Now that the fiery, occasionally dyspeptic congressman has left office, he lets the air out in a memoir that feels like it’s just the thing the long-serving politician has wanted to publish.
Frank tracks the nuances of two intriguing movements during his more than four decades in public life. When he was a novice politician in the late 1960s, the author had to hide his homosexuality, although nowadays—in a trend that owes some of its success to Frank’s becoming the first member of Congress to come out of the closet in 1987—same-sex marriage is increasingly prevalent. But while some personal freedoms are more possible now than when Frank entered politics, the concept that government can actually help citizens is decidedly on the wane. Nonetheless, the author has never stopped fighting the battle to pillory the idea that big government is inherently problematic. He writes movingly about issues of public housing and fairness that he has espoused throughout his career, but he also proves to be a barbed, exacting, witty thinker. On the topic of the “competent, uncharismatic” George Bush’s now infamous “read my lips: no new taxes” mishap, Frank writes, “[s]emantically, the phrase bothered me because it is illogical—you tell people to read your lips when they cannot hear you, and this does not apply when you are speaking to them through a microphone.” In addition to his personal story, parts of the book read like a manual for young politicians: “I think it is both legitimate and politically helpful to make my ideological opponents look not just wrong but also foolish, especially if I can use humor to do it.”
Much more entertaining than most political memoirs, Frank’s story isn’t just revealing; it may be the most fun you can have reading about the United States Congress.