Tags Posts tagged with "President Donald Trump"

President Donald Trump

The following dialogue was inspired by an actual conversation. No friendships ended as a result of this interaction.

Joe: That’s interesting.

Aaron: What made it interesting?

Joe: It held my interest.

Aaron: That’s tautological.

Joe: What does tautological mean?

Aaron: It’s a kind of circular argument, like something is interesting because it held your interest. So, what’s interesting about what I said?

Joe: No, you see, it’s not what you said, so much as the way you said it and, of course, the fact that it was, indeed, you who said it. Like, remember that time you said that our boss was having an affair with the man she kept insulting at work and then, lo and behold, she was?

Aaron: Yes, I remember that was because she was having an affair with you.

Joe: Oh, right. Good times.

Aaron: Can you tell me how what I said interested you?

Joe: But, first, did you read the latest thing about Donald Trump?

Aaron: Which one?

Joe: The one where he’s mad at the media and the media is reporting about stuff he says isn’t true.

Aaron: You’re going to have to be more specific than that.

Joe: You want specifics? How about Russia?

Aaron: What about it? It’s a country.

Joe: You’re funny.

Aaron: Stop calling me funny and tell me what Trump and the media are disagreeing about.

Joe: Are you angry?

Aaron: I’m trying to have a conversation.

Joe: Conversation. That’s interesting.

Aaron: What’s interesting?

Joe: It’s like the way you’re looking at me right now. You know what I mean?

Aaron: Nope.

Joe: You have your eyes open and your eyebrows are up, like you’re expecting me to say something interesting, when, you know, you’re the one who always says interesting things. I read interesting things. This
morning, I read something compelling about Trump and the media.

Aaron: OK, let’s go with that. What was compelling about it?

Joe: It was just, you know, well, maybe you wouldn’t think it’s compelling and maybe you knew it already, which means I probably don’t have to tell you.

Aaron: I want to talk about something.

Joe: We are talking about something. We’re talking about me and you and this weather. You know what I’m saying?

Aaron: Not really.

Joe: The weather is all around us, right? And, it’s all around everyone else. Except that, when people are somewhere else, the weather around them isn’t the same as it is here. So, to experience weather, you really have to be here.

Aaron: Right, uh huh. Go on.

Joe: Now you’re looking at me differently. You’re frowning. You need to laugh more often. That’s your problem.

Aaron: I don’t have a problem. I’m trying to have a conversation.

Joe: About what?

Aaron: Well, a few minutes ago, you said what I said was interesting and I’ve been waiting patiently to find out what you thought was interesting about it.

Joe: Oh. Let me think. I’m going to replay the entire conversation in my head and then I’ll let you know.

Aaron: Right, sure.

Joe: No, really. Was it before or after the conversation about the weather?

Aaron: Before.

Joe: See, I was listening. I remembered that we talked about the weather.

Aaron: You weren’t listening to me. You were listening to you. You brought up the weather.

Joe: Right, OK, I have a confession to make. I wasn’t listening to what you said all that closely, but I know it was interesting.

Aaron: What part? Do you remember any of the conversation?

Joe: Not really. I have to go. It’s been nice chatting with you.

It’s clear the modern-day president that Donald Trump has become has defied all conventions, including words. We just don’t have enough terms for all the ways he runs the White House and for the sparks that are flying out of Washington.

It seems that we need a new vocabulary to keep up with the approach Trump has taken. To that end, I’d like to suggest some new terms.

Hypothebrag: When you’re absolutely convinced you would have done something better than the person you’re skewering, you hypothebrag. You might be meeting with other leaders and hypothebrag that you feel strongly that, had you been there, you would have been so much braver than everyone else.

Twitterbolt: When someone is bothering you, like a politician from another party, you reach into your bag of thunderbolts, akin to the ones Zeus used to have at the ready on Mount Olympus, and you attack that person or organization, without mercy, with your twitterbolts.

Russiabscess: A tooth abscess is a painful, festering process. Well, when you’ve won the election and a continuing concern about Russia’s meddling hovers over you, you begin to feel as if Russia is an abscess. Your presidency lives with the pain of Russiabscess.

Russiobsess: For those hoping for relief from Trump, the obsession about Russia can take on a life of its own, leading to a daily collection of information about the Mueller probe and investigations by other political bodies intent on exonerating or excoriating the president and/or Russia. These folks are Russiobsessing.

