THE majority opinion reads more like a press release by the Congressional office of Barney Frank (D-Mass.) or an ad written by those already working for his re-election than an editorial. It mainly recites Rep. Frank's superlative legislative record. That kind of reaction is just as political--and just as misguided--as the Republican chorus calling for Frank's resignation. Ideally, a newspaper should avoid partisan responses and at least try for objectivity.
Like the majority, we respect Frank. Both liberals and conservatives should admire his dedicated and intelligent advocacy for the many worthy causes he supports. Frank is one of the country's most eloquent and able politicians, and his wit and charm have won him admirers on both sides of the Congressional aisle.
We believe, however, that those facts are irrelevant and even distracting to this issue. That Frank is a fine member of congress is not at issue.
The majority not only implies that Frank's sterling legislative record somehow excuses his actions, but stubbornly insists that this episode will not damage his effectiveness as an advocate for liberal causes. Whom are they kidding? Becoming an object of ridicule will certainly damage Frank's legitimacy and credibility, as major newspapers like the Boston Globe have pointed out. And every hour Frank spends defending himself is an hour taken away from his time for liberal causes.
WE do not call for Barney Frank's resignation. Some of us believe that Frank's sexual escapades do nothing to disqualify him from office, and others prefer to hold judgment until the Ethics Committee makes its full report, but all of us realize that to emphasize his political record in his defense, as the majority does, is only to invite charges of hypocrisy. Would the majority defend Senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) with the same vigilance if he slept with a prostitute? Let's not fool ourselves. If Helms spoke with his mouth full, the majority would probably scream for his resignation on the grounds of bad judgment.
Ultimately, standards of moral judgment can not just be decided by who has the votes during a staff editorial meeting or whose politics are favored by the majority of the staff. On sensitive matters such as the Frank case, it should be common sense, not the majority's politics, that decides.
Has the Frank scandal "stained" the institution he serves? Perhaps, but certainly not as much as the many members of Congress who regularly use their positions for financial gain and sell their votes to the highest bidder, as the staff editorial rightly points out. Has he abused the public trust? If, as is expected, the Ethics Committee finds that Frank knew nothing about the prostitution ring being run out of his Capitol Hill apartment and clears him of any wrongdoing, the answer is no. Finally, will this episode irreparably impair his ability and effectiveness in fighting for the liberal causes that he and the voters of his district care deeply about? Ultimately, Frank and his constituents must decide that one.