Frank Predicts Gay U.S. Prez in 20 Years
Outspoken gay former Congressman Barney Frank was in San Francisco this week and told a gathering of the Commonwealth Club that while he won’t consider a presidential run, he predicted the U.S. could have a gay president in 20 years.
Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, has never shied from speaking his mind, and he held forth on a wide range of topics during an interview with gay radio reporter Scott Shafer of KQED. The audience of over 500 people, including former Ambassador James C. Hormel and his partner, Michael Nguyen, gave Frank a standing ovation as he stepped to the stage.
Frank, with his husband, businessman James Ready, seated just a few feet away, is known for his humor and wit, and quickly had the audience laughing.
"I’m glad to see so many of you who apparently have attention spans that exceed a tweet," Frank, 73, quipped. He said early in his 45-year political career, he always answered his phone with "How can I help you?" However, free from Congress, he now asks: "Why are you bothering me?"
Now retired, Frank said he enjoyed "freedom from stress." He said members of Congress were in the "grief business" because people only go to them when they have complaints.
Frank is spending his time now writing a book at his husband’s place in Maine.
Elected to Congress in 1980, he said in the early years he could find ways to work with House Republicans, but not today. "There is no such thing as a moderate Republican anymore," he said. "It’s all right-wing Republicans now and it has caused gridlock."
During House debate over repeal of the military’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy a few years ago, Frank said Republicans tried to separate the repeal from a large military bill with a pledge to pass the repeal as a stand-alone bill.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), who Frank called "one of the greatest leaders in House history," was speaker at the time and got angry. Her "heritage came forward" Frank said, as she told Republicans they could repeal DADT in the bill or there would be no military bill. This drew large applause from the audience.
Regarding legislation in response to the economic slowdown and Great Recession near the end of President George W. Bush’s administration, Frank said Democrats and Republicans argued over whether a bill should be called stimulus or recovery. He preferred stimulus, he said, "Because people like to be stimulated."
Despite political differences, Frank, who once served as chairman of the powerful House Financial Services Committee, said Democrats and Republicans "pulled together" to do the best for the country during the economic crisis. Still, he said, after President Barack Obama was elected, Republicans laid the crisis on him.
Frank detailed the political bargaining and deal-making behind the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill, which the Washington Post called "the most sweeping overhaul of the nation’s financial regulatory since the Great Depression." He said a new book by Washington Post veteran reporter Robert Kaiser covered the political action on the bill well.
Frank called Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (D), who helped with Dodd-Frank, "a star of the party," and "an extraordinary woman" with "great accomplishments."
Though elected to Congress in 1980, Frank did not come out until 1987. It was a gradual process for him, he said. He first came out to his family and friends and in LGBT circles in Washington, D.C.