Demonacrat: Trump isn’t a fan of the Democrats. Merely agreeing to disagree doesn’t seem sufficient. He often needs to suggest how evil they are, preventing him from getting the tax breaks he believes everyone in the nation covets or from doing what he knows is best for the country. When you demonize the Democrats, you are turning them into Demonacrats.

Mediaphobe: In case you missed it, the president doesn’t generally like the media. He feels that the coverage is unfair. He believes that fly-by-night organizations like The New York Times and The Washington Post make up “fake news” about him. He has become a mediaphobe, preferring to share Trump Truths.

Foxophile: The lone exception to the media hatred seems to be the Fox network, which finds favor with a president it lavishes with praise. The president has become a foxophile, enjoying pundits who patiently applaud the president for his policies.

Wallobeauty: Well before the president took office, he made it clear that Mexicans — well, the bad ones anyway — weren’t welcome. Convinced they were coming through unguarded borders, he promised a wall. It’s not the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem or the Great Wall of China, but Trump would like to create the Wallobeauty that will be a hallmark of his presidential career.

Intelladump: Rarely has a president shown such disdain for his own intelligence services. The FBI, CIA and others all appear out to get him. He spends a good deal of his time criticizing and second-guessing them, even as he reportedly doesn’t read their reports. When the president criticizes this community, he is taking an intelladump on them.

Presidentice: The former leader of the TV show “The Apprentice” — whose catchphrase is “You’re fired!” — seems to enjoy the ongoing threat of firing someone. The White House has become a reality show: “The Presidentice.”

Detestsabranch: Trump has made it clear that legislative and judicial branches of government annoy him. When he’s frustrated enough with them, his ire can transform into something deeper as he detestsabranch.

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Hi, Mr. President. Sir? If I could have a word with you? Please don’t walk away. I don’t plan on insulting you and I promise not to talk about your hair. Full disclosure: I disagree with some of the things you’ve said and done, but I like to believe that you’re trying to help the country the best way you know how.

I’m here to talk to you about this parade idea. I know you want the military branches to march in front of you, with their shiny weapons, impressive tanks and their beautiful uniforms. They have an extremely difficult job. They protect freedom and democracy, risk their lives, go where they are told, and live by a set of rules that are more challenging than the ones most of the rest of us follow.

They deserve an enormous parade.

But, wait, why stop at a single parade? Once we’ve celebrated the military, couldn’t we have a new parade every day the way that incredibly successful American company, Disney, does? Or if that’s too much, a parade of the month?

How about a parade for valedictorians and salutatorians? You could invite the top high school students to Washington to celebrate the top achievers in high school. Let’s give a few of them a chance to make speeches, to share their stories of success and to encourage others to work hard.

Let’s also celebrate scientists. Mr. President, I write about scientists every week for this newspaper and, I have to tell you, these people are inspirational. They are not just men and women from all over the world in white lab coats. They are passionate about pushing the frontier of knowledge. They are committed to curing diseases, to improving technology and to answering questions that previous
generations could only address through philosophy.

Have you been to the National Synchrotron Light Source II at Brookhaven National Laboratory? That facility, which cost close to a billion dollars, is awesome. It can see inside batteries as they operate, it can help understand catalysts as they are functioning, and it can help understand ways to pull dangerous particles out of the air.

Why should Sweden get all the fun when it comes to top science awards, like the Nobel Prize? How about if the United States develops its own set of science awards? You could name them the Trump Triumph as a way to celebrate science.

What about teachers? Surely a nation as incredible as ours should have a parade for its finest teachers, right? These people ignite the passion for discovery, encourage focus and discipline, and serve as valuable role models.

You could find some of the best teachers in each state, fly them to Washington, have them march in a parade and then get together to exchange ideas. Imagine how much better the best teachers would be if they met other accomplished educators from around the country in D.C.? They could create educational exchanges for their students, giving them a chance to connect with other students from out of their state.

How about corporate America? Let’s celebrate the companies that not only make the most money — which helps their stockholders and communities — but also that hire the most people. Let’s thank the CEOs who put Americans to work each year.

What about all the talented young musicians, singers and performers in the country? At the end of the
parade, they could sing a song or hold a performance that would raise money for enrichment programs.

After the military, let’s work our way through Main Street, celebrating American effort and achievement. Mr. President, you are definitely on to something great with the idea for a parade. Let’s celebrate America and encourage future effort and achievement with a plethora of parades.

