It’s Tuesday, when HOH gets to know a Member of Congress better through five fun questions. This week, Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), who is also a psychiatrist, talks about a Founding Father’s medical practice and what to do on a rainy day in his district in Seattle.
Q: You served in the foreign service as a medical officer, do you have any interesting stories or memories from that experience? A: The interesting story is my coming back to the game — I was in Africa, and my brother said come on back [to run for Congress]. So he got on a plane with my campaign chairman and we had an argument for three days about whether I would come back, because I really liked the job I had. I had two of my very best friends running against me — one was a black guy and one was a woman, and they had both been chairmen of my gubernatorial campaigns in the past. And I thought, “Does there need to be another white guy in Congress?”
Q: Seattle is famous for its over-caffeination. Do you have any favorite coffee shops back in Seattle?
A: The one in my building. It’s called Caffé Senso Unico — it means “one way” in Italian. I moved to this building when I came to Congress 24 years ago. It’s the best coffee in Seattle.
Q: If you could sit down and talk with anyone alive or dead, who would it be and why?
A: Benjamin Rush. He was the premiere physician in the United States in 1775. He signed the Constitution. He believed in bleeding as a way of treating people, and his treatment was probably the cause of George Washington’s death. He was also a reformer of prisons and mental hospitals in Pennsylvania. He went in with humane treatment for these people, and for this reason, he’s considered the father of American psychiatry. He mixed politics and medicine in the way I have.
Q: What nonfiction books are you reading right now?
A: “Indian Summer” by Alex von Tunzelmann.
Q: What’s your favorite activity for a rainy day in Seattle?
A: To get out my paints. I do Sumi-e painting — Japanese brush and ink. It’s a philosophical thing to do on a dark rainy day, to get out my ink stone and brushes and put on some jazz.