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President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama said he wanted even more funding for treatment. File photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Years before he was the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama gave me a call.

I was working at Bloomberg News as a banking reporter and was covering some financial services issue. A source of mine suggested that I chat with this state senator from Illinois, whom he insisted was going places. My source clearly recognized Obama’s potential.

What I recall about a conversation that was akin to getting a rookie card for Derek Jeter was that Obama was erudite, eloquent and halting in his response to my questions. Attuned to the rapid pace of New York conversation, I was unaccustomed to the cadence of his conversation.

When Obama ran for office, I recognized not only his name but also his speech pattern.

I have had brushes with a wide range of people of varying levels of fame, often times in the context of my work as a journalist. Please find below a brief compendium of such interactions.

— Jim Lovell. The commander of Apollo 13, Lovell and his wife Marilyn attended an event in Florida where I was their point of contact. When the cool night breeze gave Marilyn a chill, Lovell jumped up to get her sweater and asked when they could leave. I asked my bosses, who wanted Lovell, who was the honored guest, to stay until after dinner. He was greatly appreciative when I told him he could finally lift off.

— Yogi Berra. I attended an event at Tavern on the Green event, where Berra was a client of the host. Even though I was only five foot, seven inches tall at the time (I’m probably a bit shorter now), I towered over the older and thin former Yankees catcher. When I told him it was an honor to meet him, he took my hand in his and offered a polite smile.

— Eliot Spitzer. Before he was a governor and client 9, Spitzer was a hard-charging New York Attorney General who went after investment banks for inflating stocks to help their business at the potential expense of investors. I spoke regularly with Spitzer, whose energy and intellect made it hard for my fingers to keep up while I was typing notes. I expected the impressive and ambitious Spitzer to ascend to national office.

— Scott Kelly. I interviewed Astronaut Scott Kelly after he set an American record for continuous time in space of 340 days aboard the International Space Station. With his then girlfriend, now wife, Amika Kauderer, in the room, the two of them described his book. She also recounted the second class treatment she received from some of the wives who weren’t impressed with her status as a girlfriend.

— Ed Koch. The former New York mayor was a staple at Bloomberg News, where I worked for several years. At 6 feet, two inches tall, Koch towered over me as he regularly filled his plate with some of the free snacks and sugary treats at the newsroom.

— Hank Paulson. I interviewed the former Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs at an International Monetary Fund meeting in Hong Kong. After I asked the first question, Paulson, who would become Treasury Secretary, yanked the microphone out of my hands and spent the rest of the interview holding it up to his mouth. I tried to project my voice into the microphone and above the chatter in a crowded restaurant.

— Goldie Hawn. At a lunch at Shun Lee Palace near Lincoln Center with a former banker from the now defunct Lehman Brothers, I spotted the famous actress as I approached her crowded table. Dressed in a sleeveless black dress, she could tell I recognized her. Rather than look away, she gave me a warm and welcoming smile. I wished, even moments later, that I had given her a thumbs up or an appreciative grin. 

— Earl “The Pearl” Monroe. When I was at the New York Daily News, I spoke regularly with the Knicks legend for a rookie (Channing Frye) vs. veteran stock picking contest. While he lost the contest, he couldn’t have been friendlier and more receptive during our weekly calls, updating me on his life and sharing his weekly stock picks.

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We as a country have experienced a tumultuous and polarizing last few weeks and months. The lead up to the first Tuesday in November and the midterm elections set the American electorate ablaze with strong opinions that saw former elected officials receive rudimentary pipe bombs via the mail.

With that as a backdrop, Veterans Day took place this past weekend, with beautiful, solemn remembrances unfolding at war memorials and firehouses, coupled with more raucous and celebratory parades happening across the North Shore and beyond. The events should have served as reminders that despite our differences, our shared values and appreciation for the sacrifices made by so many that allowed this country to flourish are what will be truly lasting in even the tensest of times.

While we were glad to see photos come through our inboxes and across our social media platforms of these events, we were saddened by an incident that occurred at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai relayed to us by Fred Drewes, a founding member of the Heritage Trust, the nonprofit which stewards the park in partnership with the Town of Brookhaven and Suffolk County.

Drewes has dedicated much of his own time to beautifying the park and perpetuating a triannual program called the Parade of Flags, which features the flying of  about 100 flags representing American states and other important entities like the military branches lining an area of the park dubbed the Avenue of America. The park features other patriotic imagery including the Court of America, a sitting area with benches, plaques with quotes from presidents and other famous citizens and a rock garden in the shape of the continental United States.

