Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Recently, while waiting to be interviewed by the Huffington Post, I read something that gave me a very odd sensation. I knew what it must have felt like to be an alleged Iraqi weapon of mass destruction: Dick Cheney had lied about us both.
A copy of Cheney’s autobiography was on the table, and I gave it what is known as a “Washington read” – I went to the index and found my name – and read one of the most inaccurate criticisms ever made of my public record. Cheney wrote that in 2003 the Bush administration had sent legislation to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to Congress, but “it was killed by Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank.”
That year he led us into war to destroy weapons of mass destruction that did not exist. And I was not the chairman of the financial service committee in 2003 – or in 2004, 2005 or 2006. A Republican was.
There is a myth put forward by those seeking to absolve the financial industry from blame for the disastrous financial crisis of 2008 that says that liberal Democrat efforts to help poor people caused the crash. There are several problems with that thesis – including the fact that every appointee of the two Bush administrations who dealt with the Community Reinvestment Act, the law that is sometimes blamed, has affirmed that there is no connection between that law and the flood of bad mortgages. But the single biggest hole in that theory is that it blames Democrats – myself included – for the record of the Congress when it was wholly in the control of the Republicans.
Republicans took over both Houses in 1995, and with the exception of a one year period when the Senate was in flux because of Sen. James Jeffords’ switch of parties, they held it through 2006.
In 2003, when Cheney blamed me for killing a bill, the House was tightly controlled by Republicans, with Tom Delay as majority leader. I did not become chairman until January 2007. Only after that did the House finally pass the legislation to control Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that Cheney had been talking about. The story of this is related in “On the Brink” by Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who accurately notes that when he became secretary in the middle of 2006, on the assumption that the Democrats would win the House and I would become the chairman, he began conversations with me in which I pledged to enact that bill as soon as I had the authority to do so as chairman, and that I delivered on my promise.
To be clear, Cheney’s statement that I killed the bill as chairman of the Financial Service Committee in 2003 is not an exaggeration; it is not a misinterpretation; it is not a distortion. It is a lie.
Cheney knows that his party controlled the House in that year, as it did many years before and some after. (I do not think that when he sat on the House rostrum during presidential speeches, he thought he was sitting next to Nancy Pelosi and not Dennis Hastert).
It is possible that he was imputing to me such great power that even from the minority I was able to control the outcome of the House’s decisions. This is easily refuted. If I were secretly controlling Tom DeLay, we would not have gone to war in Iraq, we would not have enacted the Bush tax cuts for the very rich and he would never have gone on “Dancing With the Stars.”
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