Topic: Government & Politics Society

Barney Frank
(May 2005)

The most brilliant feature of an Ethics Hero, the one quality that makes identification as such immediate and undeniable, is the quality of standing up for principle even when it is in support of someone you detest. Thus we know that Congressman Barney Frank is an Ethics Hero, for he stood up forÂ…Tom DeLay.

Now Barney Frank, as everyone knows, is gay. Tom DeLay probably wouldn’t shake his hand without running to wash his own immediately after. Tom DeLay believes that Barney Frank shouldn’t be able to marry, or teach school, or be an ordained minister. He almost certainly believes that he doesn’t belong in the U.S. Congress. Tom Delay looks upon Barney Frank as a sinner and an exemplar of serious moral problem in America, and Frank knows this well. For his part, Barney Frank thinks Tom DeLay is a ruthless, unethical political bully because, well, he is.

But when Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Party, said that DeLay, "’ought to go back to Houston where he can serve his jail sentence,” Frank rejected the attack as over the line, and publicly chastised Dean.

“That’s just wrong,” Frank said in an interview on the convention floor. “I think Howard Dean was out of line talking about DeLay. The man has not been indicted. I don’t like him, I disagree with some of what he does, but I don’t think you, in a political speech, talk about a man as a criminal or his jail sentence.”

Barney was right. Even Tom DeLay deserves a certain amount of fairness. But saying so when all your friends and allies are up and cheering a cheap shot on your enemy takes a large measure of character and keen ethical instincts.

With enemies like that, who needs friends?

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