CNN "Anderson Cooper 360" - Transcript
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COOPER: Well, Massachusetts Congressman -- Congressman Barney Frank joins me now.
Congressman Frank, Nancy Pelosi referring to the vitriol which came before the assassination of Harvey Milk and George Moscone, is that an appropriate comparison?
REP. BARNEY FRANK (D-MA), FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, I wasn't there, so I couldn't say exactly.
I would not make the comparison myself. I don't think the -- well, if one thing, the hatred was personalized. Remember, you had a very specific personal dispute there. Dan White, who murdered Harvey Milk and -- and George Moscone, had been on the Board of Supervisors to the San Francisco City Council, had quit, then wanted to come back, and they were blocking him from doing it.
So, it wasn't a generalized homophobia that was there. That may have accounted for the fact that he got a ridiculously light sentence for the cold-blooded murder of two people, obviously premeditated. But I -- you had that very specific grievance from a man who thought he had been denied what he wanted.
COOPER: You're -- you're trying to focus on financial regulation reform right now. It is any different trying to get something done now compared to in past years? I mean, is it any more or less partisan behind closed doors? We see what's happening out on the streets. What's happening behind closed doors?
FRANK: Well, it's more partisan in the House, less so in the Senate. I know that Senator Dodd, the Senate chairman, has been having, I think, some constructive conversations with Senator Shelby.
What has happened is this. There's been a movement in American politics. I -- I entered politics in 1972 in the Massachusetts legislature. We had a lot of moderate to liberal Republicans, Senator Ed Brooke and former Governor Francis Sargent. And I worked with a lot of Republicans. In many cases, I was against the kind of entrenched Democratic organizational leadership.
But American politics have changed. It used to be we would say, well, we have Southern Democrats who are more conservative than Northern Republicans. That is no longer the case. And, you know, to some extent, the American political science profession, if you go back years ago, has gotten their wish. The parties are much more rationally divided now, but with a great deal more anger.
I do think that -- that trend really began, and I think Newt Gingrich as very explicit about this. Newt Gingrich, during the '80s and early '90s, said, we Republicans will never take power if this is seen as a set of debates between people of good will who differ. He said he -- he -- he forced out Bob Michel, who had been Republican leader.
He was kind of contemptuous of the moderate and even mainstream conservative Republicans, who believed -- they would say, well, we're friends after 6:00, et cetera. And he said, no, we have to say that the Democrats are corrupt and immoral and disloyal.
That engendered a counter-reaction. And so you now have two strong parties. And I think there are two other factors, Anderson. I'm going to on long, but let me mention two other factors.
First of all, we're in very bad economic times right now. And people are more likely to be angry and listen to anger in bad economic times. And it's not just bad economic times. Some of the most respected institutions in America, the financial giants, because this is a country that really kind of almost worshipped capitalism in an unrestrained form for many years, they collapsed, and the government is complicit in not having prevented the collapse.
So, you have a lot of people out there who have lost faith in the institutions in which they were supposed to have had faith.
FRANK: The other thing is this. There are fewer and fewer people getting the news from Walter Cronkite or a newspaper, where everybody gets it together.
We're now very polarized in how we get our information. On the whole, conservatives are listening to talk radio, and, on the whole, liberals are doing the Internet. And we each have our own cable orientations.
You guys are more in the middle, but you're in the minority in being sort of in the middle. So, what happens is this.
COOPER: Tell me about it.
FRANK: People only talk to people they care -- that agree with them. And then I am confronted by people. If I say, well, I would like to get this done from the liberal side, but I have to compromise, they don't understand why I say that...
FRANK: ... because everybody they know agrees with them. And the same is true on the right.
COOPER: That's -- we're definitely seeing that more and
Congressman Frank, stay with us. We have got to take a short break. We want to talk more after this break.
Also, the congressman is going to be joined by Republican Congressman Mike Rogers, David Gergen, and Deepak Chopra in a moment.
You can join the conversation, too, online. It's happening right now, the live chat, AC360.com.
Also ahead, a huge break in the Yale murder mystery, an arrest today and new details about the suspect, a Yale lab technician who was arraigned today.
We will be right back.
COOPER: We're back with Representative Barney Frank. Also joining me, Republican Congressman Mike Rogers, senior political analyst David Gergen, and Deepak Chopra, whose new book, "Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul," is coming out next month.
Let's pick up with what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said today. She appeared to compare today's angry conservative protests to anti- gay rallies in the late 1970s that preceded the assassination of two San Francisco political leaders.
Congressman Rogers, is Speaker Pelosi's warning unfounded?
REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE MEMBER: Yes, I think it is. And you have to remember what this is all about.
