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 its a pleasure to be with you.
MADDOW: Its 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 didnt 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 dont think its a big deal. Look, I think free speechyou 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 asit is unusualits a sign of how effective the president was. These guys just couldnt handle it. I looked at John Boehner and he looked about as glum and as dour asas possibly he could be.
So what Joe Wilson did was just scream out in frustration because the president was nailing it. So weve got to be very clear, Wilson lied when he said the president lied. And he talked about illegal immigrants. Its 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 Supermans cape and pulling the Lone Rangers mask. But if thats what he wants to do, free country.
MADDOW: Were the Republicans tonight in a more soin a more sober response are asking for everything to start over again. They are saying lets go back to square one. They say thats what Americans are demanding. That everything thats 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? Lets 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 dont all agree on everything but there were clear differences. There were clear differences.
And one of the great things the president did todayand I dont agree with everything he saidbut he articulated the philosophy of a liberal governance in a very good way about whats the private sectorpublic 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? Lets make it camp. And it just didnt make any sense.
And this notion of starting from scratchin the first placeI already had a first place. In the second place, if they wanted to start from scratch, why didnt they? They havent put anything forward.
Whats been stopping them from January of this year from coming forward with their plan? The answer is they really dont have anything constructive to do.
MADDOW: When the president was talking aboutabout liberalism tonight, about the idea that government has a constructive role to play, I thought that was important justnot even in terms of health care but just in terms of his presidency.
MADDOWN: Because I havent 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.
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, were from the government and were here to help you.
But it was the absence of government not restraining the excesses of the financial sector that caused this great problem were in. And yes, the president hadnt done that. And its interesting that he did that at the sameand this annoyed me a little bitit was this oh, you on the left and you on the right. Its kind of like Im above the battle.
I think the president underestimated when he came to office exactly how right-winged the Republicans are and Im 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 effectI guessIm talking too muchtheir 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 thoughtIwas 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 ones fellow man and help ones 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 thatthe shot in the middle of that round.
FRANK: Again, I think they forced him toto 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 its 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 shouldnt 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 theyre going to win but because its 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 its 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. Hes a smart man whos just being cynical. Some are just dumb and dont understand it.
But I will say this, the one thing I take comfort for, when Im 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. Thats 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 dont have good arguments.
When people make ridiculous arguments against something, its because thats all they got. They cant deny it would be good to improve health cares efficiency or to extend it to people who cant 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 its testimony to the strength of ours.
MADDOW: Congressman Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, chairman of the banking committee. Its really nice to have you here.
FRANK: Nice to have you in Washington. Come back again.
MADDOW: Will do. Thank you.
MADDOW: Louisiana senator and D.C. Madam client David Vitter sent out a fund-raising letter saying that Obamas 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 Nations Chris Hayes joins us next.
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