Update: Barney Frank's defense of Bill Clinton was his finest moment

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At times, Frank could be like one of his arch-nemeses on the right, Newt Gingrich, in showing his disdain for those he considered to be his intellectual inferiors. (Gingrich, you might recall, said that Frank should be jailed for his "closeness" with Freddie Mac, the government-backed group that works with mortgage insurance lenders). An incident highlighting that can be seen with Frank and North Carolina Republican Patrick McHenry.

(Updated: Tuesday 8:45 a.m.)After 30 years in the House of Representatives, Congressman Barney Frank announced his departure from Congress Monday afternoon.

At his news conference, Frank said that the redistricting of his Congressional district would have made a run for re-election tougher next year, adding that "I don’t like raising money.”

The 71-year-old Frank may leave Washington best known as the principal architect of the country's biggest overhaul of the banking and financial-industry regulations since the Depression, known simply as "Dodd-Frank" (the Senate sponsor was former Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd). The 2010 law was aimed at preventing another meltdown of the financial services industry. It also created a new agency to protect consumers from unfair lending practices. It has been denounced by conservatives and all the GOP presidential candidates as one of the worst things ever.

Frank also gained a lot of national attention over the years as being an openly gay member of the House — but it was his formidable intellect and plain feistiness that made him a cult favorite with Democrats over the years (and hated by Republicans).

For this reporter, Frank's stature rose during the impeachment hearings of Bill Clinton in 1998, when he served on the House Judiciary Committee. A documentary about him, called Let's Get Frank, was released in 2003.

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