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Opinion | JOAN VENNOCHI

Barney Frank should be interim senator

Barney Frank is barely retired, but he’s already volunteered to serve as interim Senator if John Kerry is confimed as secretary of state.

Pete Marovich for The Boston Globe

Barney Frank is barely retired, but he’s already volunteered to serve as interim Senator if John Kerry is confimed as secretary of state.

The never-humble Barney Frank is right. Governor Deval Patrick should appoint him to the interim Senate seat that must be filled if Senator John Kerry resigns to serve as secretary of state. As immodest as it is for Frank to suggest, it’s hard to imagine a better choice.

Choosing Vicki Kennedy, the widow of the late Ted Kennedy, is about sentiment and respect for her husband’s long career in the Senate. Choosing outgoing Administration and Finance Secretary Jay Gonzalez is an act of pure, feel-good symbolism — make that feel-good symbolism for Gonzalez and his boss, Governor Deval Patrick, not feel-good symbolism for most Massachusetts citizens.

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Choosing Frank is an acknowledgment of his deep knowledge of Washington politics and policy. It’s not only about respect for Frank’s long career in the House — it’s about what that means for Massachusetts over the next few months.

He’s egotistical. He’s irascible. He would love to do this and make other members of the delegation squirm — especially U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, Kerry’s aspiring replacement. Frank blames Markey for a redistricting formula that gave Frank a supposedly tougher district to win, and allegedly led to his decision to retire. Taking the spotlight from Markey — or from other would-be senators such as U.S. Reps. Michael Capuano or Steve Lynch — would bring a sly smile to Frank’s often cranky visage.

Frank is barely retired, having just turned over his congressional seat to Joseph P. Kennedy III. Up until now, he sounded ready to move onto the next phase of life, telling interviewers he will be happy to never again march in another parade or try to curry favor with constitutents.

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Not that Frank ever worried all that much about currying favor with anyone. When it comes to temperament, he is the master of the quick jibe and the cutting insult.

But who knows more about the serious economic issues that Congress will take up over the next few months? Now that President Obama and congressional leaders announced a fiscal cliff agreement, big decisions loom about changes in entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Frank said he believes there are “progressive ways” to address those spending issues. He knows the intimate details and he brings great passion and intellect to the economic debate. He did it with Wall Street.

Republicans won’t want to deal with him, but they will have to deal with him. Other temporary senators they can ignore at will. But he’ll go on MSNBC — or Fox — and force them to respond. Frank’s not afraid of Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

This is an interim appointment, to be held for only 145 days to 160 days. As long as that condition remains in place, Frank’s appointment makes sense for Massachusetts.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.
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