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Barney Frank wants to be a senator. Is that a good thing or bad? (+video)

In media interviews Friday, just-retired Rep. Barney Frank said he'd like the Massachusetts governor to appoint him as an interim senator. In his 16 terms in the House, he had both highs and lows.

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“I think there are progressive ways to work on Social Security and Medicare. I think making the case against them [tea party Republicans] on the debt limit is important,” he told The Boston Globe on Friday. “A split emerged in the Republican Party over the fiscal cliff, with mainstream Republicans splitting with the radical right. I think it’s important for us to continue to exploit that. We need to reach out to conservative Republicans who nonetheless are willing to compromise and find a way to reach a deal.”

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Washington Editor

Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.

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Hmm. We’ve got a few thoughts on this matter, unsurprisingly. The first is obvious: This is going to drive conservatives bonkers. Most interim senators are worthy placeholders who don’t engage much in partisan politics. (See “Sen. Paul Kirk (D) of Massachusetts, 2009-2010”). Sen. Barney Frank, on the other hand, would not be there just to keep the office lights on.

“The narcissism of the Beltway barnacle, it burns,” wrote right-leaning pundit Michelle Malkin after the news broke.

(Frank would be the first to point out that Ms. Malkin is mixing metaphors like she’s making soup.)

Second, has anybody heard from Governor Patrick about this? Frank has kind of put him on the spot. Maybe he (Patrick) has somebody else in mind. Can he afford to peeve the liberal wing of the state party? What would a Senate delegation composed of Frank and newly elected Elizabeth Warren try to do? If Republican Scott Brown wants to try to regain his just-lost Senate seat, he might benefit from being able to campaign against the dynamic duo of liberals.

Third, they're probably not holding a party in the White House mess to celebrate “Barney’s Back Day.” Frank is a committed opponent of possible Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel, because of the latter’s past impolitic statements about Jews and gays. (Mr. Hagel has since apologized for those words.)

Plus, as a progressive icon, Frank would be unlikely to applaud any deal the White House might try to strike with the GOP over Medicare or Social Security reforms. He might make any “grand bargain” harder to strike, from Mr. Obama’s point of view.

The debates would be more fun, though. This is a legislator who told a constituent at a 2009 town-hall meeting on health care that “trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to have an argument with a dining-room table.”

And that was a voter! Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell might need to work on developing a thicker skin if Frank’s appointment comes through.


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