The Jewish Speaker of the House that could’ve been.
Congressman Barney Frank: gay, Jewish, soon to be retired, renowned for wit under pressure. One of the first two openly gay members of Congress, he’ll soon be the first congressman married to another man. But in a new interview, we learn that Tip O’Neill, Frank’s Democratic Massachusetts House colleague and the Speaker during the 1980s, had another first in mind for Frank.
BF: Robert Bauman had written a book in which he outed me. He incorrectly referred to somebody as my boyfriend—he wasn’t, he was a close personal friend—but he referred to me as gay. The press didn’t pick it up, but I thought, I’d better tell Tip. So I went to Tip. We were sitting on the floor, it was a bad day, we were losing the vote on the Contras, and I sat next to him. I said, Tip, I’ve got to tell you something. Bob Bauman is coming out with a book that says I’m gay.
“Awww, Bahney, don’t listen to that shit. You know they say these things about people.” I said, well, Tip, the point is it’s true. He said, “Oh Bahney, I’m so sad.” That’s when he told me he thought I was going to be the first Jewish Speaker. He acted as if it was the end.
JZ: When O’Neill said I thought you were going to be the first Jewish Speaker. Was he right in the end?
BF: I’d have a shot, I would have had a shot at leadership.
We were this close to having the most memorable Jewish parliamentarian since Benjamin Disraeli as Speaker of the House. I guess it’s time we started grooming Eric Cantor; somebody buy him a joke book.
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180
WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.
I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at email@example.com. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.
We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.