The rock garden contains symbolic rocks, plants and flowers that are native to the corresponding region in which they lay. Blocks featuring the names of all previous 44 U.S. presidents and the years they held office border the garden. President Donald Trump’s block will be added at the conclusion of his tenure, according to Drewes.

Drewes reported to us that during recent weeks someone tore out former President Barack Obama’s block and discarded it in a nearby shrub. We’re not asking anyone to agree with all — or even any — of the former president’s political ideologies or practices, except for one.

“The forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us,” Obama said in 2011 while speaking in Tucson, Arizona, after a gunman shot U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona).

On Veterans Day especially, but going forward, we’d like to see Americans make a better effort to live by that axiom.

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When we were young, we used to think he was hiding under our beds, in our closets or around the corner. Thoughts of this terrifying person kept us up at night, prevented us from closing our eyes and made us insist that our parents search every corner of our room, investigate each sound around us and make sure we were safe.

Before I was born, the boogie man was the Soviet Union, spying on us from overhead in a satellite launched in October 1957. He was watching us from above, monitoring our trips to the supermarket, listening to our conversations with our neighbors about the Brooklyn Dodgers’ move to Los Angeles or studying our driving routes to work.

Today, of course, we have plenty of reasons to fear. Terrorists have made death and destruction their business. They appear bent on the idea that killing us somehow helps them.

It’s horrifying and we need to protect ourselves. The manner in which we do that is up for debate, particularly as President Trump and his staff make a point of reminding us of all the events around the world that we should fear.

We need a strong response, a readiness to act and a careful screening process, keeping out the undesirable elements. President Obama seemed intent on protecting the populace, albeit without the same level of directed rhetoric and without policies of exclusion.

No president wants to be in the White House as the griever-in-chief when he knows he could act through policies he has the power to write.

But is there a way to look into the human soul beyond religious stereotypes and beyond geographic boundaries to know what someone may intend to do? Is this boogie man exclusively one religion? Surely, there are plenty of people who grew up in different countries and follow other religions who commit horrible acts.

Do we understand our enemy or do we just want to push those people, whoever they are —  perhaps away?

It’s never been clear to me how we can protect ourselves completely from any motivated aggressor, short of living in a concrete bunker deep in the ground, with admission limited to those with a thorough psychological and DNA profile.

We don’t understand many of the mass murderers in our country. We interview their neighbors, family members and classmates after they’ve committed horrible acts. No one could possibly foresee that this unstable person was capable of these atrocities. And, if their associates could have seen it coming, they are almost admitting culpability. If they say, “Of course, I wrote in my diary two months ago that he might be a killer,” they may feel that they share some responsibility for not preventing these acts.

We need to understand each other and the way the human mind strays off track into a realm of darkness where relief and success are measured in bullets and body counts. We need to know our enemy. I don’t believe we can truly see our enemy in the color of their skin or their passport.

Our mental health system will likely receive fewer dollars in the months and years ahead, so we can focus on building walls and keeping people out. Perhaps a better investment would be to understand the people we fear. Yes, we need to defend ourselves, but we can also build a mental health system that encourages people to find ways to heal instead of hurt. Who knows? Helping the boogie man could turn him into an ally instead of a sworn enemy.

President Trump’s order halts entry from seven countries, seeks to reform policy

Airports across the country were the sight of massive protests. Stock photo

By Victoria Espinoza and Alex Petroski

The recent executive order by President Donald Trump (R) for immigration reform affected refugees and immigrants across the country this past week, including a North Shore-bound traveler.

Trump signed an order Jan. 27 to ban travelers from seven nations — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — from entering the United States for the next 90 days. The immigration reform effort has been met with criticism from federal legislators and activists, and protests against the ban broke out in airports and cities across the country, some starting just hours after the order was signed.

President Donald Trump suspended entry from seven countries last week. File photo

Other federal politicians and commentators support the action, citing the country’s need to strengthen immigration laws and secure the U.S. from terrorist attacks.

Stony Brook student detained

The travel ban and its hasty roll out impacted Stony Brook University president of Graduate Student Organization, Vahideh Rasekhi, who is pursuing a doctorate in linguistics.

According to a statement from university President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., Rasekhi was detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport when she arrived back in the U.S. from a trip to Iran to visit her family, though she arrived on a layover flight from Ukraine. She was detained and later released Jan. 29. Stanley addressed Trump’s executive order, urging caution from international students, and recommending students from the seven countries listed in the order not travel outside of the U.S. unless absolutely necessary during the 90-day period.

