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Grimm times ahead! Our first interview with Bay Ridge’s congressman-elect • Brooklyn Paper

Grimm times ahead! Our first interview with Bay Ridge’s congressman-elect

Rep.-elect Michael Grimm sat down with the Community Newspaper Group team last week on the eve of his trip to Washington for new member orientation.
Community Newspaper Group / Thomas Tracy

He believes in less government, protecting local businesses from arduous fines, that the science of global warming is unsettled and that Muslims need to suck it up — and he’s your new congressman.

Rep.-elect Michael Grimm (R–Bay Ridge) is in Washington, D.C. this week for his freshman orientation, but before heading south, he sat down with the best damn political team covering a local House district. The frank 50-minute interview (full transcript online at brooklynpaper.com) revealed much about his personal and political philosophy. In short:

• Taxes shouldn’t be raised on anyone in this troubled economy (for which the Democrats are to blame, by the way).

• Government shouldn’t use regulations and fees as a revenue generators (in fact, regulations need to be scaled back).

• He’s against the so-called Ground Zero mosque because Muslim-Americans need to be sensitive to the rest of us (even as he acknowledges their right to build at the site).

• If another “out-of-control” spending bill is passed, he’ll set aside his principals to make sure Bay Ridge gets a piece of the pie.

“If you ask me if I will vote for borrowing more money from China, I won’t,” Grimm told us. “But if I’m outvoted and there’s nothing I can do about it, I’m going to fight like heck to make sure the money is spent in my district.”

So said the soon-to-be statesman who once claimed that the passage of the federal stimulus bill was one of three cardinal sins committed by the Democratic-controlled Congress — the others being electing Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California) as House Speaker and passing health care reform, which Grimm says is a jobs killer.

Incumbent Rep. Mike McMahon did not vote for President Obama’s reform, but it didn’t help him at the polls against Grimm, a former Marine and FBI agent who beat McMahon with 51.5 percent of the vote. McMahon had won the long-Republican seat in 2008 after disgraced Rep. Vito Fossella declined to run for re-election after he was arrested for drunk driving and was revealed to have had a secret second family in Virginia.

During his campaign against the freshman Democrat, Grimm often described himself as “angry” over Congress’s “liberal agenda,” including the economic stimulus package that “boils my blood,” he said at one debate.

But victory can be quite a stress reliever. Grimm’s blood pressure had dropped considerably when he sat down with us in the Staten Island portion of the cross-harbor district on Friday.

“I don’t think I would categorize myself as angry,” he said. “I have been angered by certain things that happened in the last 22 months. I’ve been very disappointed with this administration, because they haven’t kept their promises.”

Grimm strongly believes that’s all going to change when he goes to D.C. and elects Rep. John Boehner (R–Ohio) as House Speaker.

“[Boehner] told me straight to my face that we have to do a better job listening to the people [on spending]. And we are going to do that,” Grimm said. “He’s serious about it. This election sent a clear message to Republicans and Democrats alike that if you don’t do what we’re asking you to do, we’re going to fire you.”

Grimm’s victory put Bay Ridge firmly back in the hands of the GOP, which gained control of Congress on the same historic night.

Today, he’s the only Republican in the city’s congressional delegation, automatically making the newbie politician New York’s direct link to the Republican-controlled Congress.

It’s no surprise, then, that Mayor Bloomberg, who endorsed McMahon during the election, wanted a sit-down.

During their meeting last week, the two discussed improving the city’s economy, and improving small business, Bloomberg told reporters.

Grimm said he would also be reaching out to Bay Ridge leaders to set a local agenda, including working with the neighborhood’s Muslim community, which came out in droves to support the Republican, despite his opposition to the so-called Ground Zero mosque.

“I am adamantly opposed to it,” he said. “They have the right to build a house of worship of any kind, but this is what I consider hallowed ground for so many who have suffered so much. Out of respect for that hallowed ground, this is not the right place to build a mosque.”

In the most-heated exchange of the entire interview, Grimm and Brooklyn Paper Editor Gersh Kuntzman got into it over Grimm’s contention that it’s “human nature” for longtime residents to hate newcomers. As a result, Grimm said, Muslims should be the ones backing down over the mosque, though Kuntzman argued that our national “live-and-let-live” ethos requires all Americans to either allow the mosque or be exposed as hypocrites.

“In a perfect world everyone loves everyone, but if you think that world exists, good luck,” Grimm said. “It doesn’t. I’m just being real.”

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