.
REP. FRANK: You asked me about the Defense of Marriage Act.
MR. O'REILLY: This is another question. We move quickly here.
REP. FRANK: Well, I want to -- but --
MR. O'REILLY: Have you told the president that you object to his belief system?
REP. FRANK: I've told him I disagree with him. Disagreeing with someone is not an objection to his or her belief system.
MR. O'REILLY: So you respect it.
REP. FRANK: But I do want to make clear this distinction that I think may have gotten blurred in our conversation. The president does say he believes marriage should be between a man and a woman.
MR. O'REILLY: Right.
REP. FRANK: But he's opposed to the Defense of Marriage Act because it intrudes, for instance, on states, like the one I live in, and others, which have allowed this to happen.
MR. O'REILLY: Some people in the gay community say if you oppose gay marriage, you're a bigot. You've heard that.
REP. FRANK: I don't agree with that.
MR. O'REILLY: You don't believe President Obama is a bigot, do you?
REP. FRANK: I've never said that of anybody.
MR. O'REILLY: No, I'm just saying you don't believe that.
REP. FRANK: I've said that three times now.
MR. O'REILLY: Okay. I'm glad you're --
REP. FRANK: I do not believe that you are a bigot, and I've been saying that for years. I disagree with people, but not every disagreement means that someone is bigoted. Some do, but not me.
MR. O'REILLY: Okay, so we have some common ground. We're making a lot of progress here, Congressman. You know, pretty soon we'll be going camping together.
Now, we'll have more with the congressman in a moment on health care and other important things. We're going to take a short break.
And later, Dick Morris and Dennis Miller will weigh in on our conversation with Congressman Frank. That should be interesting, and we'll be right back.
MR. O'REILLY: Continuing now with Congressman Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Finance Committee.
And here's what I don't understand about President Obama's health care deal, Congressman, and I'm sure you can straighten me out. It's going to cost more than $1 trillion, according to the Senate, Congressional Budget Office. The country, very high deficit right now, as you know. So where is the money going to come from to pay for the national health care?
REP. FRANK: Several places. First of all, it is $1 trillion over 10 years is what we're talking about, $100 million a year. In my view, part of it should come from the military budget. For example, I'm siding with the president now and I'm against my congressional colleagues, including in the Democrat leadership. He and Secretary Gates want to stop building F-22s. The F-22 is a wonderful weapon, but it doesn't really have an enemy anymore. It was built to defeat the Soviet Union in a war. Fortunately, that's not a problem for us anymore. I believe that there is military spending on Cold War weapons that could be reduced.
In addition, I very much agree with the point you started with, talking about the failure of our allies and friends to come to our aid in other places, particularly Afghanistan where I think there is a legitimate issue. I thought Iraq was a mistake.
Part of the problem is that we have allowed them to get used to America being their policemen. I think we should be reducing military activity in areas in Western Europe, with Japan. We have plenty of quite-wealthy allies who are doing that.
MR. O'REILLY: Okay, that's good. I like that. I like that. So if we cut back in Germany, and we can't cut back in Korea right now, but other places, maybe Okinawa, we could use that money.
REP. FRANK: And we could ask them to do more.
MR. O'REILLY: Okay. Now, your state, Massachusetts, and you know that I lived there for many years --
REP. FRANK: By the way, there were more spending cuts I would like to talk about.
MR. O'REILLY: I got your gist and I agree with it. If we can find the money in other places --
REP. FRANK: No, no, you didn't, because it's not just the military. Agriculture, for instance. The president proposed cutting agricultural spending. A lot of my conservative colleagues are terribly hypocritical. They want to cut spending for low-income individuals, but wealthy farmers, they keep putting in subsidies. There's a lot of money we could save there --
MR. O'REILLY: Congressman, if you can find the money in wasteful projects and move it over, I think most Americans would say, fine. Now, your state, Massachusetts --
REP. FRANK: I would agree with that.
MR. O'REILLY: -- progressive state, has a health care deal. But the state has a $1.5 billion deficit, and the health care entitlement has been cut back, as you know. For a state of 6.5 million people, 1.5 billion (dollars) deficit, I'm worried that this health care is going to send the United States into bankruptcy. California is there now. Massachusetts is in big trouble. Can you reassure me that universal health care isn't going to bankrupt the United States of America?
