Jake Auchincloss’ family is both extremely prominent and growing. His ancestors fill history books, and his second child, a daughter, was born only a few days after this interview, on Aug. 6.
In the course of this conversation, Auchincloss explained why his Jewish heritage led him to the Marine Corps and shared his thoughts on the U.S. departure from Afghanistan. Along the way, he admitted to being a Shoupista, revealed what his taste in movies was circa 1998 and quoted G.K. Chesterton.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Q: This question is a long one, so bear with me. Your father is deputy director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases under Anthony Fauci. Your mother is CEO of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Your stepdad is a leading Alzheimer’s researcher, your grandfather helped invent artificial limbs, your great-uncle was the youngest dean in Harvard’s history and adviser to JFK and LBJ, your great-grandfather was an architect of the Marshall Plan, Gore Vidal was a distant cousin, your brother is a heart surgeon and your sister is a high-powered lawyer. Congressman, what does it feel like being the least successful person in your family?
A: [Laughs.] I think what underpins everything you just said is a dedication to service. I grew up in a family really rooted in science and public health and was taught that’s a form of public service. I represent a district with a really proud tradition of work and innovation in health care, both in delivery and research, so serving in Congress is just a continuation of that mindset.
Q: You became a parent while running for Congress and have another one on the way. How has parenthood changed your approach to politics?
A: It actually makes it less stressful. People might think, “Oh, you’ve got a kid at home. That must have added so much more to your plate.” But spending time with Teddy and my wife, and thinking about spending time with our daughter who’s arriving soon, really puts into perspective the day job. Both in a way that makes it seem bigger, trying to leave the country better off than we found it ... but also in a way that makes the day-in, day-out arguments smaller.
Q: You’re 33, which means you’re peak millennial. What was your AOL Instant Messenger name?
A: Blackjack19. Some movie came out about poker that was, like, super cool. It was back in elementary school.
Q: There’s a lot of public service in your family, but not a lot of military service. Why did you decide to join the Marine Corps?
A: My grandfather on my mom’s side was the son of refugees from the Russian pogroms before World War I, and he tried to join the Marine Corps in 1942. His mom dragged him out by his ear from the recruiting station, but he snuck back in the next day. The Marine Corps was losing the war in the South Pacific and needed all the help they could get. Jews were being killed throughout the world and in Europe.
But the Marine Corps sent him, a 17-year-old skinny Jewish kid with no money, to Purdue to study biomedical engineering, and it changed his life. He became a pioneer in artificial limbs.
I just think about that — in one of the lowest moments of World War II, one of the lowest moments for Jews in our history, the U.S. government sent a Jewish kid in the Marine Corps to school. They gave him an opportunity, and he seized it.
And this was a chance for me to pay that forward and to serve. It was also a way to challenge myself in a totally new realm.
Q: You served as an infantry Marine in Helmand Province, and you’ve been an advocate of ending America’s forever wars. What are your emotions right now watching us leave Afghanistan but also seeing the Taliban take back a lot of territory?
A: I mean, the president’s decision reflects the best of bad options. We could fight in Afghanistan another 100 years and we’d win every battle against the Taliban, as we did for the last 20, and we’d still not win the war. While we can impart many of the tools of a nation to the Afghan people — economic development, the institutions of a state, an army and national security apparatus — we cannot build a nation. The Afghans must do that. We’re there to help with economic, diplomatic and humanitarian assistance, but now they need to build a nation.
Last book read? “Madhouse at the End of the Earth,” about an Antarctic expedition at the turn of the last century.
In politics, can the ends justify the means? If you will not have rules, you will have rulers.
Least popular opinion? Parking is too cheap.
America’s best president? It’s boring, but it’s boring because it’s true: Lincoln.
Closest friend across the aisle? Partly because of the pandemic and partly because it’s only been six months and probably because of the insurrection, I haven’t formed that many real friendships across the aisle. I’ve had a number of good conversations with Anthony Gonzalez on Financial Services, and I find him to be a reasonable guy.
Correction: This report corrected the spelling of Rep. Anthony Gonzalez.