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As I write this column, Tuesday, I am thinking of the State of the Union address that President Trump is scheduled to give to Congress and the nation in the evening. What does each of us think about the state of the union at this time? Do we know enough about what’s happening in the country to offer a credible picture in this first month of the year 2018?

We know we have problems. Big problems, if you follow the newscasts. We have a Congress that people seem to agree is “broken,” and a president without precedent. We have an economy that is the largest in the world, yet our citizens are divided into those enjoying its fruits and the rest who have been left behind. We have a remarkable health care system that is not accessible for everyone. Our schools are uneven in their teaching, especially in subjects like math and science. We have to deal with racism, bigotry, sexism, ageism and lots of other “isms,” as well as gun violence, drugs, gangs, North Korea, Russia, the Taliban, you name them. It’s enough to addle the mind.

Then I think of the other side of the story, the story of what America means to me. When my grandchildren have their children, they will be sixth generation Americans. We are deeply rooted here in our country but not so much that we have forgotten how we got here and especially why we came. My father’s family arrived in the second half of the 19th century from Riga, the capital city of Latvia set on the Baltic Sea. We don’t know much about them except they were dairy farmers, and they managed to buy property and continue with that life after they landed and settled in Connecticut and upstate New York. My dad, the middle child of nine, left the farm for the big city when he was 14, got a job at the bottom of the ladder in a hardware store, lived in a boarding house in Brooklyn near his older brother, worked hard and for long hours, saved his pennies and ultimately started several hardware stores on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It was about then that I came along, the middle child of three.

We know more about my mother’s side of the family. Her uncle, her mother’s brother, left the army in the Ukraine after a perilous stint at the beginning of the 20th century. He joined his uncle in Corona, Queens, who taught him how to use a sewing machine in a clothing factory. He realized he could earn more if he owned a machine and could hire himself out to the highest bidder, then understood he could do better still if he owned the factory. His four children all graduated from college, his daughters became teachers and his son served as a judge in the District and Criminal Courts of Suffolk County.

My mother’s grandparents and parents, alarmed at the unrest in their homeland in the first decade of the 20th century, followed the family chain, established themselves financially in New York City, and saw to it that their offspring were educated so that they might further contribute to society and share in its benefits.

This is the American Dream. This is the route that countless individuals and families followed for 400 years to reach their goals amid the freedom and security of the United States, Has that dream been achieved by everyone here in America? Certainly not, and the situations where people are chained to the past or even the present are heartbreaking. The national goal is to bring the American Dream to all living within our borders.

Except for Native Americans, we all started out as immigrants, foreigners in a foreign land, and those who came voluntarily — along with those who didn’t — aspired for more. Some came with more skills and resources, some with less. Some had supportive family networks, some arrived alone.

The American siren song still exists. The formula does work. I see it realized by people locally every day. For all the cynicism and the partisanship, whatever the shortcomings and injustices, this is still America.

On the day of the State of the Union, this is what America means to me.

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Donald Trump and now Aaron Boone? What’s going on?

A well-known businessman, who spent considerable time on TV after he had made his money, was elected president — in case you’ve been living in a hole somewhere for the last year or so — despite not having any experience whatsoever as a politician.

Then, recently, the New York Yankees, who expect a championship every year and aren’t fond of learning curves, went out and hired someone whose playing claim to fame as a Yankee came with one swing 14 years ago. After his playing career ended, Boone entered the broadcast booth where he talked about the game.

Like Trump, Boone was beamed into the leaving rooms of those who paused to watch the program that featured him.

And now, like Trump, Boone must do some quick on-the-job training, becoming a modern-day manager.

Now, I don’t expect Boone to attack other players, managers or umpires on Twitter, the way the president has done when he unloads written salvos against anyone who dares to defy or annoy him.

What I’m wondering, though, is how did these men get their jobs? Since when is experience doing a high profile job no longer necessary? What made Trump and Boone the choice of the Electoral College and the best candidate to make the Yankees greater again, respectively? These Yankees, after all, were surprisingly great this year, falling one game short of the fall classic.

One word may answer that question: television. Somehow we have gone from the comical notion, years ago that “I’m not a doctor, I play one on TV,” to the reality of “I know better because I seem that way on TV.”

Long ago, in 1960, when Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy were running for president, TV helped sway voters, particularly those who watched an important debate. So, I suppose, it seems like a logical extension to imagine that TV helped fast track the careers of people who spent time sharing their thoughts, tag lines and observations with us through that same medium.

