This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," June 24, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: We're pleased to welcome back to "The Factor," Congressman Barney Frank, who joins us now from Washington. Congressman, we appreciate you being a standup guy, and I have a bunch of very simple questions because, as you know, I am a very simple man. Let's begin with President Obama not releasing the prisoner abuse pictures. Do you support the president's action?
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REP. BARNEY FRANK, D-MASS.: Pretty much, yes. I think that's a decision that he is entitled to make. I was a little puzzled that people were saying that we were going to withhold pictures between 2001 and January 22, 2009. I still haven't gotten an answer why he feels this is only applicable during the Bush administration. But I think that is a judgment I trust the president to make. I think he is being very forthright about a lot of things, and given the situation he's in, I think that's a reasonable decision.
O'REILLY: OK. But you know that Senators Graham and Lieberman were very angry with Nancy Pelosi, yourself, a few other Democratic congressmen. When their bill went to the Senate, you stripped out that provision of banning the photos from public release. You saying you wanted to hear the other side, and the senator saying, hey, we have heard from every top- ranking general, the CIA and everybody else, the Defense Department. They all say this puts U.S. troops in danger, yet you and Mrs. Pelosi and others tried — did succeed in stripping that out.
O'REILLY: So you can see why some people are annoyed.
FRANK: Because we believe — well, only because they haven't looked at the whole situation. We have had here — and I don't think people ought to be hypocritical. We have had objections which I have shared to people going through appropriations bills, which are for spending. And without adequate debate, without any kind of hearings or discussion, putting unrelated provisions in there. My objection on that was purely procedural. The House had passed the bill that was for funding the Iraq and Afghanistan military efforts. And the Senate then unilaterally said, OK, without any debate or anything, we're just going to put this in there. So my objection was procedural.
O'REILLY: Yes, but why bother with procedure on such a vital issue?
FRANK: Please, because....
O'REILLY: Why bother on such a vital issue on procedure?
FRANK: Well, could we have a rational discussion without interruption on this?
O'REILLY: I think we are, no, no, there are always going to be interruptions. You have seen the program. Go ahead.
FRANK: No, I don't accept that. I don't accept that. This is more complicated than your yelling would make it look like...
O'REILLY: I didn't yell, Senator (sic). If the volume is up on your earpiece, we'll turn it down. Why (inaudible)...
FRANK: May I answer?
O'REILLY: ...procedure in a vital life-death situation like this?
FRANK: Because timing was not a problem. There was no chance that those photos were going to be released. If it was an emergency situation where the only way to stop the photos from being released was to ignore legitimate procedure, that would be a different story. The president said he wouldn't do it. The courts had, in fact, said that they would uphold that for some months. So the notion that, oh, it's important, ignore the congressional procedure, that's how we get in trouble. These last-minute amendments — and they are often very good ones — but either people believe in the procedures or not. If there was an emergency, it would be a different story. But there was no...
O'REILLY: But why didn't you come out and say — why didn't you come out and say, listen, I support the Graham-Lieberman bill, but I would like to do it in a different way? I didn't hear that from you.
FRANK: I did say that.
FRANK: Well, I'm not responsible for everything that you hear.
O'REILLY: When did you say it?
FRANK: I did — I consistently said during that discussion that I thought it was a mistake to do this in this form, violating the procedure, to put it into an unrelated appropriations bill, and I think the problem of taking appropriations bills that have to pass and putting other issues in there is how we get into trouble.
O'REILLY: I didn't hear you say it. You could have said it a little louder.
FRANK: Well, I'm sorry that you didn't — no, excuse me...
O'REILLY: I covered this pretty closely.
O'REILLY: All right, let's get on to...
FRANK: No, but it's simply — no, no, no, no. We're not going to stop with you saying — no, I'm sorry, Bill, but I'm not going to let you suggest that I didn't say it. I said it, I said it regularly...
O'REILLY: I believe you. You said it, I believe you. I didn't hear it. Maybe you could have said it louder.
O'REILLY: Tell me, and I will say it loud. You know how loud I can get. Next time, tell me, I'll say it real loud. OK, now, Defense of Marriage Act. The Justice Department comes out in response to a lawsuit and says, hey, the Obama administration wants to keep traditional marriage the federal law of the land. And I guess you disagree with that, right?
FRANK: No. I didn't say that. Again, that's not (inaudible) what I said...
O'REILLY: No, no, I guess you disagree with it.
FRANK: Well, you guessed wrong. May I respond?
