Newt Gingrich Wants to Throw Barney Frank in Jail

The Congressman's response: "he talks even sillier than he sometimes does"

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Players: Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the house and currently, a dwindling Republican hopeful; Barney Frank, Democratic representative for Massachusetts and former chairman of the House Financial Services Committee

The Opening Serve:  Newt Gingrich was one of the forgotten stars of last night's debate, which centered on Republican hopefuls Mitt Romney and Herman Cain. But that didn't keep him from unleashing some one of the night's memorable zingers. When asked about "class warfare" and the current state of Occupy Wall Street, Gingrich said, "But let's be clear about who put the fix in ... If you want to put people in jail, I want to second what Michele said, you ought to start with Barney Frank and Chris Dodd."  Charlie Rose, who moderated the debate, asked for clarification and gave Gingrich an opportunity to take back the Dodd and Frank prison comments. Gingrich didn't take it. "In Barney Frank's case, go back and look at the lobbyist who was close to Freddie Mac. All I'm saying is, everybody in the media who wants to go after the business community ought to start by going after the politicians who were at the heart of the sickness which is weakening this country," said Gingrich.

The Return Volley:  Frank responded to Gingrich last night. Frank said his and Dodd’s role in the financial meltdown was absurd, since Republicans controlled the House and — except for a brief period — Senate, from 1995 to 2007, Talking Points Memo reports. "It’s interesting, the charge is failure to stop Newt Gingrich and Tom Delay from deregulating," said Frank. "This notion we caused the problem that started while they were in charge even by Gingrich’s standards is very odd." Frank added, "I wish I knew that he was willing to listen to my advice, I would have given him some: I would have told him not to impeach Clinton, I would have told his successors not to go to war with Iraq, and I would have told DeLay not to go on the dance show." Frank also had some choice words for Gingrich, "He’s been having a bad year, you know — this self-styled intellectual leader of the free world struggling to stay ahead of Michele Bachmann in the polls is unsettling him so he talks even sillier than he sometimes does."

What They Say They're Fighting About: Barney Frank, and his involvement in the financial meltdown.

What They're Really Fighting About: Newt Gringrich's campaign. Frank kind of hits it on the head. Gingrich's sagging numbers coupled with a low-profile campaign (save for some high profile publicity for Maui vacations and his Tiffany's bills) might be driving these comments more than Gringrich's actual belief in them.

Who's Winning Now: Barney Frank. Gingrich had every advantage in this spat but still managed to mangle it.  He had home-field advantage (a Republican debate), a person who wasn't there to defend himself (Frank), and a moderator willing to let him off the hook (Charlie Rose). Sure, Frank had a justifiable counter to Gingrich's claims--that the GOP had the power at the time--but the bigger problem is that Gingrich wasn't even original in attacking Frank. Gingrich was simply parroting Bachmann's stance which, in a best-case scenario, might have people seeing him as a loyal Bachmannite or in a worst-case scenario: getting pummeled for a Bachmann talking point.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.