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MSNBC "The Rachel Maddow Show" - Transcript

Interview

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Congressman Frank, thank you very much for your time.

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: You`re welcome.

MADDOW: Do you believe that the "Occupy Wall Street" movement is changing the Democratic strategic consideration of Wall Street and economic populism broadly? Do you think it`s lit a fire under the Democrats at all?

FRANK: Well, first, I have to say that I wish there was some of that energy two years ago when I was fighting against the people who wanted to protect derivatives from regulation and were trying to weaken the consumer bureau.

Rachel, I do have to say, some of us have been trying to do this for a while, and I have to be honest and say in 2009, I wish some of these people had been energized then and were helping us fight back against this effort, because we got a strong bill, but it should have been stronger.

Secondly, I will say this -- I hope they will, but I want to -- you know, sometimes telling your friends things is tougher than reeling at your enemies. Not if people think the demonstrations in and of themselves do
something.

Look, let me -- you said protesting at the Supreme Court is an appropriate way to deal with the terrible decisions they made that allow unrestricted campaign spending. A better way, not mutually exclusive, is a
president who can appoint justices who won`t do that, because if look at the justices appointed by President Obama -- Justice Sotomayor., Justice Kagan -- they won`t vote that way.

The demonstrations are very important because they give you the potential to mobilize people. But people need to take the next step and they have to, one, let the people now in office know what they think. And
two, vote for the people who do that. In the Senate, there was just a very partisan vote to put a surtax on income above $1 million.

I`d like to go even lower. That would have been a progressive step. Unfortunately, it was filibustered because the Republicans voted unanimously against it and all but a couple of Democrats voted for it.
That wasn`t enough.

So, I -- yes, I hope there will be pressure to do even more, but I, again, want to be honest -- simply being in a public place and voicing your opinion in and of itself doesn`t do anything politically. It is the prerequisite, I hope, for people getting together and voting and engaging things.

And I understand some of the people on Occupy Wall Street are kind of critical of that. They think that`s conventional politics.

Well, you know, the most successful organization in America in getting its views adopted is the National Rifle Association. They are in many cases a minority. But in addition to everything else they do, they very
effectively identify who the members of the Congress are, the legislatures and vote for them.

So, as I said, I welcome the Wall Street energy. I don`t agree with everything some of the people say. I agree with the general thrust of it.

But it`s not self-executing. It has to be translated into political activity if it`s going to have the impact. And -- you know, I would just say, the last thing, we had an election last year in which people who disagree with them, and disagree with me and with you, got elected.

I want to be honest again here. I don`t know what the voting behavior is of all these people, but I`m a little bit unhappy when people didn`t vote last time blame me for the consequences of their not voting.

MADDOW: I hear the frustration in your voice and your appreciation of the complexity here, but I wonder if you think that the "Occupy Wall Street" protests might help?

I mean, if you think about the influence of the Tea Party movement on the Republican Party, the Tea Party movement often had an incoherent and laughable message, a self-contradictory message and didn`t translate to political action. Some of them did. A lot of them didn`t. But they really moved the Republican Party.

FRANK: I agree with you on the incoherence of the message, but they voted. That`s -- I -- you say it can help. It can help if people will vote and vote for the people who agree with them and if they think people
don`t go far enough, they vote against them and vote for others.

But the Tea Party -- one of the things we now confront is that the Tea Party is the dominant voice of the Republican Party in the House. Not because everybody, every Republican agrees with Michele Bachmann, but
because virtually every Republican is afraid of losing a primary to a follower of Michele Bachmann because of the Tea Party.

So, I agree with you in terms of your description of what the Tea Party stands for. But they did take political action. They were, unfortunately, I think, but they have the right to do it and nobody can criticize them for exercising their rights -- they`re a very powerful force in Republican primaries. They had an impact because they vote and lobby people.

And I understand with some of the Wall Street protesters, a sense that`s somehow bourgeois politics or conventional politics. Well, sitting in Citicorp isn`t going to change votes in Congress.

I want to change votes. I want to get a confirmed head of the independent consumer bureau. We fought hard for that.

I was proud of being an ally of Elizabeth Warren of getting that done. I want derivative regulation to be tough. I want there to be a change in the policy whereby the banks and other financial institutions made loans and then sold the whole loan and didn`t have to retain any of it.

All those are now being fought about. So, I would welcome the allies. The demonstrations are a good thing conducted properly, but that has to lead to political participation or it won`t have an effect.

Look, as you know, I`ve been very active in gay rights. I have the 25th anniversary of my coming out coming up. And there was a big gay rights demonstration a couple years ago on Columbus Day when Congress was out of session. And I thought it was frankly a waste of effort.

I said, you should instead be going to people in their own districts. People said, no, we`re going to go to the Mall and put pressure on Congress. I said, all they put pressure on was the grass because they didn`t follow it up.

Those are good ways to mobilize people. But if there is no follow-up in the kind of political action that the Tea Party engages in, it will dissipate its impact.

MADDOW: I tend to think that there are intangibles created by direct action that can change political framing and political realities, but I think your argument about how it translates directly is well put, sir. I
respect your --

FRANK: Can I say two things, quickly?

MADDOW: Please, sir.

FRANK: They`re not mutually exclusive. Why not take the second step?

And, secondly, can I give a photo credit? Will you indulge me in personal stuff?

MADDOW: Of course.

FRANK: The great photo you showed of our hero, Frank Kameny with President Obama and myself and Tammy Baldwin, can I tell you? It was taken by my partner Jim Ready. It was a better picture than the one the newspapers used. So, I`m glad you used it.

MADDOW: Well, we will post it on our blog with proper credit, sir. Thank you.

FRANK: Thank you.

MADDOW: That`s adorable. I appreciate it.

FRANK: Thank you.

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