Barney Frank Sticks Up for Tom DeLay

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This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," May 16, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Personal Story" segment tonight, one of the most outspoken congressmen on the Hill is Barney Frank (search ) from Massachusetts, a fiercely dedicated Democrat.

Over the weekend, DNC chief Howard Dean (search ) said, "Tom DeLay ought to go back to Houston, where he can serve his jail sentence." But Congressman Frank objected to those words. He joins us now from Washington.

Don't you think that Howard Dean is the best friend the Republican Party could ever have, saying all this stuff? I mean, why does he do that?

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, not all the time. I think we're all told, a lot of us, you've got to energize your base, et cetera, et cetera. And I agree that you really do want to make sure that the people who most strongly support you are enthused.

But I think you have that in a regional way. I guess there are people who think maybe, you know, being tough and being fair are inconsistent.

Governor Dean gets enthusiastic. I don't think he's the Republicans' best friend. I think he's been a very valuable Democrat. But I want to preserve my ability to speak out honestly.

Now, most of the time I'm going to agree with the Democrats and disagree with the Republicans. But on those occasions when I do strongly disagree with the Democrats and I don't say anything, I think I forfeit my right to have people pay attention to me when I say the things that I don't like about what Republicans are saying.

O'REILLY: Well, did you think it was a cheap shot?

FRANK: I think it was inappropriate. I'm a great critic of Tom DeLay's. I have nothing personal against him. I think he has run the House in a very bad way. I was very upset with what they did on the Ethics Committee.

But to say that he's a criminal, at this point there's no basis for that. He hasn't been indicted. And yes, I thought it was a very unfair and inappropriate thing to do.

And I also agree, there has been this tendency. People have denounced the criminalization of political debate. It ought to be possible to say that your opponent is a fool and has no idea what he or she is talking about, maybe isn't even well-intentioned in this particular thing, without us trying to throw each other in the slammer.

O'REILLY: Yes. I mean, I'd like to see the character assassinations stop, as well.

Now, you introduced, or reintroduced, legislation about medical marijuana. And we support medical marijuana for people who need it, here on this program. But we did an investigation out in L.A., and we found that, you know, as happens all the time in these kinds of situations, there are people exploiting it.

FRANK: True.

O'REILLY: You can get it when you're not sick.

The mayor of San Francisco even closed down clinics in his city, saying it was basically de facto drug legalization. Surely you know that happens. Does your bill take that into consideration?

FRANK: It does. I do have a question. You defended people who need medical marijuana on your program. Did they need it before they came onto your program, Bill, or was that a result of you working them over?

O'REILLY: Yes. While they were here, they were under the influence. We had Montel — look, we had Montel Williams (search) on.

FRANK: I saw your quote. I would say this: What I'm basically saying here is the federal government cannot and should not be the nanny of the states in everything here.

Yes, the states ought to do it right. And as you know, I think it's 11 states that have it. And some states will do it better than others. Look, there are abuses.

We have the liquor laws in the states. As you know, every so often, some enterprising reporter will go into a liquor store and will get liquor for someone who's 18 or 17 or 16. And there are those abuses. But what my bill says is we're going to leave this to the states. That assumes the states will do a good job.

O'REILLY: Wait a minute now. The federal government has drug laws that cover the whole country, and they have the DEA to enforce them.

If a state decides that they're going to legalize a drug — whether it's marijuana, heroin, crack, it doesn't matter — the federal government can come in and say: No, you're not.

FRANK: Sure.

O'REILLY: And so I want to know if California can't regulate its medical marijuana industry, which it clearly can't at this point, what's your bill going to do about it?

FRANK: Well, my bill does not take away from the federal authorities the right to prosecute misuse of marijuana. It does say that you can do it for medical purposes.

If the federal government — and here's the problem. What the federal government has said under both Attorney General Ashcroft and now Attorney General Gonzales, although it was Ashcroft who began it, they are objecting to the very premise of the bill.

O'REILLY: But I do not want this as a de facto pot legalization...

FRANK: No, the bill doesn't — nothing in the law says...

O'REILLY: No, just give more states more rights to regulate.

FRANK: There is this difference. The administration has taken the position that even in the place where the doctor is legitimate, they would not allow a doctor to prescribe Montel Williams pain relief. And that's where I disagree with them.

If it's being abused, then they'd go after it. And I don't know where it's being abused. That's not my job.

O'REILLY: It is, though, if you — well, that's OK. That's another discussion.

Now, Senator Kennedy along with Senator John McCain put out this bill, a proposed bill, last week, that would give amnesty to all illegal aliens who pay $2,000, learn how to speak English and have a clean record. It's just basically buying amnesty.

Yet in the bill there's no specifics on securing the border. And I think you can't do the amnesty without securing the border. Where do you stand?

FRANK: Well, I'm for the bill for this reason. I think we have people who are in the country. I wish that it were the case that we did not have a lot of people here illegally.

It's very hard — and this is the difficulty we have — it's very hard in a free society to have those kind of controls. You know, China can do it. North Korea can do it, although their problem, of course, is not that anybody wants to get in. They all want to get out.

But so I agree with Senator Kennedy and Senator McCain. Given that these millions of people are going to be here and there is no physical way to get them out, it's better to...

O'REILLY: But you're going to have 8 million more here in three years if you can buy amnesty for $2,000.

FRANK: Although there is a period they've got to work, et cetera, it's not automatic. Here's the difficulty, Bill. And I am in favor of some kind of controls.

Look, I voted against the views of a lot of people who were often my allies 15 years ago or 19 years ago for the sanctions. And that didn't work. But the idea was that we would make it a crime for you to hire someone who was in the country illegally. Now, the problem was — and it became too hard to prove this — I think one of the things we have to think about, frankly, is a national identity registry; not a card, nothing that you have to carry around, nothing that you have to produce.

O'REILLY: All right. All of that is fine, but you need to put the National Guard to back up the Border Patrol to secure the border.

FRANK: I don't think that will work for this reason. Here's the problem: We have a border of I don't know how many thousand miles with Mexico. If that worked, you then have to have it with Canada. Do you think how many people it takes to patrol the border 24 hours a day?

O'REILLY: We already did the math.

FRANK: It's millions of people — millions of people.

O'REILLY: You don't have to have every — you don't have to have every foot covered. You just have to have the main transit points covered.

FRANK: But then there will be new transit points. I disagree. I think you probably have got to do it every tenth of a mile.

O'REILLY: Look at the map. There are only a certain amount of roads, Congressman. They can't walk through Manitoba.

FRANK: They can walk through things (inaudible) I think you're underestimating the power there.

I think you have got to shut off the economic incentive. I don't think a free society can physically shut ourselves down with those 3,000 — what — 5,000 miles of borders. I wish I was more confident than you, but I don't think it can work physically.

O'REILLY: All right. Congressman, as always, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

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