Charles Nailen/The Hoya Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) criticized the Presidet at a speech Tuesday night.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) criticized President Bush while defending his own party at the College Democrats’ first meeting of the school year Tuesday night.

“One attack against Democrats is [that] we don’t appreciate a fair and efficient economy,” Frank said. “Not only do we appreciate the role of a private sector that is prosperous and efficient, we miss it since Bill Clinton left office.”

With his collar unbuttoned and shirt sleeves rolled up, Frank also spoke out against the president on social issues, saying that on housing, minimum wage and health care, the Bush administration wants to “undo what [Franklin D. Roosevelt] did.” He called the Bush presidency the “most conservative since Calvin Coolidge.”

With the Democratic presidential primary heating up, Frank also criticized swing voters, encouraging the standing-room-only audience to be strong in their partisanship.

“Most thoughtful voters in our country today are people who vote for the same party every time,” he said. “It is the independents, who go back and forth, who are airheads.”

Frank called political partisanship “one of the most undervalued concepts in American politics.”

“The framers of the Constitution thought parties were a bad idea – almost an hour later they were making them,” he said. “If you care a lot about public policy, you ought to be either a Democrat or a Republican.”

Frank did not shy away from telling students which party he thought was the one to choose. On the economy, health care and gay rights, Frank called the Democratic Party “morally and politically superior.”

The 12-term congressman has been a leader for the Democrats on gay rights issues, convincing Al Gore to come out against the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the 2000 presidential race. Frank disclosed his own homosexuality in 1987, seven years after taking office.

Contrary to common opinion of Democrats, Frank says he does want to “legislate moral public policy.” He made a distinction, however, between legislating morality when people are hurting others and when people are hurting themselves.

“I spend a lot of energy trying to protect people from other people, I don’t have any energy to protect them from themselves,” Frank said. “If someone wants to look at dirty pictures . what do I care?”

Frank spoke to the College Democrats in a crowded room in St. ary’s Hall, with students standing against the back walls and sitting on the floor to hear the congressman.

During the question and answer session, Frank addressed the Democratic presidential race. He encouraged Gen. Wesley Clark to “get in and run,” but told the audience he was backing Sen. John Kerry (Mass.).

Asked about former Vermont governor Howard Dean, Frank characterized him as a political opportunist. “He figured out there was this vacuum on the left and moved into it,” he said. “He did a very calculated thing.”

He also predicted that President Bush will face a close race next November. “Sept. 11 disarranged American politics,” he said. “We are getting back into a more normal situation.”

College Democrats President Mary Gibson (COL ’05) said she thought Frank’s speech was a success. “He reminds me of why I’m a Democrat,” she said.

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