Sports and reality TV have commonalities. A sport is the ultimate live, unscripted event, where people offer off-the-cuff thoughts and analyses on fluid action. Each game and each moment can bring the unexpected — a triple play, an inside-the-park home run or a hidden-ball trick — that requires an instant reaction.

Similarly, albeit in a different way, the reality TV that brought Trump to the top of the political heap gave him a chance to respond to changing situations, offering a cutting analysis of the potential, or lack thereof, for people on his show.

While viewers watch these familiar faces and hear their voices, people can become convinced of the wisdom and abilities of these TV stars who become spokespersons and champions for their own brands.

So, does Trump offer any insight into Boone? The new Yankees manager may find that second-guessing other people is much easier than making decisions himself and working as a part, or a leader, of a team.

Trump has bristled at all the second-guessers. While he’s familiar with the media scrutiny, Boone, too, may find it irritating that so many other New Yorkers are absolutely sure they know better when it comes to in-game decisions that affect the outcome of a Yankees contest.

Perhaps what Boone and Trump teach us is that selling your ideas or yourself on TV has become a replacement for experience. TV experience has become a training ground for those selling their ideas to the huddled masses yearning for a chance to cheer.

U.S. Reps. Peter King, Lee Zeldin and Tom Suozzi voice bipartisan opposition to the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Nov. 28. Photo by Alex Petroski

Components of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a federal tax reform bill passed by the House of Representatives in November and currently before the U.S. Senate, has achieved the seemingly impossible in finding common ground for Republicans and Democrats.

Members of Long Island’s congressional delegation from both political parties stood in front of the Internal Revenue Service building in Hauppauge Nov. 28 alongside business owners, representatives from local chambers of commerce, and town and county elected officials to deliver a clear and unified message: As currently constituted, both the House and Senate versions of the bill would harm Long Islanders.

“I view it as a geographic redistribution of wealth to propose eliminating [state and local tax deductions],” 1st Congressional District U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said during the press conference, pointing to the elimination of the SALT deduction as a key sticking point in the bill. “You’re proposing to take more money from a place like New York in order to pay for deeper tax cuts elsewhere.”

“You’re proposing to take more money from a place like New York in order to pay for deeper tax cuts elsewhere.”

— Lee Zeldin

The SALT deduction, which was enacted 100 years ago, is a provision that in the past, through federal tax returns, gave a portion of tax dollars back to individuals in higher income and property tax states like New York, New Jersey and California to avoid double taxation. The deduction was eliminated in the House version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which the body passed Nov. 16, for individuals’ income taxes, and limited property tax deductions to $10,000. The Senate’s version of the bill, which has not been voted on yet, completely eliminates all SALT deductions. Both the House and Senate versions double the (married filing jointly) standard deduction from $12,000 to $24,000. The bill has been touted by President Donald Trump (R) and other members of Republican leadership as a massive tax cut for middle-class families.

The 2nd District U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) and 3rd District U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) also attended the press conference to rally support for changes to the bill. Zeldin and King were among 13 Republicans in the House to vote “no” on the bill, with 227 voting to pass it. None of the House Democrats voted in favor of the bill.

“There are some good aspects in both the House bill and the Senate bill,” Zeldin said. “Voters last November, when they went to the polls looking for that tax relief for them, for their families, for their community … this is not the tax relief that they had in mind. We may be upsetting a lot of people in our own party back in Washington right now, but we are not elected to be their congressmen.”

King echoed Zeldin’s position on both versions of the bill, calling the position between the three representatives a “united front.”

“I strongly favor tax cuts across the board,” King said. “I believe they are necessary, but this bill, both the House version and the Senate bill, I am opposed to.”

“We’re not asking for any special benefit, because we’ve gotten a raw deal over the years as far as federal distribution of revenues, but don’t add to that.”

— Peter King

King reiterated that his biggest issue with the bills is the elimination of the SALT deduction.

“This is inequitable, it’s unjust and it’s wrong,” King said. “Long Island is really the main victim of this tax bill. We’re not asking for any special benefit, because we’ve gotten a raw deal over the years as far as federal distribution of revenues, but don’t add to that. Don’t make it worse.”

King, who has been a supporter of Trump and his agenda, also took the opportunity to send a message to the White House.