“In November, I shared a message with the campus community expressing the university’s unwavering commitment to diversity — anchored in our strong values of access and inclusiveness — and to creating a campus environment that welcomes all,” Stanley said. “I want to reaffirm the university is resolute on this stance.”

Stanley also offered international students contact information for the university’s Visa and Immigration Services Office, and planned to host an information session with legal experts at the Wang Center yesterday, Feb. 1.

Rasekhi, who arrived at Stony Brook in 2010 after attending the University of California and California State University, declined an interview request, but addressed her experience in an emailed statement through a university media relations representative.

“I am now grateful to be back on the Stony Brook University campus, where I plan to complete my Ph.D. dissertation and continue my work as president of our Graduate Student Organization,” she said. “I would like to extend my sincerest thanks and appreciation to all who intervened on my behalf, including elected representatives, attorneys from the International Refugee Assistance Project and Legal Aid Society who volunteered their help, the ACLU, the [SBU] Linguistics Department and the leadership at Stony Brook University.”

Local officials react

The U.S. representative for New York’s 1st Congressional District, Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), one of Trump’s local supporters, said in an email through a press representative he played a role in Rasekhi’s release from JFK, though he said he supports the order.

“I sympathize with every innocent person looking to come to America for a better life but we must prioritize America’s national security first,” Zeldin said.

“I sympathize with every innocent person looking to come to America for a better life but we must prioritize America’s national security first.”

— Lee Zeldin

He added he would support a ban on all Syrian refugees entering the U.S. until vulnerabilities in vetting systems can be improved.

“America is a nation of immigrants and people should have the opportunity to pursue the American Dream,” Zeldin said. … “The ultimate humanitarian victory is to assist with efforts to stabilize these nations and eliminate the threats there to peace.”

He also said he plans to monitor the application of the order and intervene in cases where he believes it is being used incorrectly.

The 3rd Congressional District U.S. representative, Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), offered no such support for the order.

“While we all are concerned about the security of our people and our nation, we cannot abandon our values,” he said in a statement. … “This issue cannot become an excuse for discrimination. I am adamantly opposed to targeting whole populations of people based upon their religion. It is un-American.”

After the signing of the executive order Jan. 27, subsequent protests over detentions, the opinion that this order targets people based on religion and the apparent uncoordinated rollout, Trump issued a statement Jan. 29.

“America has always been the land of the free and home of the brave,” he said. “We will keep it free and keep it safe. … To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban. … This is not about religion — this is about terror and keeping our country safe.”

A closer look at the order

David Sperling, an immigration attorney based out of Huntington Station, said he believes there is a need for reform.

“I’m an immigration attorney, I’ve been doing this for 22 years,” he said in a phone interview. “From being in immigration court I have seen there is a great deal of fraud even from people applying for asylum from the United States.”

He referenced a lack of documentation from refugees in areas like Syria.

Detractors of the ban have criticized the inclusion of the countries on the list — all of which have a Muslim-majority population.

According to New America, a nonpartisan think tank, “not one domestic terrorist attack since 9/11” has been executed by citizens of the seven countries now banned from entering the U.S. “Overall, terrorism in America is happening from homegrown radicals,” the think tank said. Foreign attackers have come from Egypt, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates, none of which made the list.

The new administration has contended it has simply continued an initiative started by the Obama administration, which flagged the seven countries as possible areas of concern in 2015, and imposed limited restrictions.

“I’ve never in my career as an immigration attorney seen anything like this.”

— David Sperling

“I’ve never in my career as an immigration attorney seen anything like this,” Sperling said, though he added many aspects of Trump’s presidency thus far are without precedent.

During the 90-day period, the president has ordered the Secretary of Homeland Security with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence to review the current information required from a country before a traveler is granted a visa or admission to the U.S. to ensure the country is not allowing in individuals who are security threats.

The executive order states the 90-day ban is needed to ensure research during this time is successful, the maximum utilization of resources are being used and adequate standards are established. The order also leaves room for special exceptions on a case-by-case basis.

A mission of this order is to eventually implement new uniform screening standards for immigration programs.

For immigrants and refugees, there is already an extensive system process in place.

For immigration screening, according to the State Department, the process includes submitting a petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, submitting financial and other supporting documents, and completing an interview.

“America has always been the land of the free and home of the brave. We will keep it free and keep it safe. … To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban. … This is not about religion — this is about terror and keeping our country safe.”

