Political Animal


November 28, 2011 10:35 AM Barney Frank to retire

By Steve Benen

Rep. Barney Frank (D) of Massachusetts, one of Congress’ few truly great lawmakers, has decided he’s had enough.

US Representative Barney Frank, the state’s highest profile congressman and one of the nation’s leading liberal voices, has decided not to seek reelection next year.

A close adviser told the Globe today that the new district in which Frank would have to run next year was a major factor in his decision. While it retained his Newton stronghold, it was revised to encompass more conservative towns while Frank also lost new Bedford, a blue-collar city where he spent a lot of time and became a leading figure in the debate over fisheries.

Frank, who was first elected in 1980, will reportedly make the announcement at a 1 p.m. press conference in his district.

His retirement comes just a year after a relatively tough re-election fight — Frank won by “only” a 10-point margin, making the 2010 race the toughest of his career — which would have grown even tougher still in 2012 thanks to an unfriendly redistricting process.

Given this, Frank’s departure will give Republicans a pick-up opportunity in the redrawn 4th congressional district, though it’s unclear just yet who the leading candidates will be. Roll Call reported this morning that Alan Khazei, who recently dropped his U.S. Senate primary bid, will likely be in the mix.

But putting all of that aside, it’s worth pausing to appreciate the fact that Barney Frank has had an extraordinary and consequential career — the nation is better off for his efforts — and Capitol Hill is losing its smartest lawmaker.

In Washington, he will be missed, and we can only hope Frank’s post-Congress career includes time for his upbraiding of Republicans and reporters, if we’re lucky, on a full-time basis.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • c u n d gulag on November 28, 2011 10:42 AM:

    My immediate reaction to reading that was as if a family member or friend had died!

    Say it ain't so!

    So, a good man goes, but sacks of protoplasmic shit-scum like Bachmann, both King Klowns, Gohmert (Pile Of S.H.I T.), and the other Republican anarchists and nihilists in the House get to stay!

    Further proof that either there's no God, or He/She/It keeps f*cking with us Liberals.

  • geg6 on November 28, 2011 10:47 AM:


    Man, I'll miss Barney. Funniest guy in the House and right on all the right things.

  • bignose on November 28, 2011 10:48 AM:

    Since he will no longer be "part of Washington" I really hope that BF will take the opportunity to use his gifts of words and wisdom to rip the collective GOP a new asshole.

    Although he could never come close to matching the abuse piled on him by the right over the years, he can come pretty close, I'll bet.

  • SYSPROG on November 28, 2011 10:50 AM:

    I am devastated. He was definitely 'the smartest man in the House' as well as the funniest. Oh geeeeeeeezzzzz Barney...

  • Grumpy on November 28, 2011 10:50 AM:

    Redistricting is a weak excuse. So what if he's got some new constituents? It's not like they haven't heard of him before. Besides, every incumbent was obviously able to win election at least once without having a track record with constituents (except for, say, appointed senators). Even in a redrawn district, incumbents still have an advantage over challengers. Pols put too much emphasis on district lines, is my point.

  • Buffalo Harold on November 28, 2011 10:56 AM:

    When Barney Frank steps down, Congressional Democrats and the nation's liberal community will lose 99% of their brain power.

  • Skp on November 28, 2011 11:00 AM:

    Someone please explain to me where the Republicans get all this power to redistrict states to their advantage?

    Then explain to me how come the Republicans manage to keep electronic voting machines in several key states from independent verification.

    Then explain how Ohio and FL's questionable elections favoring George W. Bush couldn't be settled either way.

    Then explain the Supreme Court's decision favoring that Republican over Al Gore.

    Because I don't understand how any American, left or right, (EVEN MASSACHUSETTS) could tolerate even a hint of electoral tampering, knowing that once a party gets its hooks in our government permanently, all liberties and freedoms of the populus will be made null and void.

    Perhaps someone can explain to all Americans which dictatorship has ever worked for the people, rather than itself. We have plenty enough examples globally to know the truth of where we are headed, like lambs to the slaughter.

  • Eeyore on November 28, 2011 11:03 AM:

    I know Barney Frank briefly in the 1980's when a co-worker was Barney's partner. Barney is one of the funniest people I've ever met, and he had us all in stitches over dinner one night telling stories about life in DC.

    My three favorite Barney-isms:

    1) The famous YouTube clip where he told a teapartier who compared Obama to Hitler that talking with her was like arguing with a dining room table.

    2) Early in his career, he ran against Cong. Margaret Heckler for Congress. Ms. Heckler was famous for having really, really, REALLY big hair. He told about the time she came for a televised debate: "Congresswoman Heckler's hair entered the studio at 6:03, followed by the Congressomwan at 6:07."

    3) The time he asked another member of Congress "Which one of your three marriages did my relationship with another man harm?"

  • stevio on November 28, 2011 11:08 AM:

    Goodby Barney. The only constant is change. Unfortunately, the change here will probably be bad for progressives like myself. Saying he was the smartest congressman isn't saying much given what his peer group encapsulated. He is, nonetheless a clear thinking human whom oft looked-out for the common man. He will be missed...

  • martin on November 28, 2011 12:03 PM:


  • Hieronymus The Troll Braintree on November 28, 2011 12:55 PM:

    Tough loss for our side. Frank was one of the bestus congressmen ever. He was direct in his opinions with a sly,, sarcastic wit that he often used to puncture right-wing bupkis. Gonna miss him big time.

  • cmdicely on November 28, 2011 1:04 PM:

    Redistricting is a weak excuse.

    After 30 years in a job, its not really uncommon for people to be fairly strongly biased toward retirement such that a small change in conditions for the worse is the last straw that convinces them to retire, and does Frank really owe more than he has given?

    More people need to be stepping up rather than looking for heroes.

  • Redpirate on November 28, 2011 1:11 PM:

    What a bummer! I worked on his 1982 campaign which pitted him against Margaret Heckler when MA lost a congressional seat. It was probably my most satisfying experience as a campaign volunteer.

  • Davis X. Machina on November 28, 2011 2:36 PM:

    You people clearly didn't get the memo. Frank was a tool of the banksters and is just cashing out. None of that gay stuff matters. Just windowdressing.

    Sorry excuse for a Wurlitzer here on the left... playing too many tunes at once.

  • twon on November 29, 2011 4:33 AM:

    Crooks, all of them crooks.... you just believe his lies more than those of the other side.... toodle loo Barney, don't let the door hit ya on the way out!

  • jhm on November 29, 2011 8:09 AM:

    I expect that he's too much of a team player to admit it if true, but I think that in addition to the reasons he gives for this decision, his experience in the last Congress must have weighed heavy.

    After years of banging a drum about the excesses of the banking industry and the dangers inherent in deregulation, after the worst of his warnings seem to come true and Dems win one of the most commanding majorities of recent decades, he gets saddled in the banking committee with a bunch of Rahm dinglebarry democrats who're afraid that anything less than a watered down nothingburger of reform might infringe on their future fundraising and/or employment prospects. He then has to go out and defend this milquetoast reform (which bears his name) with full throated conviction.

    Granted, Dodd and the other Senate dinos might have done the same in the end, but still...

  • james on December 28, 2011 5:39 PM:

    I love how all the Democrats leave posts that are off the cuff and sincere, and then you get a republican in here that tears off another dumb talking point that we have heard a thousand times... it just shows you the difference in todays republicans and the ones from even 25 years ago... they no longer think for themselves. They are told what to say. The 900 right wing talk show hosts repeat day in and day out the same crap and of coarse they're gonna pick up the points, lies and all. They're too lazy to fact check anything.