How it’s done

HOW IT’S DONE…. This is quickly making the rounds, but if you haven’t seen it, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) held a town-hall event last night, and was confronted with a nut, carrying a picture of the president to make him look like Hitler, who asked why Frank would support a “Nazi policy.”

For those of you who can’t watch video from your work computers, Frank responded, “When you ask me that question, I’m going to revert to my ethnic heritage and ask you a question: On what planet do you spend most of your time?” He added, “It is a tribute to the First Amendment that this kind of vile, contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated…. Trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table. I have no interest in doing it.”

There was no defensiveness, and no anger, just someone who knows what he’s talking about making someone who doesn’t look like a fool.

Matt Yglesias raised a terrific point: “Voters don’t have a great deal of knowledge about the issues, or a great deal of interest in acquiring knowledge about the issues. But they are human beings, equipped with our species’ excellent ability to read the emotional states of other human beings. If they see a politician acting defensive about his ‘side’ in an argument, they conclude that this critics are probably on to something. If they see a politicians acting outraged and hitting back fearlessly, they’re likely to conclude that he has nothing to apologize for.”

Quite right. A low-information voter, with only a passing familiarity with current events, might catch an exchange like this one. Which of the two people in this clip — the crazy person or Barney Frank — comes across as credible?

I realize that Frank has the benefit of serving in a safe Democratic seat, in a highly-educated area. Vulnerable Democratic lawmakers may not feel comfortable openly ridiculing random lunatics who ask stupid questions like Frank did.

But the point is, reform advocates can show this kind of confidence and certainty that nonsensical beliefs are nonsensical beliefs.