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Ridge freshman corners Hillary on … Sri Lanka? • Brooklyn Paper

Ridge freshman corners Hillary on … Sri Lanka?

Councilman Mike McMahon battled former Assemblyman Bob Straniere in a debate on Friday to seek The Brooklyn Paper’s endorsement.
The Brooklyn Paper / Kristen Joy Watts

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had just testified before the House foreign affairs committee, so it was time for freshman Rep. Mike McMahon to get on the horn.

And he admitted it right out: he was star-struck.

“It was without question the most meaningful committee hearing I’ve been to” since becoming a congressman at the start of this year, McMahon said by phone in his weekly “McMahon on Line 1” call.

“She has a gravitas about her, of course, but the topic was also so important,” he added.

The April 22 hearing allowed Clinton to provide an overview of President Obama’s overseas agenda — and McMahon liked what he heard.

“I appreciated that she was definitely setting a strong tone towards Iran, which is the biggest challenge we face, not only with aggression to Israel, but to the West, as well,” he said.

“And she spoke about the fragility of the situation in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, what the president hopes to accomplish in the Middle East and the progress they think they’ve made in Central and South America at the recent conference in Trinidad.”

Members with more seniority got to ask questions on the big topics, but finally the gentleman from Bay Ridge was allowed to pose a few.

“I focused on two things that are near and dear to the district: Sri Lanka and the situation in Cyprus,” he said.

Sri Lanka? Cyprus? Near and dear to Brooklyn?

“Get with it — there is a large Greek Cypriot and Sri Lankan community in Bay Ridge,” he said. “There is an atrocious war going on in Sri Lanka, and the situation in Cyprus is fragile.”

Yeah, but … Sri Lanka? Congressman, have you forgotten the three “I’s” of New York politics.

“Yes, I know that Italian-Americans and the Irish are the largest ethnic groups in the district, but we don’t have conflicts in those parts of the world. And I did ask about the Middle East, too.

“But one of the hotspots for the district is Sri Lanka,” McMahon said. “There were actually 30 people from the district from Sri Lanka who came to the hearing.”

Clearly, the session with Clinton was one of McMahon’s “100 days” highlights. The Brooklyn Paper asked for others, and the freshman ticked off the usual list of “helping to stabilize the economy [by] bringing back stimulus money to fix the subway, the roadways and the ferry station on Staten Island; making a positive impact on the infrastructure.”

Making a difference? Forgive us, but that’s every congressman says!

True, McMahon added, but who can also say this: “I also got to give a speech — in German — at the German Embassy about the need for America and Western Europe to unite to bring about positive change in the Middle East.”

Wait a minute — in German?!

“I speak German,” McMahon said. “The people at the embassy actually said I spoke it well. They said they’d never heard a member of Congress speak German without an accent.”

In other words, he didn’t say, “Ich bin ein Bay Ridgite”!

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