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This is, I am told

an open letter from Barney Frank to Ralph Nader

that was forwarded to me by a friend who I would expect would know whether or not a letter came from Barney Frank or not. (I tried to email his Congressional office to see if this is authentic, just to be safe (hey, kids - it's the Internet! Check your sources, 'kay?) but Barney Frank does not publish his email address; you'll have to call or write him yourself if you want to find out if this is real.

I have a response to this letter.

July 21, 2000
Mr. Ralph Nader
Nader 2000
P.O. Box 18002
Washington, DC 20036

Dear Ralph:Barney Frank by Charles Hefling from The Harvard Gay & Lesbian Review

Because the debate between us concerns some of the most important public policy issues facing this country, I thought it best to write directly to you in the interest of better clarifying issues for the voters.

In your comments at the National Press Club, you noted that you had been concerned about civil rights and civil liberties for some time, and specifically mentioned your opposition to the exclusion of women from juries during the 1950s. (Since you apparently think it relevant as to where I was in school at that time, and what I was doing there, I should note that I left elementary school in 1953 and graduated from high school in 1957. As a further cultural note, I am not aware that any elementary or high school students were playing soccer in Bayonne during that time. My elementary school sports were baseball and football when we could get to a park, and stickball when we couldn't.)

I admire your opposition to blatant sexism in jury service, but that does not seem to be of great relevance to the specific issues I have been discussing concerning your view that there are no important differences between Governor Bush and Vice President Gore. My explicit points are that Gore and Bush differ sharply on whether or not a woman should be allowed to decide to have an abortion; whether or not the federal government should act against discrimination based on sexual orientation; whether or not the federal government should seek to regulate gun ownership further; and on important aspects of how to deal with racial prejudice, including the subject of affirmative action.

What I have said and am saying is that your assertion that there are no important issue differences between Bush and Gore is either flatly inaccurate or reflects your view that the issues I have just cited are not important. And I have further argued, based on my own experience in Congress in dealing with these issues, and my recollection of your advocacy, that since you have generally ignored these issues in your career, it is reasonable to assume that the answer is that you do not believe that they are important. Obviously, as a citizen advocate you are free to choose for yourself which issues to become involved with and which ones to ignore. But, now that you have become a candidate for President, your dismissal of the relevance of these issues to the Presidential election undermines the efforts of those of us who are working on them.

Apparently, you are beginning to recognize that this posture is an obstacle to your gaining votes among many liberals and others to whom these are very significant concerns. And I take it that is why you asserted at the Press Club that you are a "superior" candidate to Gore on gay and lesbian concerns. On this point, the record flatly contradicts you. Vice President Gore has been an active advocate for the rights of gays, lesbians and bisexuals for many years. On the one issue where he falls short -- the question of marriage -- I remember when we were fighting this battle in 1996, you refused to take a position against the Defense of Marriage Act on the dismissive ground that you did not wish to get involved in "gonadal politics."

Your desire to avoid what you deride as "gonadal politics," and I think of as the fight for gay and lesbian rights, has been consistent. Having been actively involved in the fight against gay and lesbian bias in Congress since 1981, I cannot remember ever hearing from you on this subject. And the record shows that you have similarly avoided the subject of abortion. To the extent that you have now decided that in your search for votes you should take a position on at least some of these issues, I welcome that. But, it is inconsistent with recognition of the importance of these issues to continue to claim that there are no major differences between the Democratic and Republican Presidential candidates.

The leading organizations fighting for the right of women to choose regarding abortion, and for the ability of gay, lesbian and bisexual people to be free from discrimination, endorsed Vice President Gore during the primary season, reflecting their understanding of his strong commitment to these issues. Your decision to join him in this advocacy is encouraging and reflects the progress we have made in helping create a strong constituency for them. But your support will be incomplete as long as you continue to maintain that these issues are irrelevant to the choice of a President.

I should add that I am prepared to apologize for describing you as indifferent to these issues during your career as an advocate if you can provide me with evidence that I am wrong. In your discussion at the Press Club, you mentioned discrimination against women on juries four or five decades ago as an example of your concern. If there are more recent examples -- say, from the 80s or 90s -- of your working to protect a women's right to choose, oppose discrimination based on sexual orientation, or support affirmative action for racial minorities, I would be glad to learn of them. No one I have spoken to in Congress or in the relevant advocacy groups can recall your playing such a role.

BARNEY FRANK


Dan here again. If you read that far, you're probably interested enough to read my response to this letter if you haven't already.

If you want to make it easy for other people to find this, feel free to give out this URL: http://www.fullerbecker.com/thoughts_and_words/election2000/

What do you think? Let me know; send me email at netizen@fullerbecker.com!

fullerbecker.com - online since April 1999
This page posted August 15, 2000


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