Bob Franken: Sen. Barney Frank? Yes, please.
Consider this a fervent personal plea to Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick from those of us who pay attention to Congress: If we can’t afford the therapy or meds to correct such self-destructive behavior, then you, governor, are our only hope to make this condition tolerable. Please, please, please appoint Barney Frank as the United States senator from Massachusetts.
To bring everyone up to speed: Now that John Kerry has been nominated for secretary of state and confirmation will likely be greased by his fellow senators, Gov. Patrick must appoint someone to fill his seat for a couple of months until the state can hold a special election.
Enter Barney Frank, who just retired from the House of Representatives after 32 years. He has suddenly declared that he is interested in that temporary spot, telling MSNBC, “I’ve told the governor that I would now like to do that.”
Patrick, who is considering some others who have let it be known that they’re available, carefully responded with, “I have a lot of factors I’m considering, and he’s definitely on the list.” Frank’s take-no-prisoners style certainly would qualify as a “factor,” but it’s why this is too good to pass up.
Anyone who has watched Senate proceedings and managed to stay awake is well-aware that it is run — or more accurately, crawled — under strict Rules of Decorum, one of which states that members must not “impute to another Senator any conduct or motive unworthy by any Senator form of words, directly or indirectly or unbecoming a Senator.”
Barney Frank has spent a lifetime imputing. It would be uproarious to watch him operate in the “world’s greatest deliberative body,” which is how this bunch refers to itself. The members laboriously and insincerely refer to each other as “my distinguished friend.” Frank probably has never ever used those words in his life. This is the guy, after all, who took to the House floor to ridicule anti-abortionists who “believe that life begins at conception and ends at birth,” who called Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia a “homophobe.” We need him in the Senate.
We should squeeze at least a couple more months out of someone who could go to a town-hall meeting and tell an angry constituent, “Trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining-room table.”
In all seriousness, he is a good person to have at the table right now, as Washington tries to come up with sane decisions on handling our financial crises. For all his nasty bluster, Congressman Frank was a thoughtful advocate for effective reform. He’s the “Frank” in Dodd-Frank, the legislation that made at least some baby steps toward bringing the wild-frontier banking business under control. He champions the middle class like few have. Yes, it would be a riot to watch him lay waste to Senate civility, but would it be zanier than the just-completed fiscal-cliff bargaining? Or the tea-party fanatics trying to force the U.S. government into default?
The only thing that’s worrisome is the possibility that a Sen. Frank would cool his jets and mind his manners. That’s what happened with Al Franken (we think we’re distant cousins). As we all know, before he became the Democratic senator from Minnesota, Al was a comedian, not known for his light touch, to put it mildly. Once he took office, though, he got serious, deciding that he wanted to be effective and all that.
Now we have another chance with Barney Frank. He has it within his power to single-handedly turn the Senate from the Comity Club into the Comedy Club. He could make C-Span fun to watch. It’s all up to Gov. Patrick. Think of it, governor: Sen. Barney Frank is a mismatch made in heaven.
Bob Franken is a former CNN correspondent. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.