the astonishing statements Newt Gingrich has made during his amazing
meteoric rise in the thrilling GOP presidential nomination race, which
the latest polls suggest he may be leading, is that Rep. Barney Frank
should be jailed. His crime: co-sponsoring the Dodd-Frank bill,
legislation aimed at reforming Wall Street.
Some of my One Percenter friends cheered the sentiment, expressed by the presumptive crown holder in the Oct. 11 debate.
Should Barney get three months in Rikers Island, which could make him see the error of his ways? Too kind? Perhaps Gitmo.
Barney Frank and Bill O'Reilly
Now that the Massachusetts Congressmen has announced he will not be
seeking re-election after 16 terms of trying to bring some sanity to
Congress, at the risk of offending my better-off friends, I confess
Barney has always been one of my favorite congressmen.
Not only is he "the brainiest, funniest most eloquent defenders of civil rights," according to a survey
of Capitol Hill staffers, but he is also my media hero. He is the only
man in the 20th -- or 21st -- century ever to beat Bill O'Reilly in a
You know those so-called "debates," when Bill would invite some authority to The O'Reilly Factor
on Fox News to argue an issue, then interrupt the speaker continually,
before giving him the last word, which he would interrupt to add his own
last word, often summarizing the other side of an argument wrongly.
It was always fun seeing some obscure bearded professor from some
state college being eaten alive. It's sick, but fun. Better him than me,
I would always think with guilty pleasure.
Sen. John McCain said an appearance with O'Reilly was a similar
experience to his interrogation in Vietnam. He was happy to escape
It was O'Reilly himself who told me about his historic debate with Barney Frank, while I was interviewing him for my book, The Man Who Would Not Shut Up: The Rise of Bill O'Reilly.
("A fair and balanced achievement," The New York Times said about the
only book that ever had anything good to say about O'Reilly other than
the seven books he wrote about himself.)
Frank v. O'Reilly took place in November 2000 during the Florida
recounting crisis. O'Reilly was trying to argue that the Democrats had
manipulated certain things in counties they controlled, Frank told me.
"I had fortunately read some of the stuff beforehand. His technique was
the use of selective information. His facts were wrong. I mentioned that
and he was taken aback. He just generally over-argues wildly. In the
Florida debate, it was a case of sort of getting inside the wild swing
and playing out things that he said that were just wrong."
Among the other debater's tricks O'Reilly uses is the rhetorical
sidestep. "When he is behind," Frank said, "he changes the subject on
O'Reilly is also a master at turning a debate around just as the bell
rings. "When he seems to be losing an argument," Frank explained," he
says, 'Well, that's your opinion. Thanks for coming on.' " As if he
wasn't presenting his opinion in the "No-Spin Zone."
When in doubt, Frank argues, you can't go wrong out-yelling the fire-breathing dragon.
In all humility, O'Reilly told me, he let Barney win that once. Just to show he's human.
After the Frank battle, O'Reilly said he even got a telegram from
Charlton Heston "congratulating him on his restraint in the face of
"I assume he meant O'Reilly didn't shoot me," Frank recalled.
Geraldo Rivera is the only current contender for the Barney Frank
Prize in modern cable TV disputation, often coming out on top in the
Friday night fights on Fox News. But Frank, who knows all the tricks,
showed how it could be done.
Now that Barney will be having free time, he should open a school to
train business leaders, money managers, politicians, progressives, and
others who are afraid to get into the pit of snakes that is The O'Reilly Factor.
He would be following in the footsteps of Fox's founder and president,
Roger Ailes, who, in between gigs as presidential adviser, ran a
consulting group that trained corporate executives how to face Mike
Wallace on 60 Minutes.