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Joining us now for the interview is a Democrat in Washington, Democratic Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts. Congressman Frank, thank you
very much for being was tonight. I appreciate your time.
REP. BARNEY FRANK, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: You`re welcome.
MADDOW: I saw the statement you put out tonight after the debate noting
your disappointment with what you described as personal attacks by Senator
Brown against Elizabeth Warren. What did you mean by that?
FRANK: There was a snarky tone, the kind of "professor" accusation. But also with all that we`ve got going on, the war and the economy, the environment, to begin with the silly attack on the fact that she once said she was of Native American ancestry, dishonest statement by him, a lie, that she used it to get ahead, which has been refuted. And then later talk an the fact she`s a very highly paid professor -Look, you outlined it. The issues run very much against him. Actually, a key moment came when Elizabeth Warren talked about Jim Inhofe, who Scott Brown would like to make Chairman of the Committee on the Environment, who says global warming is a hoax and would dismantle the EPA, and he said, "You`re not running against Jim Inhofe, you`re running against me."No, that`s not true. Elizabeth Warren is running against a Scott Brown who wants to make Mitch McConnell the majority leader, Jim Inhofe the chairman of the environment committee, Jim DeMint, an extreme right winger, chairman of the ommittee that deals with health and communications. He`s not running for class president. He`s running for United States Senator.
And by the way, you`re right that you couldn`t get him to say the word
Romney with a subpoena; he talks about support for some of Obama`s policies
but he would vote to make Mitch McConnell the majority -- he talked about
being bipartisan. Here`s the deal. With the Democrats in the Senate, he`s
had a chance to be bipartisan because Harry Reid and the Democratic
leadership have brought up things in conjunction with the administration.
But we see what goes on in the House. If Mitch McConnell becomes the majority leader, it won`t make any difference if Scott Brown would have
voted for equal pay or would have voted for this because he`ll get no opportunity to do it. Mitch McConnell has said that his first-term goal was to defeat Obama. His next-term goal would be to frustrate him.
So that`s the problem. And that`s why Senator Brown did not want to talk
about issues except for his vehement objection to raising the taxes on the
very richest people in the country. Other than that, I was disappointed at
a kind of snarky, personal attack not consistent with the nice guy image
he`s put forward.
MADDOW: You know, on the issue of specifically attacking Elizabeth Warren on her Native American heritage, Scott Brown is saying, "Look at her, you
can tell she`s not Native American. Look at her, look at her." He was saying that over and over again tonight. That was -- I`ve heard this attack from him. I`ve never seen him do that. I actually -- I feel like it`s racially offensive to say, "I can tell you`re not Native American.
Look at you."
FRANK: Well, the point is that he`s clearly -- he`s not doing as well in the polls as he thought. They`ve shown her somewhat ahead. It`s a little bit volatile. But here`s his problem: While 60 percent of Massachusetts or more are going to vote to make Barack Obama the second-term president, Scott Brown is committed to helping the people who will try to wreck that presidency. He even sent an e-mail boasting about how he would help Barack Obama. So he`s got to try to talk about all these other things.
He`s angry. He did not expect a year ago to be in a tough race for re-election. And it`s venting itself in these personal attacks. When he says she checked this box and checked that box, that`s simply not true. And, by the way, there`s an analogy here. The analogy is to the birth certificate of President Obama. Oh, let me see the record. Well, President Obama showed the birth certificate and you still have Republican officials in Kansas saying, "Oh, well, we`re not sure about all this."
So it is a very similar effort to delegitimize your opponent rather than debate the issues when you think the issues go against you.
MADDOW: Right now, overall in Massachusetts, the last poll on the presidential race shows President Obama leading Mitt Romney by 28 points. Everybody expected Mitt Romney to lose, but that`s a very, very large margin. It would be a historic margin.
FRANK: Well, you have to remember that with regard to Mitt Romney, in fairness to Mitt Romney, when he`s running in Massachusetts, he`s running
in the state that knows him best. So that would account for the fact he`s
doing worse there.
MADDOW: When you look, though, at Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren`s
numbers, while most polls have been going her way, obviously the polls are
much, much closer there. And I`ve been interested to see that Scott Brown`s numbers proportionally aren`t that bad among women voters in Massachusetts.
Tonight he said that he wants the Lilly Ledbetter Act -- which he was not in the Senate when it passed -- he wants that to be enforced more and he says he would have voted for that had he been in the Senate. When the next fair pay act opportunity - the opportunity to vote for a fair pay act came up when he was in the Senate, he voted no.
MADDOW: So, I mean, is his appeal to women voters based on saying he has
done something that he hasn`t done?
FRANK: First of all, it`s based on being graded on the curve. You compare him to the extreme right wing Republicans and he looks okay. But he`s not running against those Republicans. In fact, he`s running to help them by putting them into the majority. And when you compare him to Elizabeth Warren or Senator Kennedy, who he really inappropriately tried to claim was on his side on the question of birth control, contraception, no, he`s not there.
