When I picked up my mail today I found a magazine, a fund raising appeal, and four political mailings relating to the elections next week, three of which were targeted against Congressman Barney Frank. According to the first mailing, Americans for Limited Government believe he “no longer represents ‘us'” and that Nancy Pelosi “has him in the palm of her hand.” Sean Beilat for Congress sent two mailings. The first claims that Frank “and his “rich friends… live by a different set of rules,” and the other that provides three reasons why voters should “fire Barney Frank on November 2,” claiming he caused the financial meltdown, bailed out friends in the financial sector, and accepted vacations from the people who got federal bail out money.
These claims are, at best, exaggerations, some of them outright falsehoods. They are examples of some pretty intense negative campaigning and an obvious attempt to mislead the public. Quotations are taken out of context, presented in the mailing to look like press clippings, and topped with the logos from the newspapers’ mastheads so they look like actual published news articles, when in fact they are taken from opinion pieces or editorials. They are not objective analyses.
These two mailings come from the candidate’s own campaign, so Beilat can’t even blame a proxy group for the false accusations as he might with those in the mailing about Frank and Pelosi from Americans for Limited Government. That flyer contains a lot of accuracies about Barney Frank’s voting record, but falsehoods about the impact of his votes more broadly. For example, it establishes a causal effect between his votes in favor of the stimulus and the health care bills and the rising unemployment rate when, in fact, the relationship is coincidental.
A few days ago the Boston Globe published an editorial about voter anger throughout the country in this election and how it is impacting this election, arguing that it is misdirected.
VOTER ANGER takes many forms. Many people have residual disgust over the financial meltdown, the effects of which weren’t really known until after the last national canvass, in 2008. Those who thought they voted for change in 2008 feel thwarted by Senate filibusters. Many others, devastated by lost jobs or lower wages, feel that the people in charge of government should be made to feel their pain.
But rarely has the political equation and the policy reality diverged so sharply. The three initiatives most commonly under attack — the bank bailout, the federal stimulus plan, and the health reform act — are in no way responsible for the economic woes that are burdening.
Indeed those policies are working to lessen the impact of the economic woes in real ways. But with the public’s eagerness to “throw the crumb-bums out,” many legislators like Frank are finding themselves easy targets, not because of their voting records, but simply because they are incumbents. There is value to having incumbents representing voters. For example, Barney Frank is a powerful legislator who sits on a number of legislative committees. He has always used his position to the benefit of Massachusetts. An new representative loses these priviledges. Barney Frank is not perfect, but he is an outstanding Representative and I’d like to keep him in that seat.
I agree with the Boston Globe, which wrote:
Assessing Frank’s performance has always been tough, because his fingers are in so many legislative pies. He acknowledges having been slow, like other officials, to see the extent of the home-mortgage crisis that engulfed the economy. For that, he deserves blame. But the larger charge that he pushed to give federally backed mortgages to less-qualified borrowers isn’t all that it seems: The Bush administration, not Frank, was focused on raising the number of buyers in its “ownership society’’; Frank wielded his clout more on behalf of rental subsidies, arguing that not everyone is qualified to own a home.
On the other side of the ledger, Frank was instrumental in helping write TARP and the Frank-Dodd bill to toughen bank regulation. It is not true, as his challenger Sean Bielat says in his ads, that “No individual is MORE responsible than Barney Frank for the housing crisis and economic collapse.’’ Frank deserves some blame, but also some credit.
…On social issues, Frank is a leader in the move to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell’’ policy, while Bielat insists that the military does not discriminate on the basis of sexuality. On abortion, Bielat acknowledges that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land, but is almost unique among politicians in refusing to offer his own view of abortion rights. That refusal signals the strategic nature of Bielat’s candidacy — he’s a smart bomb directed at Frank, zeroing in on the economy while neutralizing Frank’s advantage on social issues. With his broad skills, Bielat can be a leader in the state GOP. But leadership requires more than just strategic intelligence.
Frank deserves the tough questioning he’s received from Bielat; but he also deserves reelection.
I second that assessment! Truth must not be allowed to become a casualty of this campaign, and it is.