And I happen to represent a conservative blue-collar district in Michigan. And, listen, every single person is going to encounter the health care system. And, when you talk about a fundamental change, I don't care if you're a cancer survivor, or maybe your mother is a cancer survivor, or you know you're going to have health issues, or you're on a prescription, this impacts you deeply personally.
And I think what people in the political talking head arena have just absolutely misjudged, these are just average people. I have seen housewives show up and people who are -- they're not angry. They're very, very concerned.
So, yes, I do. I mean, are there those? Absolutely. "The Weekly Standard" did a piece where they said seven out of the 10 town hall violence episodes involved the unions. That's that organized political event.
But the -- the episodic, where people are just showing up, those are just average people, the little guy who is saying, hey, wait a minute, this scares me, and it scares me a lot.
COOPER: David, there's been plenty of partisan rhetoric in past decades. People called President Bush Hitler. During the Vietnam War, presidents were demonized by anti-war protesters. Is this just part of that same game?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's -- I think it's -- no, I think it's worse, Anderson, than it has been in a long time.
I -- look, I want to repeat what I said last night. I do not think racism is driving the opposition to health care. I made that point last night. What I do think is that there are radical elements on the fringes on both sides, and -- and the expressions that we're now seeing, the signs and some of the -- the pictures of Obama and that sort of thing, I think, probably have increased the threat levels that the Secret Service has dealt with -- or is dealing with.
I know that there have been -- threat levels have elevated in the past when some of this has gone on. But it is also true, Anderson, if you have a chance to walk through the newly restored Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois, there's one room in there if you go in there, you will find cartoons from that period depicting him as an ape, as a baboon, and just the worst sorts of animalistic sort of things.
They're really pretty horrible. They represent a lot of what was going on at the time. And it's important to remember what happened to Lincoln in April of 1965.
COOPER: Deepak, there is rhetoric used against the president and then there's rhetoric used to try to define his policies in a way that often misrepresents them. The term death panels comes -- comes to mind.
DEEPAK CHOPRA, AUTHOR, "REINVENTING THE BODY, RESURRECTING THE SOUL": Well, you know, the debate has shifted from health reform to insurance reform. That's the first thing.
President Obama's plan is humane. It's compassionate. It's for the impoverished. It's for the elderly. It's a plan for social justice. And people are now scared. By labeling him as a communist and a death panelist and socialist, you're actually getting away from the real issues.
Talk about end-of-life care, most of end-of-life care actually does not extend life. It extends suffering. It increases bills. You know, we are the only profession in -- the medical profession, the medical industry is the only industry that does not obey the laws of supply and demand in capitalism, because doctors -- you know, a doctor's pen, it has been said, is the most expensive technology.
You have a minor chest -- chest discomfort because you had an argument with your wife, and you go to a doctor, and, before you know it, you have had an EKG, a stress test, a 24-hour Holter monitor, and, if you're unlucky, an angiogram and an angioplasty, which does nothing to extend lifespan, even if did you have the disease.
So, we have a big issue here. We're not looking at the $700 billion that are spent on unnecessary tests, the 2.5 million surgeries that are not required, the fact that there are four times as many lobbyists, health care lobbyists, in Washington as there are congressmen. We're getting diverted from the real issues. I think President Obama's plan is really a good one.
COOPER: Congressman Frank, you had an encounter, famously, now at this point, with one person in a town hall that you held. I just want to show that to our viewers very quickly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why do you continue to support a Nazi policy, as Obama has expressly supported this policy? Why are you supporting it?
FRANK: It is a tribute to the First Amendment that this kind of vile, contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
FRANK: Ma'am, trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with dining room table. I have no interest in doing it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: When you hear President -- former President Carter saying that -- that the majority of the opposition to the president is rooted in racism, or the majority of the vitriol that he is hearing, do you agree with that? Or -- or do you agree with Congressman Rogers, who is saying, look, the vast majority of this is people expressing deep-seated concern, legitimate concern?
FRANK: Let me say, C, neither of the above. The woman who asked me that question was a LaRouche, an advocate of Lyndon LaRouche. So, she -- she came out of deep lunacy.
But I will say, by the way, these are the people who called George Bush Hitler. I ran against one who said that Queen Elizabeth was a drug dealer. My response was that I didn't think she dressed nearly well enough to be a drug dealer.
FRANK: But here's the mistake I think conservatives have made, and they're paying for it now. That is, they were happy to see, yes, there were some angry, average people. But there was some crazed people. There were the LaRouche people. There were some people from very right-wing groups that are not part of mainstream conservatives.
The conservatives were very happy to let them go out and attack Democrats. Then they began to worry because, oh, wait a minute, we have more rational arguments. And they wanted to pull back from the -- from the death panels, et cetera.