FRANK: What I said was, first of all, I defended the president against some of my fellow gay and lesbian and other activists who criticized him for this. Let's define his position. He didn't say he wants to keep that there. He wants to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. What he said was as president of the United States, he is constitutionally obligated to defend the law even if he didn't like it. And what I said to many of my gay and lesbian friends is, don't be hypocritical. Just as I said on the procedure, when George Bush ignored laws that we thought were important that had been passed, we were critical. We should not be in the position of giving Obama the right to do what we said Bush shouldn't do.
FRANK: So President Obama, to his defense, wasn't saying he liked that law. He was saying that it was his constitutional duty to uphold it in the court case, but he did like it to be repealed. And I agree with both positions.
O'REILLY: President Obama has gone on record as saying that he believes marriage should be and should remain between a man and a woman exclusively. So...
FRANK: Yes, but that's not what you asked me. You asked me...
O'REILLY: No, but that's what I'm asking you now.
O'REILLY: This is another question. We move quickly here.
FRANK: Well, I want to — but...
O'REILLY: Have you told the president that you object to his belief system?
FRANK: I have told him I disagree with him. Disagreeing with someone is not an objection to his or her belief system.
O'REILLY: So you respect it?
FRANK: But I do want to make...
O'REILLY: You respect it?
FRANK: I do want to make clear this distinction that I think may have gotten blurred in our conversation. The president does say he believes marriage should be between a man and a woman. But he is opposed to the Defense of Marriage Act because it intrudes, for instance, on states like the one I...
FRANK: ... and others which have allowed this to happen.
O'REILLY: But some people — some people in the gay community say if you oppose gay marriage, you're a bigot. You have heard that. You don't believe President Obama is a bigot, do you?
FRANK: I have never said that of anybody.
O'REILLY: You don't believe that?
FRANK: I have said that three times now.
O'REILLY: OK. I'm glad you are...
FRANK: I do not believe that you are a bigot. I have been saying that for years. I disagree with people, but not every disagreement means that someone is bigoted.
O'REILLY: We have some common ground. We're making a lot of progress here, Congressman. You know, pretty soon we'll be going camping together. Now, we'll have more with the congressman in a moment on health care and other important things. We're going to take a short break.
O'REILLY: Continuing now with Congressman Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Finance Committee. And here is what I don't understand about President Obama's health care deal, Congressman, and I'm sure you can straighten me out. It's going to cost more than $1 trillion, according to the Senate and the Congressional Budget Office. The country, very high deficit right now, as you know. So where is the money going to come from to pay for the national health care?
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FRANK: Several places. First of all, it is $1 trillion over 10 years, so we're talking about $100 million a year. In my view, part of it should come from the military budget. For example, I'm siding with the president now against my congressional colleagues, including in the Democratic leadership. He and Secretary Gates want to stop building F-22's. The F-22 is a wonderful weapon, but it doesn't really have an enemy anymore. It was built to defeat the Soviet Union in a war. Fortunately, that's not a problem for us anymore. I believe that there is military spending on Cold War weapons that could be reduced. In addition, I very much agree with the point you started with, talking about the failure of our allies and friends to come to our aid in other places, particularly Afghanistan, where I think there is a legitimate issue. I thought Iraq was a mistake. Part of the problem is that we have allowed them to get used to America being their policeman. I think we should be reducing military activity in areas in Western Europe, with Japan. We have plenty of quite wealthy allies who are already (ph) doing that.
O'REILLY: Very good. I like that. I like that. So if we cut back in Germany — and we can't cut back in Korea now, but other places, maybe Okinawa, then we could use that money...
FRANK: We can ask them to do more.
O'REILLY: OK. Now, your state, Massachusetts, and you know that I lived there for many years...
FRANK: By the way, there were more spending cuts I would like to talk about.
O'REILLY: OK, we really — I got your gist and I agree with it. If we can find the money in other places...
FRANK: (inaudible), it's not just the military. Agriculture, for instance.
FRANK: The president proposed cutting agricultural spending. A lot of my conservative colleagues are terribly hypocritical. They want to cut spending for low-income individuals, but wealthy farmers they keep putting in subsidies. There is a lot of money we can save there...
O'REILLY: Congressman, if you can find the money in wasteful products — projects or projects that aren't — and move it over, I think most Americans would say, fine. Now, your state, Massachusetts...
FRANK: I agree with that.
