Congressman Barney Frank says his leaving Congress will make it harder to get LGBT rights legislation passed, though he has faith in the openly gay and lesbian legislators to whom he's passing the baton.
In a wide-ranging interview on my radio program on SiriusXM OutQ yesterday, Frank also reflected on his over 30-year tenure, his coming out as gay and the sex scandal that marked the early part of his career, when a male prostitute he'd been involved with -- "this hustler" as Frank called him -- publicly claimed in 1989 that he'd been operating a prostitution ring out of Frank's home. Frank also discussed the Republican presidential candidates as well as his plans after retirement from Congress.
"I have been able to use power I've accumulated, frankly, to be helpful," Frank told me. "I will say, yeah, I'm proud of what I've been able to do and I do think my not being here will make it hard. On the other hand we have other openly LGBT people coming along, and we may have for the first time, an openly lesbian Senator."
Frank was referring to the openly lesbian Wisconsin House Democrat, Tammy Baldwin, who is now running for the Senate seat being vacated by Democratic Senator Herb Kohl.
"We're now at the point where I believe we have broken the back of the prejudice, as we've gotten full legal equality in a number of states and we're on the road to winning it all," he said.
Frank recalled the sex scandal that exploded early in his career. "The hustler I'd been involved with decided in go public in September of 89," he said, noting that he survived the scandal -- both a vote to expel him and a censure vote (led by none other than former senator and House member Larry Craig) were defeated -- in part, perhaps, because the media was not as tough as it is today.
Comparing his case to that of former Congressman Anthony Weiner's, Frank said: "His problem was he lied about it and attacked the press. When I had this hustler come forward and talk about what I'd done, he did what is often the case: He said some things that were true, some things that were wildly untrue... As soon as he said he was going to the press I had a press conference and admitted everything. ...In Weiner's case, he lied about it and attacked the press for asking about it. In my case, this it was a male adult whom I had paid for sex. It was entirely consensual. In Weiner's case, what finally brought him down, was the unfortunate revelation that he had been texting with a minor."
On Mitt Romney and the Republican field: "[Romney's] lack of character, the sheer, complete unprincipled nature of the man is driving people away... And now Gingrich is there and it shows, first of all, how unattractive Romney is as a candidate, but secondly, how the Republican primary electorate has become such a hard-edged right-wing operation."
On his plans after retirement: "I am now going to be free to take public policy positions and expect to be doing a lot of TV debates. I expect to be doing lecturing. I expect to write a lot, a couple of books and some articles on the Internet. I believe I will be able to have a significant impact in shaping public policy issues, and that's a tradeoff to not having the governmental power."
Listen to three clips from the SiriusXM OutQ interview below:Frank on his future plans: Frank on Newt Gingrich: Frank on the progress the LGBT community has made over the last 30 years: