The title of the book suggests the basis for the widespread interest: “Barney Frank: The Story of America’s Only Left-Handed, Gay, Jewish Congressman.” Now sixty-eight years old, Frank has represented Massachusetts’s Fourth Congressional District since 1981, and he remains best known for his decision, in 1987, to reveal that he is gay, becoming the first member of Congress to do so voluntarily. At the time, the disclosure provoked more curiosity than controversy, but, two years later, Stephen Gobie, a prostitute whom Frank had patronized and then befriended, made a series of lurid allegations about him—claiming that they had had sex in the House gym and that Frank had permitted Gobie to run a prostitution ring out of his home. An investigation by the House Ethics Committee failed to substantiate those charges, though it determined that Frank had written a misleading letter of recommendation for Gobie and had Gobie’s parking tickets waived. Nevertheless, Frank was reëlected with ease, and he became a pointed critic of the Republicans who took control of the House in 1994 and a passionate opponent of Clinton’s impeachment, in 1998. A witty and effective presence on the House floor and in committee rooms, Frank in recent years has settled into the roles of wise guy and wise man of the Democratic Party. (Conservatives “believe that life begins at conception and ends at birth,” he once remarked. More recently, he noted that Barack Obama’s continued insistence that we have one President at a time “overstates the number of Presidents we have.”) In a 2006 poll of Capitol Hill staffers by Washingtonian, published shortly before the elections that gave Democrats control of the House for the first time in twelve years, Frank was voted the brainiest, funniest, and most eloquent congressman—a notable achievement, since he often speaks in a barely comprehensible mumble.
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