Saturday, March 8, 2014
One requirement of the job I held for years as a member of the U.S. House was the need to answer questions that people had every right to put to me, but which in some cases I would very much have liked to ignore. Now that I no longer hold that position, not only can I dodge the difficult questions, I get to ask them without worrying about whether or not I am offending anybody by doing so. So here are some of the questions that have occurred to me lately:
• If the U.S. House Republican leadership decides to ask members to repass the Defense of Marriage Act, how will Congressman Mark Sanford vote now that he has newly returned to the House of Representatives?
• Since my former colleagues made only one exception in the across-the-board sequester rule, namely for air traffic controllers, will the bags of cash that the CIA regularly drops off at the palace of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai be subject to the sequester?
• In defense of a $700 billion military budget -- more each year than we spend for Medicare -- then-President George W. Bush said that America had been chosen by God to maintain security in the world. Two questions arise from this. First, whom had God put in charge of this important function for the many years before there was a United States? Second, exactly how did God make this determination clear, particularly since to my understanding, the only central religious text that mentions our country is the Book of Mormon?
• Is Mark Zuckerberg's status as one of the great leaders of this generation at all affected by his having held a fundraiser to support the re-election of Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, given that Christie's blocking of a same-sex marriage bill passed by the New Jersey Legislature makes him the individual who to date has done more single-handedly to deny same-sex marriage rights to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people?
• Why do high-ranking officials and prominent business people continue to write stupid, incriminating, and/or embarrassing things in emails, since they should know that emails are very likely to be published? Of course it is better not to have engaged in any of the activities described in these emails at all, so this is not a moral question, but a practical one -- what are these people thinking when they write this stuff down?
• Since the NRA and other strong opponents of our regulation on gun ownership justify their position because we must as a citizenry be prepared to defend ourselves against a potentially oppressive federal government, why are they not also pushing for individuals to be able to own mortars, anti-tank devices and shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles? Do they really believe that semiautomatic rifles will work if, as they appear to think possible, the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines might become the instruments of a repressive federal government?
• Since many of those seeking to outlaw abortion argue that it is a form of murder, and therefore seek legal rules that would subject doctors performing abortions to prosecution, why are they not also advocating criminal penalties for women who choose abortion? The pregnant woman who seeks an abortion is an essential, voluntary participant with the doctor who performs it. So why do abortion opponents generally support prosecution of one of the equally complicit and not the other? (The answer is they don't really consider it to be murder.)
Barney Frank is a retired congressman and author of landmark legislation. He divides his time between Maine and Massachusetts.