Capuano in his own words

December 4, 2009
By

John Ruch

Web exclusive

Five years ago, the Gazette caught US Rep. Mike Capuano telling a Jamaica Plain audience something completely untrue.

“I’m not quotable,” Capuano said.

Blunt-spoken and quick-witted, Capuano has been quoted regularly in the Gazette in the decade since he won the 8th Congressional District seat, which includes most of JP. Capuano, a Democrat, is now running for US Senate. The following is Capuano in his own words, from JP meetings and Gazette interviews from 1998 to the present:

Political style

“My message is a street message. I’m a street guy. I don’t have this nice esoteric debate. I take a bat to issues. Some people don’t like it.”
—on his political style, Nov. 2006

“It’s not about being morally correct. It’s not about being smarter or some ivory-tower thing. It’s about street fighting…I’m not a purist. I’m not a moralist. I’m not in the religion business. I’m in the politics business.”
—on his political style, May 2005

“Government is a nice thing to study in college. Politics is what drives the world.”
—on his political pragmatism, June 2002

“Money is not the golden answer to politics. The Green Party can’t get a dog-catcher elected, and we’re going to give them $3 million [in the governor’s race]?”
—on public financing of political campaigns, which he supports in concept but is skeptical of in practice, June 2002

“I have trouble supporting anyone who has never taken a call…from somebody who needs help in any capacity. I want people in politics who understand individual needs, individual problems.”
—on endorsing other political candidates and why he favors those who have handled constituent issues, June 2002

“To narrow the field, voters should look to results, like improvements in education and affordable housing. They’ll see I have a record of success that no one can match.”
—during his 1998 campaign for the Congressional seat, on why voters should choose him, Aug. 1998

On liberals and conservatives

“Republicans do not wake up in the morning, come to the table and say, ‘How do I hurt Americans?’ They’re wrong. [But] they’re not evil and they’re not stupid.”
—on bipartisanship, Jan. 2004

“An argument with you is an argument in the family. You’re on this page and I’m on that page, but we’re in the same chapter. [The Republicans are] in a different book.”
—to an ultra-liberal critic, Jan. 2004

“It’s a great step forward. It’s great for the country and great for the philosophy that most people care about here.”
—on the election of President Obama, Nov. 2008

“I would still like to be mayor of the 8th Congressional District. You go from being able to get potholes fixed to asking to get potholes fixed.”
—on the difference between being an executive official and being a legislator, Nov. 2006

“There could be 50 things in there I disagree with, for all I know.”
—on how few Democrats, including himself, read the Democratic Party platform, May 2005

“I have no problem taxing people. I have no problem spending government money.”
—on the federal budget, while calling for it to be balanced, June 2002

Civil liberties/rights

The USA PATRIOT Act was a way that the “terrorists won” by changing America for the worse. “There are some aspects of this law that I might support…but it was the knee-jerk reaction and, I think, over-reaching of this bill that was, to me, offensive. My vision of America is more than just being secure.”
—on the Patriot Act, forum at English High, June 2004

“I honest to God think [the Patriot Act] threatens that. [The terrorists] were attacking us for an ideal. They want sameness…I honestly believe this bill is a small way for them to have succeeded.”
—on the Patriot Act as a threat to American freedom and diversity, June 2002

“These are people [who] until recently were all about states’ rights…until Massachusetts decided to exercise one state right. I’m getting used to the hypocrisy.”
—on Republican opposition to same-sex marriage, May 2005

“I’m a liberal, and guess what? I still don’t trust the government. I am scared to death of the day I have to walk down the street and show my ID card to [former US Attorney General] John Ashcroft.”
—on his opposition to a federal ID card requirement, and general privacy rights, May 2005

War and peace

“We all know what George [Bush] did. He said, ‘I can’t tell you all the facts’…Honestly, for me, on war and peace, I wouldn’t give my own mother the benefit of the doubt.”
—on his skepticism about the Iraq War that led him to vote against it, Jan. 2004

“I can make a mistake on a housing vote. If I make a mistake on war and peace, people die. Real people really die.”
—on his seriousness about authorizing military action, Jan. 2004

“I was scared to death…It was taking my own inclinations and holding up a mirror to them.”
—on his extensive campaign of talking to residents on street corners and T stations, including in JP, to help him consider his eventual vote against the Iraq War, Jan. 2004

“I’m not sure anybody has answers on how to get the world to love us. I’m not sure I care if they do.”
—on better foreign policy as a non-military way to improve US security, June 2004

“I thought it was a valuable experience to sit with the vice president of Sudan and tell him he’s committing genocide.”
—on his trip to Sudan, Nov. 2006

Military recruiters’ access to high school students helps ensure the military is an option “not just among kids who have no other [career] choice…The military in a perfect world would be educated, diverse and populated by people who want to be in it…The military is an honorable and good profession, and we need a strong, well-supported military regardless of how we use it.”
—on his opposition to legislation that would bar the release of high-school students’ contact info to military recruiters unless their parents specifically opt in, Oct. 2007

Foreign aid to Afghanistan is a “moral imperative” because “in order to get to that handful of nuts, we had to destroy part of that society….We’re not talking about rebuilding Shangri-La here. We’re talking about mud huts.”
—on Afghanistan foreign aid, June 2002

Controversies

“I didn’t go to the beach in January. I went to visit in the slums…My first privately funded trip was to ANWR [the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge], Alaska, funded and paid for by the Sierra Club. Some people think it’s horrendous. In some ways, it is.”
—on he and his wife going on a $19,000, corporate-funded trip to Brazil with a plane-load of lobbyists, Nov. 2006

“Richard Nixon did one thing right in 50 years of politics, and that was coining a phrase: the silent majority… I have never made a decision I was positive about, including the day I got married, the day I had kids, the day I bought a house…I’m as confident as you can be without knowing what you’re talking about. I can’t go back to school and get trained as a biologist.”
—on claiming that Boston University’s controversial federal biolab is supported by a majority of residents, and that no decision can be made with complete certainty, May 2005

“There is no 100 percent safe. What’s the difference between [the biolab’s risk] and people being blown up by a jet fuel ball of fire in Chelsea?”
—on the biolab risk level compared to jet fuel storage in Chelsea, which is also controversial among residents, but considered an economic trade-off, May 2005

“It’s got to be safe and it’s got to be secure.”
—on the BU biolab, Nov. 2006

Local issues

“Nobody believes anything they say. If they say something’s going to take five years, we know that means 15.”
—on the MBTA, Nov. 2006

Massport’s attempt to add a runway that would put more flights over JP, while claiming it would reduce pollution, was a “big lie” by a “bureaucracy gone insane…This runway should be defeated at all costs, and we will be there fighting it.”
—on a Massport runway controversy, May 2001

“JP is full of activists. I’m not different from anybody else. I don’t like being yelled at. But I like representing people who aren’t afraid to take a stand.”
—on JP, Nov. 2006

“I love JP. JP is known as an active and knowledgeable place.”
—on a redrawing of his Congressional district that give him most of JP, Oct. 2001

Best of JP 2014