TODAY | November 29, 2011
>>> now to another big political story. after more than three decades in congress , massachusetts representative barney frank has announced his plans to retire at the end of his current term. congressman frank is with us this morning. good morning to you.
>> good morning.
>> when you talked about why you are retiring, you said your district has been redrawn in a way that would make it more difficult for you to win re-election. my question is are you leaving your fellow democrats in the lurch? it won't be any easier for any other democrat to win this seat, right?
>> right, but that's not exactly what i said. i didn't say i wasn't running because i was afraid i couldn't win. what i said was i had decided over a year ago i was going to retire. i'll be 72 in a couple of months. i didn't think staying until i was almost 75 was ideal. but i then wehen we took over the house i thought i should be here to fight financial reform and to make sure military spending reductions of an appropriate sort are part of deficit reduction. that's what i planned to do. when i saw the new district, there were two responses. because it's 325,000 new people, it would include full-time campaigning, including raising a couple of million dollars.
>> so for those who think this is a signal that you don't think democrats will win back control of the house in 2012 , your response would be what?
>> that i wish we could talk substance sometimes in the media. i know that's against the rules. i'd like to talk about public policy. i regret that we can't. no, i am making a personal decision here. i was going to retire. i changed my mind because i felt i could spend this two years most effectively if i was a candidate for re-election fighting to protect financial reform and reduce excessive overseas military spending . now that i would have to spend most of the year in campaigning, fund-raising, et cetera , those reasons are no longer valid. so, no, this doesn't mean that we're not going to take back the house. in fact i think we're likely to win this seat. again, i don't know, did you think i would serve until i was 106? i'm 71 years old. the question is i have decided not to serve until three months before my 75th birthday. i guess i don't understand why that is so hard for people to grasp.
>> you've talked about the tone in washington among the media but also members of congress . you have served in this institution for 30 years. during that time i don't have to tell you congress 's approval has gone down to the single digits. how does that make you feel about your life's work?
>> well, you exemplify what i think is a change in the tone. you manage to ask all sort of negative questions. i understand that's the media's current role. it didn't used to be that way. that's part of the way for the low approval. it's gotcha this and gotcha that, it's gotcha journalism and gotcha politics an it does lessen our chances to get things done. i may have a big ego but never identified myself as the entire congress . i'm very proud of the financial reform bill and proud of the progress we've made, for example, in protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people against environments. i'm proud of the role in helping impeach bill clinton . the fact that institutions in america today are less popular, the media is less popular, congress is less popular, i don't tack that personally.
>> back to the tone, you make a fair point about the media, on the other hand, you certainly are known for your sharp tongue at times. do you feel any responsibility for your own role in kind of that tone that we do see in washington, whether it be media or members of congress ?
>> well, congratulations, you're four for four in managing to find a negative approach . no, i will say this. in 1981 when i got to congress , i was very cooperative in a bipartisan way. newt gingrich actually boasted about the extent to which he changed things. he forced out the minority leader and said, no, we have to challenge the democrats as our enemies. look, there was a poll taken a couple of years ago, 2010 , i believe, or 2009 and people were asked who was the most partisan member of congress and who was the most bipartisan and they asked the republicans to rate democrats and democrats to rate republicans. i was rated as the most partisan and the most bipartisan. i think that's what's appropriate. where you have areas of disagreement, you ought to articulate those. where you have areas of agreement, you ought to work together so i think i've been able to do both, be sharp where there were differences, which is appropriate in a democracy, but reach out and be cooperative on those areas where we can work together.
>> congressman barney frank , congratulations on your retirement. thanks for being with us this morning. we