“My district twice voted for Barack Obama by four points and by five points,” King said. “Donald Trump carried [New York’s 2nd Congressional District] by nine points. That was a 14-point turnaround. The people of Long Island didn’t make that turnaround so the Trump administration could raise their taxes so the rest of the country could get a tax break.”

Suozzi, the lone congressional Democrat at the event, also preached unity on tax reform as it pertains to Long Islanders.

“This would be a punch in the gut to everybody on Long Island if this bill were to pass either in the House form or the Senate form,” he said. Suozzi added that he thought it took guts for Zeldin and King to be among the 13 “no” votes among Republicans in the House. “We’re united 100 percent in recognizing eliminating the state and local tax deduction would be devastating to our constituents.”

New York’s income tax rate is among the highest in America, with members of the top tax bracket paying 8.82 percent in 2017. On average, the state income tax deduction for New Yorkers making between $50,000 and $200,000 in annual income for the 2015 tax year was between $4,049 and $9,330. The same group of earners deducted on average between $5,869 and $8,158 over the same time period in state and local real estate taxes. The 2015 tax year is latest year with available data according to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, an organization that provides independent analysis of tax policy.

Participants of a protest against the federal tax bill outside of Renaissance Technologies in Setauket Nov. 29. Photo by Kevin Redding

Representatives from local organizations stood outside Renaissance Technologies in East Setauket Nov. 29 to voice their opposition to the bill. Until recently, Robert Mercer was the chief executive officer of the hedge fund, though he is known nationally for his contributions to conservative and right-wing political campaigns.

“It’s clear that there are a lot of changes that are coming and for middle-class folks like us, they’re not going to be good changes,” said Peter Verdon a Suffolk County resident who was present at the protest. “The system is clearly out of whack, tilted towards the extremely wealthy and it’s continuing in that direction and enough’s enough. We can’t allow that to continue to happen.”

Bill Crump, a Lindenhurst resident and member of the Long Island Progressive Coalition political activist group also attended.

“We’re going to have a $1.5 trillion deficit and they’re going to cut our Medicare and our benefits,” he said. “It’s coming out of our pockets. Trump claims he’s going to give a tax cut. Maybe he’s going to give you a quarter while he reaches in and takes your wallet.”

This post was updated Nov. 29 to correct the income tax and mortgage tax deduction amounts under the two bills, and to include information about a Nov. 29 protest in Setauket. Additional reporting contributed by Kevin Redding.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would reduce the number of income tax brackets from seven to four; eliminate deductions for state and local income taxes; and would reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent. Stock photo

By Alex Petroski

Last week Republicans in the House of Representatives took a major step toward fulfilling a lynchpin campaign promise that is seemingly decades old.

The House Ways and Means committee released the framework of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Nov. 2, a major piece of legislation touted by President Donald Trump (R) as a cut to income taxes for “hardworking, middle-income Americans,” though it would negatively affect New Yorkers if signed into law, according to lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle.

The highlights of the bill, which would require passage by the House and Senate and the president’s signature before becoming law, include a consolidation from seven individual income tax brackets down to four; the elimination of the deduction for state and local income taxes, a provision that in the past through federal tax returns gave a portion of tax dollars back to individuals in higher income tax states like New York; and a reduction of the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent.

“I am a ‘No’ to this bill in its current form,” 1st Congressional District U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said in a statement. “We need to fix this state and local tax [SALT] deduction issue. Adding back in the property tax deduction up to $10,000 is progress, but not enough progress. If I’m not fighting for New Yorkers, I can’t expect anyone else from another state to do it for me.”

U.S. Rep. for the 2nd District, Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), was even more critical of the bill than Zeldin.

“The goal of tax reform is to help hard-working Americans make more money so they can live the American Dream,” Suozzi said in a statement. “The American people expect us to find a bipartisan solution to tax reform that helps create good paying middle-class jobs. This plan doesn’t achieve that goal. I won’t support it.”

Other New York lawmakers from the Democratic Party voiced harsh opposition to the bill in its current form.

New York’s U.S. senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) and Chuck Schumer (D-New York) each said via Twitter they viewed the bill as a tax break for corporations that would have a negative impact on middle-class citizens. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) called the bill a “tax increase plan.”