— Donald Trump

According to the White House, the refugee screening process involves multiple steps, including interviews with the United Nations refugee agency to confirm refugee status and conducting biographic security checks. While all of these steps are happening, each refugee’s file is being continuously reevaluated based on any new, relevant terrorism information.

Less than 1 percent of the global refugee population makes it past the first step in the process currently. The order also suspends the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days, but plans to prioritize refugee claims of minority religious-based persecution in their home country.

The ban also sets a 50,000 cap on refugees allowed to enter the states in 2017, compared to the Obama administration’s goal of admitting 110,000 refugees, according to the Pew Research Institute.

The order intends to complete and implement a biometric entry-exit tracking system of fingerprints and digital photos for all travelers to the U.S. which was discussed by prior administrations and committees.

The order also intends that there will be more transparency in reporting facts and data collection to the public regarding the number of foreign nationals who planned or carried out acts of terrorism.

Sperling said most of his clientele come from Hispanic communities and are concerned about the future.

“They’re scared, they don’t know what’s going to happen,” Sperling said. “There’s a great deal of fear and uncertainty in the immigrant community.”

For an audio version of this article, see above.

Whether you love him or hate him, take a moment to reflect

By Michael Tessler

Michael Tessler

This piece is not an evaluation of the president’s legislative accomplishments or failures. or even his politics — but rather a reflection of the very personal impact the 44th president had on one 15-year-old boy from Port Jefferson.

It was 2008 and I was just coming of age. Then I saw him on television, delivering his iconic “Yes We Can” speech. In that moment Barack Obama instilled in me a genuine sense of hope, a firm belief that in the course of human history it is possible to make a lasting difference. His words transformed my perception of our Constitution. No longer was it a thing of antiquity, but rather something tangible, something alive, and worthy of any sacrifice to protect.

My sense of purpose and my role in our democracy cemented itself in those early days of 2008. At 15 I found myself going to school in a blazer adorned with Obama/Biden ’08 and button sporting an Afro worthy of the Jackson 5. My teachers were endlessly amused at the sight. Some of my skeptical peers would ask me: “If you’re not old enough to vote, why do you care?”

On Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008, at 15 (and a half) I hurried back from Drama Club rehearsal with my best friend Jonathan to watch the poll results come in. This was the first election I had ever volunteered for. My family huddled around our television, my

anxieties and nerves were relentless, and then they called it — “Barack Obama has been elected the 44th president of the United States of America.” Despite having not yet lived through a full decade, tears streamed from my eyes. My country, our country, the greatest country on Earth, had just elected its first African-American president.

In that moment I saw the unending potential of America that our founders envisioned so long ago in Philadelphia. During his inaugural address, his tone changed. Like every commander-in-chief he was inheriting the weight of the most powerful office in the world. So he called upon me, as he did all Americans, to not become complacent in the future of our union — and so my work began.

Though I didn’t know it at the time, I had established what would later become known as the International Youth Congress — an organization whose aim it was to answer that question: “If you’re not old enough to vote, why do you care?”

No generation chooses to inherit the world, we just do. Despite not having a vote, our voices were no less diminished. For six years our organization grew: helping passing legislation, providing education and resources for young people around the world and eventually building a network of youth leaders from six different continents and over 20 separate countries. We were making that great hypothetical “change” possible. From as far as Rwanda, to Pakistan and Spain we gathered together to chart a common vision for the future based on our shared sense of humanity.

In these past eight years we’ve all grown up and have taken it upon ourselves to serve our communities, nation and world — whether working for the United Nations, Foundation of Economic Education, United States Senate, European Youth Parliament, International Labour Organization, the White House or this very publication. That spark would have never been lit had it not been for a certain presidential candidate with a funny name and big ears.

No legislative accomplishment or disagreement will ever measure up to the enormous inspiration Barack Hussein Obama delivered not just to me but to millions of young people around the world. His time in office has come to its constitutional conclusion, but for those whom he has inspired … we’re just getting started.

Though as I grow older my politics have changed and evolved, and we don’t always see eye to eye, I will always be grateful for that timeless creed bestowed upon a generation raised in a weary era of uncertainty — Yes We Can. Thank you Mr. President, wishing you and your family nothing but happiness in the many years ahead.

Image by Mike Sheinkopf

By Rich Acritelli

“Your success is now our country’s success.”

