WASHINGTON – Representative Barney Frank was bullish on the economy this morning, saying it was ready "to take off” and would turn the political fortunes of the Democrats around by 2012.
“I believe the economy is, frankly, in a position to take off.,” Frank, the chairman of the Financial Services Committee, said during a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
During the wide-ranging discussion, Frank touted the financial reform bill that he shepherded through earlier this year, called outgoing Obama administration economic adviser Larry Summers “a great asset,” and had high praise for the Bay State’s new senator.
“One of the things I’ll tell you about Scott Brown is he’s one of the best technical candidates I’ve ever seen,” Frank said. “People talk about Martha Coakley not running a good race; people don’t talk enough about the technical, excellent campaign that Scott Brown did. That is, he took his own persona and played it up. He was comfortable, it was really him.”
(Frank’s comments prior to the election were much less complimentary. “Having an old truck and two daughters are not usually policy arguments,” he said during the final days of the race. Brown won Frank’s district, and the two have since worked together on several issues).
When asked about the criticism Brown leveled yesterday on Harvard for continuing to ban ROTC from its campus until the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, Frank said, “I don’t pay much attention to it.”
“It’s largely a kind of symbolic fight. I have enough real fights to worry about,” he said. “Harvard’s a private institution. I thought Republicans were for letting the private sector make its own choices.”
Frank said the economy is poised to recover, although perhaps not quick enough to avert Democratic losses in congressional races this year. He would not speculate on whether Democrats would lose the House majority, but he compared this year to 1982 when Republicans dealt with congressional loses only to rebound two years later when the economy improved.
“Things have gotten better. They haven’t gotten better fast enough,” Frank said. “The biggest mistake the administration made was the prediction that if the stimulus bill passed, unemployment would drop below 9 percent. There was no reason to say that. Why make the prediction?”
Frank also called for less military spending, an issue he has taken on in recent months with Representative Ron Paul, the Texas Republican.
“I would feel morally conflicted if I thought we could do a lot of good in a lot of these places. But people just get mad at us,” Frank said, before citing the 50,000 noncombat troops still in Iraq.
“If there’s not combat, what the hell are they doing there?” he said. “Mediating an election? Arbitrating religious disputes? Let’s get them home. Tens of billions of dollars are spent there. America has got to scale back its worldwide military force.”
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.