REP. FRANK: Absolutely, because there are other areas we can cut. You know, they're still talking about sending human beings to Mars for hundreds of billions of dollars, literally hundreds of billions. I'm for space exploration with instrumentation.
As to the Massachusetts deficit, it's not caused by the health care plan. There are, unfortunately for the states because of the economy, deficits everywhere. You mentioned California. They don't have the same kind of health care plan. So the health care plan in Massachusetts is no significant part of the deficit.
And yes, if we cut spending elsewhere and if we put taxes on people who make more than $250,000 a year, back to where they were under President Clinton, yes, you can pay for this without bankrupting the country.
MR. O'REILLY: Does the Constitution, in your opinion, dictate that the federal government should make sure everybody has free health care or access to it?
REP. FRANK: Absolutely not, no. No, there isn't any --
MR. O'REILLY: The Constitution doesn't. So it's an elective choice.
REP. FRANK: Most of what the federal government does is elective choice. The Constitution basically is a restraint on government. It's not a mandate for government. There were very few rights that you get affirmatively. The Constitution doesn't say you get housing or health care or even a clean environment. The Constitution is a limit on government power. It says the government shouldn't take away your speech or interfere with other forms. But no, it's not a mandate for -- (inaudible).
MR. O'REILLY: Okay. Because the government is now, under President Obama, you know that, expanding rapidly, spending record amounts of money and getting into the capitalistic system, the health care system, the environmental system.
REP. FRANK: Oh, no, I disagree with that.
MR. O'REILLY: It's doing all of that. It's doing all of that.
REP. FRANK: Well, first of all, you can do things because you have the discretion to do them, not because the country (demands ?) it.
Secondly, as far as getting into the capital system, that's not the Obama administrations initiative, that's the Bush administration's initiative. Every single intervention they are making in automobiles, in the banks and elsewhere was done originally by the Bush administration.
Now, I think they have a legitimate interest in carrying this out. I think they're doing it somewhat better. But this is not some (separate ?) issue by the Obama administration.
MR. O'REILLY: You've gone almost full cycle here. The last time we were yelling at each other was about your oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And we disagreed in a very loud-volume discussion that everybody in the world saw. Now you're back saying that the banks should loosen up the condominium loans. And again, some people are saying, The Wall Street Journal today, hey, he's doing the same thing, Congressman Frank is social engineering with the banking system just what he did with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And you say?
REP. FRANK: Well, they're completely wrong. In the first place, I was a strong opponent of the Bush administration's effort to send loans to people who couldn't afford it.
I wanted to build rental housing for people, which is not the case where the mortgages went bad. I have a consistent record in opposing the Bush administration's pushing, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, into low-interest mortgages that I thought were a mistake.
With the condominiums, we're not talking about subprime or poor people. We do have this problem in cities with vacant properties causing serious problems for the cities. What I want is to say this, here's the rule. They have a rule that they will not finance a condominium unless 70 percent of the units of the building are already sold. I'm not talking at all about whether or not that borrower can pay for it. They should not allow any borrower who can't pay for it to do it. But I think they've got a vicious cycle. If you won't fund anybody until it's 70 percent, it will never be 70 percent. And you have a serious problem throughout cities of vacant property.
MR. O'REILLY: As long as you're not going to go into the social engineering realm --
REP. FRANK: I was opposed to the subprime mortgages.
MR. O'REILLY: Well, some people say that's not true.
REP. FRANK: Bill, that's not rational. That's not a way to hold a conversation.
MR. O'REILLY: Look, is The Wall Street Journal not rational?
REP. FRANK: I'll show you the record.
MR. O'REILLY: Are they not rational, The Wall Street Journal?
REP. FRANK: No, on this issue --
MR. O'REILLY: Are they not rational?
REP. FRANK: -- no. In fact, not on this issue. In 2007, when I first became chairman and filed a bill and got it through the House to restrict subprime lending The Wall Street Journal editorials attacked me for restricting loans to people who should get them. They have been totally wrong and were, until very recently, pushing more of these loans and criticizing us for trying to restrain them. I don't think that's rational.
MR. O'REILLY: We gave you your say tonight. You happy?
REP. FRANK: With what?
MR. O'REILLY: With everything, with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
REP. FRANK: No, I'm never happy with everything, Bill. I'm not happy with everything.
MR. O'REILLY: (Laughs.) All right. You're welcome back any time.