The latest uncomfortable encounter between the media and Barney Frank (view here via RCP video) illustrates an ongoing challenge in American politics: how to speak civilly to one another.

This post (reissued below) from last November seems to me quite relevant still--maybe even more so today:

19 November 2008

I heard a fairly cantankerous interview with Barney Frank this morning.

In response to a request for clarification from the interviewer, Frank testily responded: "Right, I'm trying to explain to you how it works." Congressman Frank went on to chastise the reporter on several more occasions, continued to interrupt and talk over him incessantly, and then began his concluding statement by declaring: "you seem determined to kind of distort this."

Another encounter with Bill O'Reilly? No. This was an NPR segment with Steve Inskeep.

Barney Frank is a man so combative that he cannot even seem civil with NPR.

What are we going to do with this fellow now that he is in charge of overseeing our financial system?

The cranky exchange this morning concerned Frank's insistence that we bail out our struggling domestic automobile companies.

Frank is not bashful about telling you what he thinks:

--the car companies should be rescued to save workers and remedy the "white collar/blue collar divide, fight against the rampant and systemic "anti-union activity," and attempt to address "income inequality in this country."

--we seem to be willing to spend "hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of billions for a war that we never should have been in [Iraq], but we don't save an important industry and protect workers from having gains that they fought hard for taken away."

--we live in "a wealthy country. If we spend things well, we can spend them."

With the fundamental problems with labor and health care costs, is any of this even spending on the Big Three likely to help?

--the x factor seems to be health care. "if they have to stay with health care the way it is now, yeah, that's bleak. But what I am hoping is that we will get a change in the health care system that will reduce the burden that we put not just on the American auto industry, where it's more expensive to build a car in America than in Canada because of health care."

The Frank Plan:

1. Save the UAW at taxpayer expense.

2. Ditch Iraq and spend the peace dividend on reducing inequities.

3. Universal healthcare.

The Okie Gardener asserted earlier today that Barney Frank presents a real obstacle to Barack Obama's success as president. Finding a way to keep Barney in his cage will be an ongoing problem for the new administration. I wish them well.

I agree with the Gardener, the way the Auto Bail Out shakes out will tell us a lot.

JUNE 2009 ADDENDUM: I no longer believe that this president actually has any substantive policy disagreements with Barney Frank; therefore, an Obama-Frank conflict does not actually present many problems for the administration.