“The tax reform plan, they call a tax cut plan,” Cuomo said in a statement. “It has a diabolical dimension, which is the elimination of the deductibility of state and local taxes … what makes it an even more gross injustice is, the state of New York contributes more to the federal government than any other state. New York contributes more to Washington than any other state. We’re the No. 1 donor state. We give $48 billion more than we get back. Why you would want to take more from New York is a gross, gross injustice.”

Duncan MacKenzie, chief executive officer of the New York State Association of Realtors said in a statement the bill would harm many New York homeowners.

“It will lessen the value of the property tax deduction and it cuts a host of other key housing-related tax incentives,” he said.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization founded in the 1980s and dedicated to educating the public on issues with significant fiscal policy impact, estimated the bill would result in a $1.5 trillion increase to the national deficit.

Mark Snyder of Mark J. Snyder Financial Services, a Hauppauge-based personal financial planning and management firm, called the bill a “torpedo aimed at the wallets of Long Islanders” in an email. He also pointed to the elimination of the SALT deduction as clear evidence the bill would harm New Yorkers.

“As a representative from New York, I’d kick this bill to the curb,” he said when asked what he would do if he were tasked with voting on the bill.

I’m going to start with a headline relationship that would make Niccolò Machiavelli proud and work my way toward life on Main Street. You remember Machiavelli? That’s the author who wrote “The Prince,” which was first published way back in 1532, about how to manipulate people to survive and use any means available.

Wait, please don’t go. There won’t be a test and that’s the last date I’ll put in this column. Promise.

So, I’m thinking about relationships because of the new and improved dynamic between President Donald Trump and his Best Friend for Now — BFN, anyone? — Sen. Mitch McConnell. After a few tough losses, the Republican leaders seemed testy in their exchanges.

No, no, they said earlier this week, that wasn’t so. They are buddies and they agree on everything. Well, almost everything. According to sources, the senior senator also wants two scoops of ice cream when he visits the White House, but the commander in chief has no intention of changing his ice cream policies, even for his BFN.

Anyway, what brought these two older white men together? Did they talk about what it’s like to be misunderstood? Were they eager to find a friend in Washington, D.C., and did neither of them want to get a dog, as the expression goes?

No, they came together because they need to. It’s so much easier, they decided, to agree and to work together than to disagree. That sounds reasonable, but what would Machiavelli think? I suspect he’d be thrilled. After all, it’s about surviving, learning to fight another day and moving the chess pieces of life around on the board. Fortunately, and I won’t put the date in here because I don’t want to break my promise, chess was invented before “The Prince” was published. If you want to find it, you can look it up on the internet, which is the source of all information and misinformation in the universe. So, Machiavelli would have known about chess and the need to sacrifice the short-term humiliation of needing anyone and the mutually assured long-term gain of having allies in Washington.

OK, so let’s step away from the seat of our democracy and go out into the real world. Why do the rest of us need relationships and what can they do for us?

Are we like ants and bees, who need each other for specialized jobs?

Yes and no. Certainly, I would have a hard time building my own house. I feel as if I have an incompetence allergy to the words “some assembly required.” I am also visual-arts deficient. People offer all kinds of false modesty, saying things like, “I used to ski a little” or “I used to do a bit of singing,” when they almost made the Olympic team and were a few auditions short of starring next to Julie Andrews on Broadway. I, however, am not being modest. If I were responsible for building walls and decorating them, we’d be living in caves and would be staring at uninspiring chalk drawings of woolly mammoths.

So, yes, our individual deficiencies suggest we do need each other. But, maybe, we benefit not just what we get from others.

One of my good friends is in a new relationship. He has always been in decent physical shape. He’s not much of a reader and has shied away from even the shortest of reading assignments. Anyway, he’s dating a woman who is a regular runner and an avid reader. Lo and behold, he recently beamed after completing a half marathon and is happily building his own personal library.

Maybe the best and longest lasting relationships are those that push us to find the best in ourselves. It’s not exactly Machiavelli 101 and it doesn’t require a press conference, but maybe the right relationships are those that help us develop in unexpected ways.

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If we stepped outside tomorrow to a 52 degree day, we’d race back inside and put on a coat.

If we opened the door in January to the same temperature, we might race back into the house to shed that same coat.

It’s all about expectations.

Our daughter figured that out several years ago. Gone are the days when she tells us she thinks she did well on a test. She doesn’t want us to ask, “What happened?” or hear us say, “Oh, but you thought you did well on that test.”

