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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 20, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 20
Barney Frank comes to Seattle for Jim McDermott re-election fundraiser
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Barney Frank comes to Seattle for Jim McDermott re-election fundraiser

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

'This is great!' beamed Congressman Jim McDermott as he wrapped up a successful campaign fundraiser at the new offices of Nyhus Communications. 'I always make money when Barney comes.'

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was in Seattle May 17 to help raise money for McDermott's re-election campaign.

Not that McDermott particularly needs help. His 7th District seat, covering most of Seattle, is considered one of the safest in Congress, and McDermott is popular here.

As guests said their goodbyes and filtered out of the campaign event, McDermott and Frank met with reporters for a brief press conference.

Asked if bringing Barney Frank to town wasn't overkill, considering that he won re-election in 2010 with a whopping 83% of the vote, McDermott grinned.

'Barney and I had a chairman&' he began.

'Henry Gonzalez,' Frank interjected.

'Yes, Henry Gonzalez,' McDermott continued. 'He used to say, 'It's always too early to congratulate yourself.'

'People always have a right to reject you,' McDermott continued. 'Alan Boyd, Jim Oberstar, Ike Skelton - moderate, productive members - and they got dumped [in 2010].'

'I get the same question,' Frank added. 'Last September my numbers were in the high 60s to mid 70s - and I had Bill Clinton out to campaign for me. You're damned if you do and damned if you don't - you don't campaign and you're 'arrogant,' you do campaign and it's 'overkill.'

'Tip O'Neill told me a story once,' Frank recalled. 'He was 21. He was running for city council. And there was this older woman - he used to shovel snow for her and carry her groceries.

'And on Election Day she says to him, 'Thomas' - that was his given name - 'Thomas, I voted for you even though you didn't ask me to.'

'And Tip says, 'I didn't think I had to ask&.'

'And she answers, 'Thomas, everyone likes to get asked.'

In response to a question about raising the debt ceiling to enable the federal government to raise additional money by selling bonds, Frank bristled. 'It's unthinkable not to raise it!'

It was suggested that as a psychiatrist, McDermott might have unique insight into Republican views on the country's finances.

'It's not a psychiatric problem, it's a political problem,' McDermott replied. 'They want to threaten the president, to make him give on issues even when it doesn't make sense.'

'They're willing to risk everything,' he continued. 'The dollar is the reserve currency for the whole world. And they want to throw it in the wastebasket!'

'The Republicans are eager to undermine recovery,' Frank added, 'because they see that as a way to undermine the president.' Frank was asked if the latest version of ENDA includes protections for Trans workers.

'Yes, of course,' he answered. 'But that makes a political problem. People now have to do the lobbying for it. And it will take time. I think [in 2009 and 2010] people were under the impression that the Democratic leadership could just deliver this.'

To illustrate the difficulty of getting a majority vote for Trans-inclusive legislation, Frank revealed that a Trans aide had asked him to call the president of the Maryland Senate and lobby for a Transgender anti-discrimination bill.

'Well I didn't call because I didn't know the man,' Frank said. 'But I got [Minority Whip] Steny Hoyer to call, because Steny used to be Senate president in Maryland. And they still lost 20-27&.'

'Our system is set up to go slow,' McDermott added. 'Slower than activists might want.'

'We had nine Republicans who were with us on the Trans issue,' Frank said. '[Bellevue Republican] Dave Reichert, by the way, was not one of them.'

Told that Reichert had put out informal word through his staff that he would be willing to vote for ENDA if it came to the floor, Frank shook his head.

'No,' he said firmly, 'he never committed. Not to us. No.'

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