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Barney Frank's planned retirement: 'The end of an era'

Washington prepares to say good-bye to an openly gay congressman both beloved and loathed for his bitingly honest wit

The video: It's "the end of an era." Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) announced on Monday that he won't run for re-election in 2012, ending a groundbreaking and colorful congressional career after 16 terms and three decades in office. (Watch Frank's speech below.) The 71-year-old Democrat first won his House seat in 1981, and was the country's first openly gay congressman. Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee from 2007 until 2011, Frank was instrumental in the 2010 passage of a sweeping financial reform bill that represented "the stiffest restrictions on banks and Wall Street since the Great Depression." Frank said his decision to retire is partly driven by redistricting that makes his district more conservative — and potentially more difficult for an unabashed liberal to win. Frank, well known for his acerbic wit, did not disappoint on Monday, taking several parting shots at former House speaker and current GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, saying that a Gingrich nomination "would be the best thing to happen to the Democratic Party since Barry Goldwater."

The reaction: "We'll all miss Barney," says Susan Milligan at The Boston Globe. He was "arguably the smartest person in the House of Representatives," and "bitingly witty." Plus, "Wall Street is losing a major critic," says Kevin Roose at The New York Times. But let's not get too sentimental, says Peter J. Wallison at The American. Frank leaves behind a mixed legacy, marred chiefly by his "intellectual arrogance" and fierce protection for years of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — a position he's since reversed. And Frank's retirement is a "bad sign for Democrats," says Alana Goodman at Commentary. The Left is trying to regain a House majority in 2012, and would certainly have a "better shot with Frank running in that seat instead of an unknown candidate." Watch the video:

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