It was because he was going to retire anyway, lost a favorite port town in redistricting and had a tough race last time. Was this really why Congressman Barney Frank announced today he’s retiring from the House of Representatives? Perhaps another reason was he’s no longer chairman of the House FinancialServices Committee and like a lot of bullies, Mr. Frank found it’s not easy to be stripped of the power to torment and humiliate others.
Mr. Frank’s departure in January 2013 will remove from the House one of its more offensive members. Until then, this petulant, abrasive and downright nasty Congressman will keep making his presence known. However, it is unlikely that Mr. Frank is leaving for the reason he should depart Congress: out of shame for all he did to stop reform of Fannie and Freddie while there was still time to avert the disaster that almost took down the American economy. In 2003, he called Fannie and Freddie “fundamentally sound financially” and accused the Bush Administration of trying to “exaggerate a threat of safety… [to] conjure up the possibility of serious financial losses to the Treasury, which I do not see." A year later, he said talk of financial problems at Fannie and Freddie were “an artificial issue created by the administration...I don't think we are in any remote danger here." In 2007, as Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and just as Fannie and Freddie – overleveraged and stuffed to the gills with risky mortgages they’d encouraged and facilitated – were about to go over the cliff, Mr. Frank attacked President George W. Bush’s call for reform as “inane.” Yet when Fannie and Freddie went belly up in the fall of 2008, Mr. Frank voted for the same Bush Administration reforms that could have averted the bankruptcies of Fannie and Freddie.
Why did Mr. Frank oppose giving these two gigantic financial institutions the same scrutiny as a local bank, a neighborhood savings and loan or a community credit union? Fannie and Freddie provided “grease” for the Democratic political machine through hundreds of millions in charitable contributions to left wing community and advocacy groups that are critical to Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts. Fannie and Freddie hired vast armies of influence peddlers – admittedly from both parties, but mostly Democrats – to forestall any efforts at reasonable regulation. Fannie and, to a lesser extent, Freddie, were led by Democratic political power brokers, masquerading as mortgage bankers while advising Democratic presidents, vetting Democratic running mates, and plumping the election hopes of Congressional Democrats. Mr. Frank is incapable of feeling shame, regret or a sense of personal responsibility. These are emotions for lesser beings. He’s leaving because of redistricting or to avoid having to raise money or facing those nasty little voters every two years. The House will be a better place for his departure. Karl Rove is a former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush. He is a Fox News contributor and author of "Courage and Consequence" (Threshold Editions, 2010).