Barney Frank, (D Mass), the Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, is a polarizing figure.
He is the bête noire of the conservative punditry. Whenever he does or says anything, there will be a chorus of objections from those who disagree with his politics or his lifestyle.
Over at Zero Hedge, one of the several "Tyler Durdens" managed to work in a couple of offensive remarks in a very brief post. (We're not repeating them. It will be interesting to see if the Seeking Alpha editorial team publishes this one!)
The issue? CNBC scored one of their "First on CNBC Interviews" by getting Rep. Frank on Squawk Box right before the hearing on executive pay. It all started OK, but then Mark Haines started to weave from straight questions into a discussion of his own opinion. He often does this, and his viewers like it. With a rookie on the show, it can be devastating. With Barney Frank, who showed very little tolerance for this. In fact, he seemed pretty testy about the questioning. For CNBC, it just meant that they lost the interview.
You can see it yourself right here:
Why Listen to Barney Frank?
Barney Frank is one of the most polarizing figures in Congress, at least to a national audience. His constituents think he is great, and he has a very safe seat. (This means that those who believe that he took various actions for small campaign contributions do not understand the political process).
As a funny-sounding, very liberal, and openly gay member of Congress, Frank is an easy target. He is no stranger to controversy, providing more ammunition to right wingers and gay bashers.
Our question is the same, practical, relentless one we have been offering for some months:
Do you want to make a political statement, or would you rather make money?
The blog writers who want some boo-yah's from their audience bash away on Barney. While avoiding explicit criticism of Frank, Mark Haines probably scored points with his own audience by offering his personal viewpoint on executive compensation and shareholder influence.
The Attitude of the Smart Investor
Let us suppose for a moment that you do not agree with Rep. Frank's politics. Here are a few facts:
- He is one of the most powerful people in Congress, at the epicenter of various decisions on financial regulation;
- He is (perhaps) the smartest person in Congress, according to a poll of Congressional staffers. (If you do not see this, then maybe you need to review your personal biases. He regularly runs rings around interviewers, as he was doing with CNBC this morning.)
- He has been accepted by the Street and the GOP (Hat Tip Charles Kirk).
Here is what Crains New York has to say:
Mr. Frank ambles around the halls of Congress in the type of pin-striped suit familiar to any banker—although his untucked shirt betrays any notion that he might be one. Yet financial executives credit him with reining in his fellow Democrats' angriest impulses about how to handle Wall Street. He can charm Republicans, too: Last month, he was the only congressman ranked among the “most partisan” and the “most bipartisan” in a survey of members by The Hill newspaper.
“He finds a way to negotiate,” says Scott Talbot, senior vice president of government affairs at the Financial Services Roundtable.
Of course, it also behooves bankers to play nice with Mr. Frank. Asked if bankers have come to grips with new realities, he tartly answers: “I think they understand a new set of regulations is coming. And it's better to sit down and get it right than get it wrong.”
You really need to read the entire article to understand how serious financial executives view Frank.
The Simple Question
So it is a pretty simple question. When you are watching CNBC do you want to hear the viewpoint of one of the most powerful Congressional leaders, or do you want to hear opinions from Mark Haines?
Do you want to read some politically oriented bashing of Barney, or would you like to make money?
Investors should be agnostic with respect to politics and to life style. Those who insist on injecting politics as part of their analysis are facing (at least) four tough years of investing.
There are investment stories that will work. It does not matter if you agree with Frank, or Pelosi, or Obama. As long as we can predict what they will do, we can find an edge. Even though we absolutely hate government control of business, we have found winning investments this year.
Be practical, not political.