Rep. Barney Frank will be remembered for three things: First, he was not only the first openly gay member of Congress but the first involved in a gay-prostitution scandal. Second, he said, “I do not want the same kind of focus on safety and soundness” regarding Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as exercised with regard to other government-affiliated agencies, preferring, as he memorably put it, to “roll the dice a little bit.” Third, he was co-author of the Frank-Dodd financial-reform legislation. Which is to say, Representative Frank will be remembered as an embarrassment, a reckless gambler, and a legislative malefactor.
Representative Frank was not much of a crusader on gay-rights issues, which was just as well. On the substance of those issues, he was on the wrong side. As a symbol, he was toxic — a powerful politician whose homosexual orientation was hardly the most remarkable feature of his private life, which included involvement with a gay hustler and convicted drug dealer whom the congressman was paying for sex, and who ended up running a prostitution operation out of the congressman’s home. Representative Frank was reprimanded by the House for making misleading statements to a Virginia prosecutor on behalf of the prostitute — whom the congressman eventually put on his own payroll — and for having fixed dozens of parking tickets on his behalf. Americans are broadly tolerant of homosexuality; they are rightly less tolerant of prostitution and political corruption. The congressman’s self-pitying account of the episode made the bad situation worse.
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