August 27, 2009

Anyone who is aware of all Internet traditions has by now seen the footage of Barney Frank taking down the Larouchie who asked him if he would support a "Nazi policy" by asking her, "On what planet do you spend most of your time?" But Rep. Frank was in rare form that night, standing up to the uninformed shrieking of the right and offering a real lesson in how to argue with conservatives. Rep. Frank's office provided C&L with the tapes of that town hall meeting in Dartmouth from last week, and I put together a sort of greatest hits reel.

Frank explains what deficit hawks should concern themselves with:

"I am struck by those who say, well, you don't care about the deficit. No, I do. I do care about the deficit. That's one of the reasons, not the only one, why I voted against the single most wasteful expenditure in the history of America. The Iraq war. If we hadn't gone to the war in Iraq, which I thought was a terrible mistake and voted against, we would have had more than enough money to pay for health care."

He argues with a "tenther" who thinks that Congress isn't authorized to provide health care for their citizens:

Frank: Do you think Medicare is unconstitutional, sir?

Teabagger: I think that Medicare needs to be reformed.

Frank: Do you think it's unconstitutional? You said that the Constitution doesn't give us the authority to do it, but Medicare was done. And, do you think Medicare is unconstitutional?

Teabagger: I think that Medicare needs to be reformed.

Frank: But you won't tell me whether you think it's unconstitutional, which you said--

Teabagger: I am not a Constitutional scholar-

Frank: Then why did you start off arguing about the Constitution?

That's really a fantastic exchange, where Frank digs an inch below the surface and finds nothing. He insists on having this questioner back up the rhetoric he cribbed off of Free Republic or wherever he got it, and the guy just couldn't do it.

And this is my favorite part:

Teabagger: Can you pledge to all of us here tonight, that if a new government single-payer system is instituted, that you will opt out of your Cadillac insurance?

Frank: Yes I am in favor of single payer, and that's why I like Medicare. (yelling) You act as if you people have discovered it is August. I have been a co-sponsor of the single payer bill, I think it would be better...

Teabagger #2: But we watch tapes of Obama and everyone else secretly say they're in favor of an eventual single pay system.

Frank: I haven't... sir, it's been 21 years since I've had a secret. (Laughter) And I don't have one now! You have discovered that I'm for single payer! I've been a sponsor of single payer for years!

What you see here is several things: 1) Rep. Frank is always in control; 2) he concedes nothing; 3) he allows his opponents to hang themselves with the outlandish logic of their own claims; 4) he knows when to throw in a well-timed bon mot. At one point, Frank says, "When you say things that people can't refute, they try to drown you out. That's understandable." That's someone who is confident in their beliefs. Democrats could learn something from that.

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