Instead, she often tamps down our expectations, indicating that we’d better brace for the equivalent of the academic cold. If she does better than expected, she won’t have to contend with questions. If she met the lowered expectations, she can say that, even if she didn’t do well, she can take consolation in knowing how she performed.

Yes, relationships are all about managing those expectations.

Let’s take a quick look at President Trump. He’s a shoot-from-the-tweet president. He frequently misspells words, gets facts wrong here and there, and attacks his opponents, his allies and anyone in between according to his mood.

Has he done the same thing as our daughter? Is he resetting our expectations? Is he pleased to redefine the notion of a modern-day president?

If, and when, he seems levelheaded, deliberate and considerate, is he climbing over a bar he reset for himself, giving us a chance to applaud the manner in which he interacted with a public prepared for a stream of anger and disdain?

Relationships, as Harry from the movie “When Harry Met Sally” knew all too well, are also about setting expectations. When Harry (played by Billy Crystal) is sharing one of his many philosophies of life with Sally (Meg Ryan), he suggests that he never takes a girlfriend to the airport early in a relationship because he doesn’t want her to ask why, later in the relationship, he doesn’t take her to the airport anymore.

Some people’s jobs, like stock market analysts, meteorologists and oddsmakers, involve setting expectations.

Built into their forecasts, meteorologists often leave the back door open, in case they’re wrong. As in, “It probably won’t rain, but there’s a 15 percent chance of precipitation today.”

While that forecast is innocuous enough, it leaves a small measure of flexibility in case the weather people missed a heavy band of rain clouds from their Doppler models, which happened recently, leaving my wife disappointed and dripping wet at her office after trudging through an unexpected shower.

Of course, a meteorologist who predicted rain every day in anywhere but Ketchikan, Alaska, where the locals say it rains 400 days a year, wouldn’t last long, as people would bristle at carrying unnecessary umbrellas through the brilliant sunshine

Many years ago, my wife and I went to see a movie. When we got to the theater, the film was sold out.

Instead of turning around, we bought tickets to a film on which we hadn’t read any reviews and knew nothing. We wound up watching “Shakespeare in Love.” We thoroughly enjoyed it, in part because we had no expectations.

Perhaps the most difficult expectations to meet, or exceed, are our own. Raising the bar for anything — the taste of the food we cook, our performance during a presentation or our ability to stay calm in a crisis — involves risk. Then again, once we clear our new expectations often enough, we know what we can expect of ourselves and can move on to bigger challenges. The rewards, even if we never tell anyone how much more we accomplished than we expected, seem well worth the risk.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin speaks during an interview at TBR News Media. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Alex Petroski

From the podium at The Emporium in Patchogue Nov. 8, 2016 after his race against Anna Throne Holst (D-Southampton) was officially called and his near-20-point victory was secured, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said he was looking forward to the opportunity to “make America great again.”

Zeldin has become synonymous with President Donald Trump (R) locally, and though he said during an exclusive interview with the Times Beacon Record News Media editorial board he still supports the president, just short of 10 months removed from his re-election, Zeldin also said he is not a “proxy” for Trump, or anyone else. During the 90-minute interview, the congressman preached bipartisanship, addressed the future of health care, discussed Trump’s Twitter account and inflammatory speeches like the one he made in Arizona Aug. 22, criticized the president for his response to the Charlottesville, Virginia, protest and addressed the state of his support for Trump going forward.

Zeldin celebrates his 2016 election night victory in Patchogue. File photo by Alex Petroski

“I don’t give anyone my proxy.”

Despite being a strong supporter of Trump during their parallel 2016 campaigns, Zeldin had a strong response when asked if the president had his unequivocal support.

“I don’t give anyone my proxy,” Zeldin said, though he did say he supports the president and wants him to be successful. He added if he had to vote for Trump again today, he ultimately would. “It’s not 2020, but if you asked me Aug. 25 of 2017 if I was casting a vote right now and he was running unopposed, yeah. If he was running against someone else and there was a compelling reason to go some other direction, then you factor into it.”

Zeldin pushed back on the perception of a large group of his constituents who believe he is the local embodiment of Trump. He cited several examples in which he has been critical of the president, including when Trump made a Holocaust remembrance statement that made no reference to Jewish people, or when he voted in line with many House Democrats against a bill that would roll back internet privacy protections, which Trump ultimately signed into law.

The congressman also reiterated a statement he has made publicly in the past, that the meeting between Donald Trump Jr., other members of the Trump administration and people with ties to the Russian government alleging they had damaging material on Hillary Clinton in June 2016 should have never taken place.