George H.W. Bush (R) who lost a hotly contested election to Bill Clinton (D) in 1992, passed on this message to the incoming president. Bush lost a difficult campaign to Clinton, but wanted a smooth transition of power to the newly elected leader. Both men were opponents who were completely opposite from each other. Bush was a fighter pilot who flew off aircraft carriers in the Pacific during World War II, and Clinton was decisively against the United States involvement during the Vietnam War. Bush was a conservative president and vice president living in Texas who served under Ronald Reagan (R) for eight years, and Clinton was a liberal governor from Arkansas. While their political views often clashed, since both men left office, they have grown to become good friends. These one-time executive adversaries are immensely close, and Clinton now regards Bush’s wife, Barbara, as a second mother.

Little-known Vice President Harry S. Truman (D) from Missouri gained power after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt (D) April 12, 1945. Right away Truman felt the immense burden of responsibility after learning about the tragic death of Roosevelt. When he asked the late president’s wife, Eleanor, what he could do to help her family, she asked, “Is there anything we can do for you? For you are the one in trouble now.”

Truman presided over the end of World War II, the start of the Cold War, a fledgling postwar economy, and a difficult re-election against New York Gov. Thomas Dewey (R). Although Truman is remembered as an extremely capable president, he had the difficulties of serving after the trusted four-term leadership of Roosevelt and before the “General of the Armies” Dwight D. Eisenhower (R).

During World War II, Eisenhower was rapidly promoted and given an immense amount of authority by Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Marshall, a highly regarded officer who became the architect of victory against Hitler in Europe. Outside of attaining a stellar record in the Army, Eisenhower’s only key blemish was his World War II affair with his driver Kay Summersby. After the war, he approached Marshall about the desire to divorce his wife and bring back his love interest to the U.S. Marshall took a heavy interest within Eisenhower’s career and he was seen as a second father to the future president. When the disciplinarian-minded Marshall learned that Eisenhower wanted to send for Summersby, he told his subordinate that he would run him “out of the Army” and make it impossible for him ever to “draw a peaceful breath.”

Marshall later wrote a scathing report about Eisenhower’s infidelities that was destroyed by Truman before he left office. Although Eisenhower and Truman did not have a warm relationship, Eisenhower stressed to Truman he could not believe how relentless the media was about his relationship with Summersby. Truman bluntly responded that if these were the only attacks against him by reporters, Eisenhower was immensely fortunate. Before he left office, Truman told the new leader he did not shred Marshall’s letter about Summersby to personally protect Eisenhower. His outgoing priority was to preserve the honor of the executive branch and its new leader, President-elect Eisenhower.

Currently, some of the cabinet nominations of President-elect Donald Trump (R) are facing scrutiny by Congress. Many previous presidents have endured political obstacles during this process. Clinton found it a chore to fulfill the attorney general position, as the first two candidates withdrew from being considered. George H.W. Bush watched as John Tower, his pick for secretary of defense in 1989 was not approved for the job. Personal allegations apart, the U.S. Senate did not like Tower’s connections to the national defense industry because they said it was a conflict of interest that could not be overlooked. It was the first time in 30 years the Senate refused to confirm a presidential cabinet appointment.

In 1980, Reagan faced scrutiny over Jackie Presser, later president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, who was believed to have ties to organized crime. Presser was a labor adviser to Reagan’s transitional team, and the Democrats were outraged by possible connections of corruption. The choice of Jimmy Carter (D) for the Central Intelligence Agency, Theodore Sorensen, withdrew his own name in 1977 due to the onslaught of resentment waged against the former World War II conscientious objector. Many members of the intelligence and military communities were concerned that he was too much of an outsider who wanted to reform the CIA’s overall mission of gathering vital information during the height of the Cold War.

Historically speaking, the time between the election and inauguration, a period of uncertainty, has impacted every leader since the days of George Washington. These triumphs and failures are realistic issues that must be accepted by our leaders before they enter the Oval Office. This will be no different for Trump when he is sworn in Friday in front of the nation by Chief Justice John Roberts during an inauguration that will be watched by the world.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College. Research for this story was contributed by the Rocky Point High School History Honor Society.

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Horrible acts are now connected with the name of our President-elect Donald Trump. Yes, I’ve heard the counter argument that these acts would have been committed anyway and that the media — yes, the cursed media — is overblowing and overplaying them.

Or, is it?

My question to the president-elect is: “Why haven’t you been more forceful in showing disdain, disappointment and disgust over these acts, whether or not they might have happened even if you weren’t elected president?”

Is he worried people might think he’s being politically correct? Does he think being sensitive to others, paying attention to circumstances in which bullies run rampant or, worse, commit violent, harassing or illegal acts is a sign of weakness?