He used the argument when he said, "Oh, I want it enforced but I don`t want
to help the plaintiffs` lawyers." That`s the key. If you start attacking the lawyers who are going to bring these lawsuits, then you`re saying the law shouldn`t be enforced. There is no federal agency that`s able to do that kind of enforcement in a consistent basis. If you`re going to have anti-discrimination laws enforced, you`re going to have to have people be able to go to a lawyer and the lawyer accept it on what`s called a contingency basis -- these are not people with a lot of money. So while Scott Brown says he`s for equal pay, he demonizes the only effective enforcement method, which is for people who have been wronged to have lawyers go to work for them.
MADDOW: In terms of the quality of this debate and how it proceeded, how do you judge Elizabeth Warren as a candidate? Obviously you favor her in this election, you would like her to win. How do you think, bluntly, how do you think she did as a debater? This is her first ever run for office and her first ever debate in a political context. How do you assess her performance?
FRANK: I think she did well. She hit two very important points. She made it clear that Scott Brown believes that under no circumstances do you raise taxes on the wealthiest. And, as she says, you need a balanced approach.
That means the only way you can reduce the deficit is by savaging all the
programs that help our domestic quality of life.
Secondly, she made that central point that he`s not running just as Scott Brown - look, he`s generally a nice guy. He wasn`t as nice tonight as he usually is. He`s a nice guy and I`ve worked with him on some stuff. But he`s a cog in this right wing Republican machine. Yes, with the Democrats in power, he has the freedom to vote differently. But if he votes to put the Republicans in power, that will change. And I think she did an effective job of pointing that out.
MADDOW: On the issue of choice, reproductive choice, Scott Brown a bit on
the offensive in terms of his Supreme Court votes. Obviously that becomes
-- when it comes right down to it, partisan votes that are independent of
the candidates are often most about which president is going to pick Supreme Court nominees and whether or not they`re going to get confirmed.
How do you feel like he dealt with that issue?
FRANK: Well, not very straightforwardly. He voted against Elena Kagan, a
very able person. Again, there was this snarky comment, because she`d been
dean of Harvard Law School. "Oh, well, I`m sorry I voted against your friend, your boss." That had nothing to do with it. That was a kind of a denigrating personal comment that`s unworthy of a serious debate.
And, in fact, he said he voted against Elena Kagan because she didn`t have
judicial experience. You know who didn`t have judicial experience? Earl
Warren. William O`Douglas. Hugo Black. Some of the great justices.
Felix Frankfurter. That`s just an excuse. He voted against Elena Kagan because Scott Brown is more moderate than most Republicans, but he still was worried about a Republican challenge. So he voted against her to kind of pay tribute to the right wing Republicans.
And he says, yes, he`s pro choice, but when the critical question came up of putting someone on the Supreme Court who will continue to support Roe v.
Wade, he voted no. And the argument he didn`t vote for her because she didn`t have judicial experience is nonsense. That has not been, as I said, the criterion for a lot of the great justices. It was simply based on his needing to throw a bone to the right wing.
MADDOW: Congressman Frank, one reason I wanted to talk to you today, today
is the one-year anniversary of the repeal of Don`t Ask, Don`t Tell.
Obviously there has -- the sky remains in the sky. It has not fallen. There`s been no reports of any complications in terms of military readiness or the overall military strength of government like a lot of people, notably Senator John McCain predicted when they argued that Don`t Ask, Don`t Tell, shouldn`t be repealed. I wonder if you have anything to say to the critics who predicted such dire things about what might happen and what your reaction is to this one-year anniversary.
FRANK: Let me give you my considered reaction. Nyah, nyah. The fact is, Rachel, I`m glad you brought it up. And I really mean to be dismissive. Every time, we try to fight discrimination, we have the same stupid arguments. "Oh, it will cause all these terrible problems." But my husband Jim, whom you`ve met, made the very good point when they said, "Oh, if you allow openly gay people to serve, the straight people will be all upset." As he pointed out: you`re in the military; your best friend gets his head blown off next to you. People in the military, these young people, go through these horrific experiences and then we`re supposed to believe if they`re in the shower with someone who`s gay or sharing a dormitory, that`s going to disorient them.
What you`ve done, I wish more people in your line of work did. Go after these people who make these crazy predictions about marriage, about the military, and say, "Okay, Senator, do you really still believe that?
Here`s what you predicted, that people would be quitting, that there would
be chaos." The Commandant of the Marine Corps, who`s one of the most
critical when we were trying to get this done, has said, "I was wrong.
It`s worked out fine."
And here`s the deal. When they make these arguments before something
happens, they`re appealing to prejudice. And prejudice is little but ignorance. In every case where we confronted a prejudice and made it illegal, the reality defeated the prejudice. It`s happened with same sex marriage and it`s happened with gays in the military.
MADDOW: Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, I knew there was a
reason that I wanted to talk to you tonight and the "nyah nyah" alone was
worth it. But thank you for everything else tonight. I appreciate having
FRANK: Thank you.
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