“If you really wanted to ask yourself, is this guy just going to be or has he been some proxy or some stooge who is refusing to say where he disagrees, you would have to ignore like 20 different examples where it’s not even taking my word for it, this is stuff that I’ve said on national TV,” Zeldin said. He surmised the perception he is too tightly connected to Trump comes from people who can’t wait for the day Trump is no longer in office.

Zeldin added although he disagreed with former President Barack Obama (D) on issues, at no point did he view him as anything other than his president.

“There are people who think nothing has gotten done.”

Zeldin pushed back on the idea that partisan gridlock, which has long characterized the country’s perception of Congress, is getting worse or is being amplified by Trump. He said bills are being passed and bipartisan discussions are being had everyday by members of the House.

“People have this perception that when the House is in session and we’re all on the floor together that it’s an old school Aaron Burr duel taking place amongst all members all the time,” he said. “Where everyone’s basically literally trying to kill each other on the floor.”

Zeldin said he isn’t going to sugarcoat it, or try to make the discussions sound all rosy. He pointed to the over 50 bills passed since Trump has taken office as proof of Republicans and Democrats working together to get things done.

He said these topics tend to get overshadowed by what is broadcasted on TV news.

“People get very discouraged when you put on the news and you’re only coming in contact with bad news,” Zeldin said. “It’s almost like [it’s] not even newsworthy to talk about what got done that day. What’s newsworthy is what may be the biggest, most dramatic confrontation or battle that might be going on. That’s the news everyday.”

He attributed heated political rhetoric and the notion Congress is struggling to work together to the business model of the three major 24-hour cable news stations — CNN, Fox News and MSNBC.

“The information they’re coming in contact with is deliberately targeting them to stir emotion, because that’s how they get traffic,” he said.

The congressman recalled several times when he was slated to do a cable news interview on a particular topic, which the president would be happy to see gain coverage, only to be asked questions about the investigations into Trump’s ties to Russia during the campaign because of a Tweet he sent moments before the interview.

He admitted the president has the power to steer the conversation in the right direction.

“There is no person in the United States of America with more of an ability to drive the conversation,” he said. “I don’t know of the last time we had an individual in the United States of America with a bigger soapbox than the president of the United States.”

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin calls for funding for two EPA programs relating to the Long Island Sound during a press conference March 13. Photo by Kevin Redding

“He’s willing to sign 50,000 different versions of this bill.”

Common ground exists between Republicans and Democrats on the future of the federal health care law, according to Zeldin, though he said he’s skeptical of the Senate’s ability to reach a majority on a replacement of the Affordable Care Act. At no point during the 90-minute conversation did the congressman use the phrase “repeal and replace,” though he discussed, at length, some of the issues with the individual market and what it would take to repair it in a way that works.

“Beyond partisanship there’s an ideological difference on the insurance piece, and what do you do with the ACA,” Zeldin said. “They just absolutely, genuinely to their core disagree on certain components of what direction [to go in].”

Zeldin was extremely critical of the process that led up to the ultimately failed Senate vote on health care and stressed the need to return to regular order.

The health care vote revealed three Republican senators as willing to oppose the president on major legislation. As a result of that vote and other circumstances in which Republican senators have spoken out against Trump, Zeldin encouraged the use of the president’s “bully pulpit,” like the way he spoke about Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) during his trip to Phoenix Aug. 22.

When asked if the president is doing enough to grow his base of support rather than just appealing to those he already has in his camp, Zeldin was also critical.

“There are opportunities for him to do more to broaden that coalition,” he said.

He also indicated the president is prepared to compromise on a health care bill.

“He’s willing to sign 50,000 different versions of this bill,” Zeldin said.

“There is no moral equivalency.”

The congressman was most critical of the president on his response to the events in Charlottesville. He repeatedly stated there is no moral equivalency between marchers on the side of the KKK and Nazism and those who attended the rally to oppose hate, a point that was contradictory to statements Trump made publicly on the subject. Zeldin said he did agree though with the president’s point that members of the “alt-right” were not the only one’s who arrived at the Virginia rally for the purpose of inciting violence.

“If you are a good person showing up to that march and you realize once you get there that by being associated at all with that march that you are associating yourself in any way, shape, or form with the KKK or Nazism, a good person, immediately, instinctively completely disengages,” Zeldin said.