Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
WELLESLEY -- As the television cameras rolled, the congressman did what he usually does. He stuck to his guns, toed the progressive line, and confidently stated his opinions.
Few, if anyone, disagreed with him this time.
Representative Barney Frank's town hall meeting today at Massachusetts Bay Community College in Wellesley was mostly uneventful, a far cry from an event last month in Dartmouth in which Frank, in an exchange featured on newscasts and shared widely on the Internet, clashed with a questioner, asking her, "On what planet do you spend most of your time?"
“I expect it's going to be anticlimactic,” Frank said in a brief interview before the forum. “You're [the media] all going to be disappointed.”
For two hours, Frank took questions and listened to concerns from residents from Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, and other western suburbs. Most questions were focused on the looming health care issue. Some people asked about the Bernie Madoff affair, banking regulation, home foreclosures, and education.
Greeted by a standing ovation, Frank used the forum to reiterate his support for a public option in the new health care reform proposal. He also called for an end to the war in Iraq and a reevaluation of military action in Afghanistan.
He said he was concerned about the present Afghan government and the recent allegations of impropriety in the national election there.
“I would not want anyone to live under the prejudices and religious bigotry of the Afghan government,” Frank said. “But it's time to withdraw from Iraq and focus on whether or not there is a strategy to do Afghanistan right.”
Frank also said he favored having Governor Deval Patrick appoint an interim senator to temporarily fill the late Edward M. Kennedy's seat before a special election early next year.
The afternoon discussion was a polar contrast to the late August forum, where protesters raged and Frank went on the defensive, firing back at a woman who had called the health care reforms proposed by President Obama a "Nazi policy."
Frank asked her what planet she came from, called her comments "vile, contemptible nonsense," and said, "Trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table. I have no interest in doing it."
At today's event, there were no angry outbursts or other verbal attacks on Frank, considered one of the most liberal members of the House of Representatives, who is often in the crosshairs of the conservative right.
“There was no furniture in the room this time except the chairs on the floor,” said attendee Peter Cohen, 54, a psychiatrist from Newton. “Barney is one of the smartest members of Congress, and he is also a very astute politician. I'm very glad he's my representative.”
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