So, I think they made this mistake. By the way, the Democrats have made it previously. There is a reluctance on the part of mainstream politicians to repudiate the angriest and least rational and least logical and unfairest people in their own wing. And that's a mistake.
I wrote a book about it years ago. You have got to -- you know, one of the hardest things to do is stand up to people who tell you they're your allies. It's easy to denounce your enemies.
COOPER: So -- so...
FRANK: You have got to sometimes differentiate yourself from your friends.
So, no, the main opposition to this health care plan is not of that sort. But the conservatives made the mistake of not differentiating themselves from it, and, indeed, enjoying the fact that Democrats were getting hit with it.
COOPER: Congressman Rogers, what about that? I want you to respond. Is -- is the harsher rhetoric kind of driving the debate and kind of influencing congressmen?
I think, you know, the sexiest part of that debate is -- is when they can get that -- you know, that sign that I think the vast majority of Americans don't identify with and don't understand. I mean, when the -- the CODEPINK people were protesting during the president's speech, I mean, I -- I wish my good friend Barney Frank would have stood up then and said how wrong it was.
FRANK: I did, Mike. Excuse me. That is totally unfair.
ROGERS: You know what? That is not -- that is not unfair. And it happened a lot.
ROGERS: But, Barney, just let me finish, though.
And that's the problem, this heated part of it. Yes, there are those -- those folks on both sides of the aisle that are people that we would take pause and say, wait a minute, that is not a great way to express your point.
But here's the problem, what I think -- and I think Barney and others have absolutely missed. These are just average people who are scared. They're the ones that are paying their credit card bills. They're paying their mortgage bill. They're showing up for work every day. And they don't see a way out of this.
And they see this big government coming in and saying, I'm going to run your health care.
COOPER: Congressman Frank?
ROGERS: You mean the same people that couldn't get water to Katrina, the same people who couldn't process the cash for clunkers transactions are now going to take care of my sick grandmother?
FRANK: No, Mike, that's...
ROGERS: And that's what I think people miss. These are average people who are truly concerned.
COOPER: Congressman Frank?
FRANK: Yes, I want to respond to that set of partisan distortions.
In the first place, Mike Rogers is simply wrong. And I'm disappointed in him.
I did stand up to CODEPINK. I have chaired committees when they harassed witnesses when the Republicans were in power, and ordered them to sit down, and told them I would have the police remove them.
Mike, I don't know why you would make things up. We're trying to have a serious discussion.
No, I have been very critical over time when the same -- and, by the way, I -- I'm not missing anything. I know who lives in my district and I know who they are. And I know that the LaRouche people who come to my -- the town meeting I was at...
ROGERS: The LaRouche people are a very small percentage, Barney. They are a very small percentage.
FRANK: Mike, but they were the ones that I was talking about. You -- you say I don't -- I miss it. I don't miss it. In fact, you weren't listening to what I said. I differentiate. I know there are a lot of people who have legitimate concerns. I disagree with them, but they have them. The conservatives, however, were happy to egg them on.
And I will say that one important part of the conservative movement, FOX News -- in fact, I was criticized by FOX News for being rude to a LaRouche advocate holding a picture of the president as Hitler.
So, there has been an element in the conservative side that has failed to differentiate. I know who...
ROGERS: Well, where -- when is rudeness enough? I mean, my argument is maybe we shouldn't be rude to each other at all. There is a serious debate that we should have here that...
FRANK: I agree with that. I haven't been rude to people, except to the crazies.
ROGERS: ... concerns 270 million Americans who may lose their health care. And I think that's a -- we should have that debate. And, sometimes, it will be charged, but it doesn't have to be rude.
FRANK: Mike, you're missing the point. We were -- we were stopping -- that debate got interrupted by the right-wing attacks, not the mainstream conservatives, on the president and the health care plan. And too many conservatives were happy to sit back and let it happen. Now I hope we will resume that debate...
COOPER: We have got to go.
FRANK: ... because people have understood that wasn't a good tactic.
COOPER: I'm sorry. We got to run. We got to go. I'm sorry we didn't have more time for this.
Congressman Frank, appreciate it.
Rogers, as well, Congressman Rogers, David Gergen, and Deepak Chopra, as well, thank you. Good discussion.
ROGERS: Thank you.
COOPER: Up next: President Obama deciding to cancel a Bush era plan for a missile shield for Eastern Europe. He says his plan is better. Republicans are not so sure. You can decide for yourself.
Also, eerie new photos of the lab technician under arrest for the murder of Yale grad student Annie Le -- of course, they're eerie now. That's him on a Facebook page -- new details about his relationship with Le, including reports of texts or e-mail messages between the two.
We're live with the latest.
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