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Public Statements

MSNBC "The Rachel Maddow Show" - Transcript

Interview

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<br>MSNBC "The Rachel Maddow Show" - Transcript

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Joining us is Congressman Barney Frank, a Democrat of Massachusetts, he is Chair of the House Financial Services Committee. Mr. Chairman, thanks for making time to come on the show.

REP. BARNEY FRANK, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: Thank you and it‘s a pleasure to be with you.

MADDOW: It‘s nice to meet you in person.

FRANK: Thank you.

MADDOW: Let me ask you about something that happened tonight that was unexpected and that I didn‘t expect to have to ask anybody about.

A Republican Member of Congress named Joe Wilson of South Carolina screamed, “You lie” at the president tonight, interrupting his speech. Is this an “ignore the tantrum” moment or is that a big deal?

FRANK: I don‘t think it‘s a big deal. Look, I think free speech—you know, heckling is a tradition, obviously, in the British parliament. They even have mikes that come down to hear the heckles.

I think what we should take it as—it is unusual—it‘s a sign of how effective the president was. These guys just couldn‘t handle it. I looked at John Boehner and he looked about as glum and as dour as—as possibly he could be.

So what Joe Wilson did was just scream out in frustration because the president was nailing it. So we‘ve got to be very clear, Wilson lied when he said the president lied. And he talked about illegal immigrants. It‘s clearly excluded from the bill.

So I would say what Wilson did was a mark of their frustration. And Barack Obama is a big boy. I think, I must say, to any Republicans particularly like Joe Wilson who want to get into a debate with Barack Obama is tugging on Superman‘s cape and pulling the Lone Ranger‘s mask. But if that‘s what he wants to do, free country.

MADDOW: Were the Republicans tonight in a more so—in a more sober response are asking for everything to start over again. They are saying let‘s go back to square one. They say that‘s what Americans are demanding. That everything that‘s happened so far has been wrong foot and they want a restart.

FRANK: Well, what they really want to do is go back to square one and judge the reaction. I mean, one thing you have to be very clear, when people said does this have to be bipartisanship? Let‘s be very clear that since this bipartisanship really goes against the notion of democracy.

We had an election in 2008, and the Democrats won the presidency, significant majorities in the House and the Senate. We don‘t all agree on everything but there were clear differences. There were clear differences.

And one of the great things the president did today—and I don‘t agree with everything he said—but he articulated the philosophy of a liberal governance in a very good way about what‘s the private sector—public sector, interrelationship?

The Republicans represent an extremely conservative faction. The notion that those of us who won the election with a solid majority should compromise 50/50 with those who lost, well, then why not (INAUDIBLE) why do we just have to make a cover war? Let‘s make it camp. And it just didn‘t make any sense.

And this notion of starting from scratch—in the first place—I already had a first place. In the second place, if they wanted to start from scratch, why didn‘t they? They haven‘t put anything forward.

What‘s been stopping them from January of this year from coming forward with their plan? The answer is they really don‘t have anything constructive to do.

MADDOW: When the president was talking about—about liberalism tonight, about the idea that government has a constructive role to play, I thought that was important just—not even in terms of health care but just in terms of his presidency.

FRANK: Yes.

MADDOWN: Because I haven‘t heard him make that argument before.

FRANK: No and then it would be particularly relevant to what I happen to be working on now, which is financial regulation.

MADDOW: Yes.

FRANK: Ronald Reagan in 1980 won, his first inaugural, my first year in Congress, said government is not the answer to our problems. Government is the problem. Of course, switch to the Bush administration when they were running up and down on Wall Street saying, we‘re from the government and we‘re here to help you.

But it was the absence of government not restraining the excesses of the financial sector that caused this great problem we‘re in. And yes, the president hadn‘t done that. And it‘s interesting that he did that at the same—and this annoyed me a little bit—it was this “oh, you on the left and you on the right. It‘s kind of like I‘m above the battle.”

I think the president underestimated when he came to office exactly how right-winged the Republicans are and I‘m glad he asked them today to join. I have no great hopes for it because they are in the control of the most conservative.

Knowing how right wing the Republican Party has become, my only bad moment with Barack Obama during the campaign was when he said he was going to be post partisan and I got post-partisan depression because I knew that that meant dealing with these people.

So I think he was in effect—I guess—I‘m talking too much—their extreme reactionary posture forced him to articulate what he may have previously thought we could take for granted, this liberal approach to a private sector, public sector cooperation and I agree with you, he did it very well.

MADDOW: One of the things that I thought—I—was interesting in the sense that it was thought provoking and not at all on the surface level, obvious what he meant when he was doing that riff about the importance of governance and about the idea that liberalism is something that ought not be conflated with big government. It should be seen as springing from a desire to help one‘s fellow man and help one‘s fellow citizens.

One of the things he said is that we will sometimes say that timidity is the only form of wisdom. And it seemed to me that, that was the unexpected shot in the middle of that—the shot in the middle of that round.

FRANK: Again, I think they forced him to—to get to the basics. I think he may have thought that they were more reasonable than they are; this collection of loons that you scrolled down there.

I got to say, those people, if anybody needs a health plan in America it‘s those people who are in severe need of mental health services; this lunacy about mandatory abortions and death. By the way, there is a political faction in America that would have the government intervene in what should be the most private moment for people when they are dealing with the last breaths, with when death is there, and that is an intensely private thing. And government shouldn‘t be in it.

But it was the right wing and in the Terri Schiavo case that got involved in this. So if you do believe government should stay out of that terribly intimate decision, then the people to fear are the right wingers who drove the Schiavo bill.

But the one thing that is very rational in their decision-making about what to do about health care reform is that they are making a ton of money off of it, that they have energized their own base, that they have sort of brought the Christian right back to life, at least in their own estimation.

They think that this is a big issue for them not necessarily because they‘re going to win but because it‘s going to stoke people up that are going to support them.

FRANK: Coming back to life is after all a very fundamental part of Christian doctrine. But it‘s a nice blend for them of cynicism and stupidity, some of them know better. Some of these people talking about death panels, I think some of what Newt Gingrich said. He‘s a smart man who‘s just being cynical. Some are just dumb and don‘t understand it.

But I will say this, the one thing I take comfort for, when I‘m in a debate with people, if they are making cogent points against what I think is very important, I get a little nervous. I noticed last week in “The New York Times” that the responsible conservatives are starting to complain now that the arguments against the Obama plan and against our efforts for health care are being dominated by the crazies. That‘s their fault.

They were very happy to have the crazies getting out there doing Hitler stuff and et cetera. I think the problem is they don‘t have good arguments.

When people make ridiculous arguments against something, it‘s because that‘s all they got. They can‘t deny it would be good to improve health care‘s efficiency or to extend it to people who can‘t have it or to protect people against arbitrary cancellations from the private companies so they come up with death panels and mandatory abortions. The very weakness to their argument is it‘s testimony to the strength of ours.

MADDOW: Congressman Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, chairman of the banking committee. It‘s really nice to have you here.

FRANK: Nice to have you in Washington. Come back again.

MADDOW: Will do. Thank you.

FRANK: Ok.

MADDOW: Louisiana senator and D.C. Madam client David Vitter sent out a fund-raising letter saying that Obama‘s health care plan is actually, all together now, a plot to kill old people. Opposition so dishonest you will want to cushion the floor for when your jaw hits it. “The Nation‘s” Chris Hayes joins us next.

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