O'REILLY: ...a progressive state, has a health care deal, but the state has a $1.5 billion deficit, and the health care entitlement has been cut back, as you know. For a state of 6.5 million people, $1.5 billion deficit. I'm worried that this health care is going to send the United States into bankruptcy. California is there now. Massachusetts is in big trouble. And can you reassure me that universal health care isn't going to bankrupt the United States of America?
FRANK: Absolutely, because there are other areas we can cut. You know, they are still talking about sending human beings to Mars for hundreds of billions of dollars, literally hundreds of billions. I'm for space exploration with instrumentation. As to the Massachusetts deficit, it's not caused by the health care plan. There are, unfortunately for the states because of the economy, deficits everywhere. You mentioned California. They don't have the same kind of health care plan. So the health care plan in Massachusetts is no significant part of the deficit. And yes, if we cut spending elsewhere and if we put taxes on people who make more than $250,000 a year back to where they were under President Clinton, yes, you can pay for this.
O'REILLY: Does the Constitution in your opinion dictate that the government, the federal government should make sure everybody has free health care or access to it?
FRANK: Oh, absolutely not, no.
O'REILLY: Constitution doesn't?
FRANK: No, there isn't any...
O'REILLY: So it's an elective choice?
FRANK: Most of what the federal government does is elective choice. The Constitution basically is a restraint on government. It's not a mandate for government. There are very few rights that you get affirmatively. The Constitution doesn't say you get housing or health care or even a clean environment. The Constitution is a limit on government power. It says the government shouldn't take away your speech or interfere with other forms. But no, it's not a mandate for spending.
O'REILLY: OK, because the government is now, under President Obama, you know that, expanding rapidly, spending record amounts of money, and getting into the capitalistic system, the health care system, the environmental system.
FRANK: Oh, no, I disagree with that.
O'REILLY: It's doing all of that. It's doing all of that.
FRANK: Well, first of all, you can do things because you have the discretion to do them, not because they are constitutionally mandated. Secondly, as far as getting into the capitalist system, that's not the Obama administration's initiative. That's the Bush administration's initiative. Every single intervention they are making — in automobiles, in the banks and elsewhere — was done originally by the Bush administration. Now, I think they have a legitimate interest in carrying this out. I think they are doing it somewhat better, but this is not a set of initiatives by the Obama administration.
O'REILLY: OK, now you — you have gone almost full cycle here. The last time we were yelling at each other was about your oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and we disagreed in a very loud volume discussion that everybody in the world saw. Now you're back saying that the banks should loosen up the condominium loans. And again, some people are saying, Wall Street Journal today, hey, he's doing the same thing. Congressman Frank is social engineering with the banking system, just what he did with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And you say?
FRANK: Well, they are completely wrong. In the first place, I was a strong opponent of the Bush administration's effort to send loans to people who couldn't afford it. When the Bush — I wanted to build rental housing for people, which is not the case where the mortgages went bad. I have a consistent record in opposing the Bush administration's pushing, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, into low-interest mortgages that I thought were mistakes. With the condominiums, we're not talking about subprime or poor people. We do have this problem in cities with vacant property causing serious problems for the cities. What I want — what I want is to say this: here's the rule. They have a rule that they will not finance a condominium unless 70 percent of the buildings — of the units of the building are already sold. I'm not talking at all about whether or not that borrower can pay for it. They should not allow any borrower who can't pay for it to do it. But I think they have got a vicious cycle. If you won't fund anybody until it's 70 percent, it will never be 70 percent, and you have a serious problem...
FRANK: ...on vacant property.
O'REILLY: As long as you're not going to go into the social engineering realm...
FRANK: I was opposed to these subprime mortgages.
O'REILLY: Well, some people say that's not true.
FRANK: Bill, that's not rational.
O'REILLY: The Wall Street Journal...
FRANK: I will show you the record.
O'REILLY: Are they not rational, The Wall Street Journal, are they not rational?
FRANK: In fact, not on this issue. In 2007, when I first became chairman and filed a bill and got it through the House to restrict subprime lending, the Wall Street Journal editorials attacked me for restricting loans to people who should get them. They have been totally wrong and were until very recently pushing more of these loans and criticizing us for trying to restrain them. I don't think that's rational.
O'REILLY: We gave you your say tonight. Are you happy?
FRANK: With what?
O'REILLY: With everything, with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
FRANK: No, I'm never happy with everything, Bill.
FRANK: I'm not happy with everything.
O'REILLY: All right, you're welcome back any time.
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