In something of an exit interview with The New York Times Magazine, retiring Congressman Barney Frank took the opportunity to score one last dig against GOP presidential contender and mortal enemy Newt Gingrich, bookending their protracted saga of verbal fisticuffs.
"He was a kind of McCarthy-ite who succeeded," the Massachusetts Democrat told the Magazine's Andrew Goldman. "He transformed American politics from one in which people presume the good will of their opponents, even as they disagreed, into one in which people treated the people with whom they disagreed as bad and immoral."
They were harsh words but no harsher than the body blows the former House speaker has landed on Frank for his involvement in housing policies in the run-up to the 2008 economic collapse. "If you want to put people in jail you ought to start with Barney Frank," Gingrich said at a GOP presidential debate in October. "Go back and look at the lobbyists he was close to at Freddie Mac."
Of course, a month later, it was revealed that Gingrich raked in $1.5 million for consulting work at Freddie Mac, prompting more vindictive barbs from Frank.
"He’s a man with no ethical core whatsoever,’’ Frank said on ABC's This Week. “As I look at the Republican debate, I have been casting ‘The Wizard of Oz,’" Frank said. “Newt is the Wizard of Oz. There’s nothing there." Going straight for the superlatives, Frank described him as “a despicable human being" and "one of the worst people that I know of who didn’t commit violence against somebody.’’
Following the remarks, Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond referenced Frank's impending employment status noting that “Grumpy is no way to spend your retirement.’’
No one knows if Frank's retirement will spark a detente between the two firebrands but, as the Boston Globe pointed out last month, the two characters are actually perfect foils of each other:
For two diametrically opposed figures on politics, Frank and Gingrich are remarkably similar otherwise. Close in age - Frank is 71, Gingrich is 68 - they began their congressional careers two years apart, with Gingrich arriving first in 1978.
Both are whip-smart and feisty. Frank earned a law degree from Harvard. Gingrich, a college professor before being elected to Congress, holds a doctorate in European history.
They have become perfect foils: two oversized characters whose wicked wits, acerbic and sometimes smug personalities, and razor-sharp tongues have added to the spectacle and high drama of American politics.
Read Frank's entire exit interview here.