Like a lot of people I gave an internal smile of satisfaction when I saw the video a couple of weeks ago of Sen. Barney Frank chastising a woman at a healthcare town hall meeting.
Like a lot of people who lack the topical knowledge or just plain smarts to make a good argument, the young woman in the video resorted to likening President Obama to Adolph Hitler. It's pretty well accepted that once you bring up Hitler or Nazis, you've pretty much lost the argument (unless you're arguing about whether Hitler could take Macho Man Randy Savage in a WWE Cage match, then I guess the Nazi references would be appropriate).
But the young woman in question brought upon herself the Barney Frank tongue lashing. She deserved it, and maybe she'll find a different, more appropriate and clever metaphor for her poster at the next healthcare town hall meeting (assuming someone lets her know what a metaphor is).
So yeah. Nice to see Frank callin' her out.
But then as I thought about it a little more, I realized I was feeling a twinge of ... something. There was something, I don't know, not quite right about the whole exchange (I mean aside from the obvious ridiculousness of the entire affair).
Then I realized that it was actually Frank who lost. By engaging the woman in the caliber of conversation with which she tried to engage him, Frank actually lost. He didn't realize that in this kind of un-argument, you can't win if you participate. That's a surprise given his vast political experience.
He took the bait and lowered himself to the level of the ad hominem.
Then, a few days later I was listening to a Planet Money interview with Frank that managed to completely erase what little respect I still had for him.
Planet Money's Adam Davidson interviewed Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, about trying to come up with a non-partisan way to address reforms aimed at preventing the kind of financial and regulatory crap casserole that allowed the recent global economic meltdown.
Frank's response was that he doesn't believe in non-partisan solutions.
"We're not dealing here with arithmetic. There is never going to be a consensus answer to what happens. You're not going to get calm, reasoned, bipartisan investigation," Frank said.
Frank proved himself to be a partisan bully. This is why there's so little hope for our country. The people in charge at the highest levels see this as some sort of game. What's important isn't finding the best solution and the best policy. What's important to them is scoring partisan points for their team.
The attitude has filtered into most of the politically aware society. The actual policies are irrelevant. People only care about associating with one side or the other and the petty "victories" those sides achieve.
tagged: politics, healthcare, economy, policy, Nazi, Hitler, Barney Frank