Barney Frank’s interview with Business Week is a must-read for connoisseurs of hubris. The bad news for Republicans is that they will need to build a compelling, comprehensive, and detailed vision to solve the nation’s problems; the good news for Republicans is that their opposition is drinking deep from the goblets labeled “arrogance” and “conceit” and the country will tire of them easily.
One of the things that is most striking about the interview is the frequency with which Frank reminds interviewer Maria Bartiromo of his legendary humility:
Who would be on your short list for czar?
I don’t have a list because nobody’s asking me to appoint a czar, and I have this rule: I don’t think about things where nobody cares what I think . . .
Should GM acquire Chrysler?
I’m not competent to say. I try to resist the temptation that too many of us in politics and the media fall into, which is telling people a good deal more than we know.
But his proposals are simply a matter of showing people the “smart” path:
But we’re not talking about running the companies. You know, Harry Truman said once that being President meant getting people to do what they would’ve done in the first place if they were smart enough. This [car czar] is going to ensure that a lot of people do things that are in everybody’s interest.
Of course, when the opposition aims for their goals, it is politics. When Frank tries to enact his goals, it’s just the country’s best interest:
Oh, well, a push for green cars is very much a part of what we’re involved in. We don’t think that’s politics.
Indeed, when she brings up his past statements like “I want to roll the dice a little bit more in this situation towards subsidized housing“, she is urged to not believe her lying eyes:
With all due respect, congressman, I saw videotapes of you saying in the past: “Oh, let’s open up the lending. The housing market is fine.”
No, you didn’t see any such tapes.
I did. I saw them on TV.
Yeah, well, I never said open up the housing market, the market is fine. In 2005 a group of us in Congress were trying to pass a bill to restrict subprime lending, and we were opposed by right-wing Republicans led by [former House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay, and I don’t remember us being able to get any media attention. No, I have been on the record as saying repeatedly that pushing people into homeownership when they can’t afford it is a bad idea for them and the economy.
Guess who he blames for the nation’s economic troubles?
So whose fault is this?
The right-wing Republicans who took the position that regulation was always bad, the market was self-correcting, and you should not have any restrictions on the free flow of capital.
The following statement from Frank will be news to Enron, Aloha Airlines, the Tribune company, The Sharper Image, Francis Ford Coppola, Walt Disney, Larry King, Abraham Lincoln, Willie Nelson, Mark Twain, and everyone else who has ever declared bankruptcy.
Well, in the first place, it’s hardly the American way to just let people go bankrupt.
Nor does Frank see much irony in this statement:
. . . but the other point I would make is this: The purpose of this is to be able to get the federal government the hell out of it. They need us for now. But the federal government is there to try to make the federal role unnecessary within a few years.
Builds confidence, huh?
(John Hood is reading this article, too.)