TheDC Interview: Republican New York congressional candidate Michael Grimm

TheDC: Do you consider yourself a Tea Party follower?

MG: I will say this: If I wasn’t a candidate, I would be a member of the Tea Party. I don’t consider myself a Tea Part candidate, so to speak, because I think my campaign has become a movement that is much broader than just the Tea Party. But I am honored to have their support.

TheDC: Last week, the Obama administration announced it was appealing a federal court’s ruling that says the current “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy is unconstitutional. As a veteran, what is your stance on the issue, and how would you vote if it were to come before you in Congress?

MG: This is a very difficult subject matter, obviously. It’s sensitive. Here’s my opinion as a combat veteran and a former Marine: We’re in two wars. The stress levels of our troops are at the all-time high. Suicide rates are going up. I wouldn’t change anything right now that could affect the morale. I agreed with the Joint Chiefs when they said that they were going to look at the issue and study it and see what effects there would be on the military. The last thing I want to do is stop anyone from serving this great country. I know what an honor it is to serve, and I don’t want to prevent anyone from doing that.

But at the same time, I want to make sure that we’re not going to do something that disrupts the morale at a time when stress levels are so high. I think we should evaluate this for a while, and at peacetime, then make the appropriate decision. If we’re going to integrate and change policies, it should be done during peacetime and not when stress levels are so high.

TheDC: You’ve been outspoken against the proximity of the Islamic Center near Ground Zero. In a letter you wrote to Mayor Bloomberg on August 17, you said you would continue “to speak out and do everything in your power to ensure this project does not go forward.” Has your position changed at all since you wrote that letter?

MG: Not at all.

TheDC: What is involved in you doing “everything in your power” to prevent the project from going forward?

MG: Right now I’m a candidate. Obviously I don’t have the power of the Congressional office behind me. So the most I could do is be an outspoken advocate like every other citizen, and that’s what I’ve been doing. I do go to rallies. I speak to the press. And I speak to my constituents every day. Again, I think I have a unique opportunity to be a good voice in protest of this particular mosque, because it’s very easy to say that when someone doesn’t want this mosque, they are anti-Muslim. The fact that I’ve put my life on the line, not once, not twice, but three times during the war to protect Saudi Arabia and to liberate Kuwait, two Muslim nations, proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am anything but anti-Muslim, that I would give me life for Arabs and Muslims to have the same liberties and freedoms that I have.

This is not about the First Amendment. There’s no question that under the First Amendment, you can build a mosque. The real question here is right and wrong. I’m a 9/11 first responder. I saw the anguish and the suffering that has gone on since then. It is just wrong to disrespect those who have suffered so much. If we want to build bridges between the Muslim community and those non-Muslim Americans, then the way to do that is through understanding and mutual respect for those that suffered so much already.