Politics

Barney’s Boyfriends

 

What is it about the bad boy that is so alluring yet so destructive to their burnt paramours?

More so than Sandra Bullock or Denise Richards, a certain sixteen-term congressman from Massachusetts might be able to provide enlightenment here.

We learned last week that Representative Barney Frank had lobbied executives at Fannie Mae in the early 1990s to give his companion Herb Moses a job. The belated revelation comes from “Reckless Endangerment,” a new book about the financial-industry meltdown by New York Times reporters Gretchen Morgensen and Joshua Rosner. The year Mr. Frank and Mr. Moses broke up, Mr. Moses and Ms. Mae also broke up.  

Frank has sat for several decades on the House committee that oversees the quasi-governmental banking behemoth. In addition to the spousal support, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac provided Frank’s campaign and a family foundation with donations exceeding $100,000 over the course of the last 22 years.

From Fannie Mae’s quid came Barney Frank’s quo.

“Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are not facing any kind of financial crisis,” the anti-Nostradamus prophesied in 2003. “The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.” Frank became the most steadfast defender of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on Capitol Hill. He repeatedly pushed for greater involvement in low-income housing for government lending duo. .

So much of the current housing mess, of course, stems from loans made to people who seemed bad bets to pay them back. Boyfriends have consequences.

But the back-scratching relationship between overseer and overseen did not affect the congressman’s duties in the least, according to the congressman. Frank told the Boston Herald, “It is a common thing in Washington for members of Congress to have spouses work for the federal government. There is no rule against it at all.”

The boy trouble, and the excuses, rings familiar to observers of Congressman Frank’s bemusing political career. Barney has been here, done that.   

Four years ago, police in Maine busted current Frank boyfriend James Ready for possession, use, and cultivation of marijuana. He pled civil possession and paid a fine the following year. But like Frank’s involvement with Herb Moses landing a Fannie Mae job, Frank’s constituents didn’t learn of their congressman’s presence at the raid until years later. How could a politician who has taken such an active interest in pot decriminalization have missed all that marijuana? Frank conceded that he was “not a great outdoorsman” so he “would not recognize most plants.”

In the 1980s, Frank got involved in Steven Gobie. The romance was more late-night Cinemax than Jane Austin. They met through a Washington Blade classified touting sexual service. Gobie supplied his “hot bottom” and “large endowment,” as advertised; Frank supplied the $80. More money followed—to Gobie’s attorney, to his psychiatrist, to Gobie himself, whom Frank styled as his personal aide. It sometimes takes a large endowment to satiate a large endowment. 

Frank used his office to get thirty-three of Gobie’s parking tickets waived and penned missives on congressional letterhead to Gobie’s Virginia probation officers that the Boston Globe Magazine labeled “disingenuous at best and outright deception at worst.” That phrase seems well-suited for Frank’s denials that he had no knowledge that his rentboy was using his townhouse to collect rent from other enthusiastic tenants.

Frank was shocked, shocked when informed that his lothario had been entertaining clients at his home. Frank initially encountered Gobie as a prostitute and knew of his felony convictions involving cocaine and child pornography. But he didn’t know, we were supposed to believe, that his townhouse doubled as a whorehouse. Frank fessed-up to big-heartedness: “Thinking I was going to be Henry Higgins and trying to turn him into Pygmalion was the biggest mistake I’ve made.”

Barney Frank could teach us much about bad boys. This is not because he has been the “victim” of, or “suckered” by, them—as he claimed in the aftermath of l’affaire Gobie. Barney is the bad boy, insomuch as a supersized septuagenarian qualifies for the tag.

So in love with liberalism are his constituents that they tolerate any abuse or embarrassment that their corrupt congressman heaps upon them. They keep coming back for more: every two years since 1980, to be precise. The people of Brookline and Wellesley and Sherborn get liberal votes in Washington. The congressman gets his perks. Like Frank’s other relationships, this one’s a tradeoff.

In a one-party state like Massachusetts, reelecting Barney Frank isn’t even a question. But within a party touting a fifty-state strategy, an identity-politics anachronism like Barney Frank isn’t the answer. Democrats elsewhere are the real losers when he doesn’t lose in Massachusetts.  

At least Frank occasionally dumps his suitors when they no longer suit him. His kept constituents forever stand by their man.

 


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