Poor, persecuted Barney Frank.

The former congressman’s bucolic retirement has been rudely interrupted by impertinent questions about his handsomely paid seat on the board of Signature Bank, which was shut down by regulators after depositors withdrew billions of dollars in the immediate aftermath of the Silicon Valley Bank implosion.

Clearly-biased conservatives like the reporters at the New York Times claim “huge errors in judgment” by Signature – including a giant bet on the sketchy crypto industry and a shortfall in liquid assets – left the bank vulnerable. But according to Frank in a contentious interview with another right-wing outlet, The New Yorker, it was the regulators’ fault for not forcing Signature to enhance its liquidity. “We underwent some discussions about liquidity, and the need to increase liquidity or maintain it,” he said. “Nothing affected or diminished the ability of the regulators to say, stop doing this. Get more liquid.”

This is not the first hassle Frank – famously described as the “smartest guy in Congress” – has had with those lazy regulators.

Exercising with his abundant brain power and personal courage, Frank back in 2003 called out the “exaggeration” of problems with government-sponsored mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac when regulators expressed concern about their lending practices. ”These two entities — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — are not facing any kind of financial crisis,” said Frank. And two years later, amid widespread concern over a collapse of the housing bubble, Frank bravely insisted “you’re not going to see the collapse.” (Actually, Fannie & Freddie did melt down after playing “a starring role in the financial crisis of 2008” and the bubble did indeed burst, but gosh, even the smartest guy in Congress can’t be expected to see the future!)

After all, Barney Frank doesn’t break things – he fixes them. Like the 33 parking tickets he used his stature to fix for the male prostitute he had on his personal payroll back in 1985. But when you’re a towering intellect like Frank, no good deed goes unpunished. Partisanship was set aside in the 408-18 vote to reprimand him for that, with a majority of the yeas coming from Democrats.

As Frank will tell you, ignorance knows no ideological boundaries. Any questioning of his excellence is always motivated by something other than facts. Everyone from actual critics to benign interviewers is subject to Frank’s cerebral epithets: “stupid,” “idiot,” “fool,” and so on. So clever, and in no way projection.

We should all ignore the fact that since this great crusader for social justice signed on to his lucrative gig on the Signature board, the New York City Public Advocate found Signature was by far the biggest lender to property owners on the city’s Worst Landlord Watchlist. So what if the bank was a go-to for loans to Jared Kushner, his felon father, and a Donald J. Trump golf course in Florida? With Barney Frank on your board, purity and blamelessness are assured.

And after all, who but the jealous and dull-witted could gag on Frank’s explanation of his role with Signature Bank: “It paid well.” Amen! An estimated $2.4 million for renting out his prestige and financial acumen, a small price to pay for Frank’s unassailable integrity. “I didn’t go there to regulate,” Frank patiently explained to his stupid idiot right-wing interrogator from The New Yorker.

As the former congressman continues with his round of self-exculpatory interviews aimed at fixing Signature Bank’s (and his own) unfair ticket for negligence, we should all be appalled at how this intellectual paragon is being dragged down by the low-esteem in which the hoi polloi hold our financial institutions and those enriched by them.

Being the smartest guy in the room just isn’t what it used to be.

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Jon Keller has been reporting and commenting on local politics since 1978. A graduate of Brandeis University, he worked in radio as a producer and talk-show host before moving into print journalism at The Tab newspapers and the Boston Phoenix. Freelance credits include the Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Boston Magazine, the New Republic and the Washington Post. Since 1991 his "Keller At Large" commentaries and interviews have been a fixture on Boston TV, first on WLVI-TV and, since 2005, on WBZ-TV. He is a 12-time Emmy Award winner for political reporting and commentary. He began his Massterlist column in March 2020.