He has an opportunity to lead the nation. We owe him that, just as President Barack Obama and the defeated Hillary Clinton have said. He will be the president and, as such, he will have the attention of a world ready to react to every word he says.

Why, then, can’t he say how horrified he is by these acts? I heard that he indicated to CBS’ Lesley Stahl on “60 Minutes” that he wants people to stop. Really? That’s it? That’s the best a man who never seemed at a loss for words can offer?

He should tell those who commit hate crimes that he will come after them with the same fury and attention that he promised to send home illegal immigrants. He should make it clear that he, his administration and this country will not accept teachers who suggest they will send African-American children back to Africa, among other intolerable words and deeds.

Of course, Trump can’t be responsible for the actions of everyone in the country. But, he can and should lead by example. He can set the tone, making it clear that no matter who else he appoints to his administration or what those other people may have done or said in the past, he is the president and he has a zero-tolerance policy for the kinds of hateful actions people are committing in his name.

The media has a job to do. Reporters shine light in areas where there might otherwise be darkness. Even if the president-elect doesn’t like the news as he reads it, he can do something about what’s being reported instead of blaming the media for sharing bad news.

Even buying into his argument that nothing has changed since his election, he should push for change, for opportunity, for freedom and justice for all, and not just for those who elected him.

Look, I get it: I’m a huge Yankees fan and it sickens me when my team wins and some other Yankees fan acts out against the fans of an opposing team. I can argue that real Yankee fans wouldn’t do that and I can say, “Stop.” But the future president of the United States can and should offer more.

You want people to know they can’t connect your name and your presidency with hatred, then make it clear that you won’t tolerate it and that this is not who you are — and it is not the America you will be leading. Our president-elect had strong words for his opponents in the primaries and for his vanquished competitor in the general election. Where are those strong words now that some people in the country are acting in ways contrary to the principles on which this nation was founded?

Please, Mr. President-elect, take this moment to address those elements of this country who seem to define and justify bad acts in your name.

Hillary Clinton’s lead in the polls at this point in the election cycle hardly guarantees victory. Image by Mike Sheinkopf

By Helmut Norpoth

Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer and, in presidential election years, the traditional beginning of the general election campaign. At this juncture Nate Silver’s popular website, FiveThirtyEight, has all but anointed Democrat Hillary Clinton as the inevitable winner over Republican Donald Trump in November. The 538 forecast based on an aggregation of polls gives Clinton a 70 percent chance, give or take a point, to defeat Trump. It is a victory not only in the popular vote but also in the Electoral College. The polling averages produced by RealClearPolitics and The Huffington Post agree. They all have shown a Clinton lead for months, punctured only briefly when Trump clinched the GOP nomination in primaries or won it at the Republican National Convention. Polls are shining a bright light on Clinton’s prospects while casting a dark shadow on Trump’s. So it seems. How serious should we take these poll-driven forecasts?

By now we have lived with scientific polls in American presidential elections for 80 years. It started in 1936, when George Gallup conducted the first poll of a representative sample of American voters. For the record, he got it right that year. Few readers may be old enough to remember. Franklin Roosevelt was running in 1936 against … quick, who was the Republican opponent? OK, it was Alf Landon of Kansas. FDR led him in every poll conducted by Gallup and won in one of the biggest landslides — a great start. Gallup would not always be so lucky. In 1948, his polling consistently showed Republican Tom Dewey defeating Democrat Harry Truman, the incumbent president, who wound up with the victory on Election Day.

Back to Labor Day. At this point during the 2008 election cycle, Republican John McCain was ahead of Democrat Barack Obama 49 percent to 44 percent in the Gallup poll. Many probably don’t remember it. McCain’s lead was famously trumpeted as a “game change,” triggered by his choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate. The strong showing of the GOP ticket in the polls raised the hopes of the McCain camp for a victory in the November, while unnerving the Obama camp. Then the economy took a sudden nosedive as Lehman Brothers collapsed and Wall Street crashed. As the candidate of the White House party, on whose watch this calamity occurred, McCain saw his fortunes tank in the polls. It also did not help that Palin, his vice-presidential candidate, came across as clueless and tongue-tied on television in interviews with Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric. So, real-life events unfavorable to the White House party and missteps in the election campaign combined to reverse a lead in the polls that one side, McCain in this case, enjoyed at the beginning of the general election campaign. Lesson: Beware of pollsters bearing election forecasts eight weeks before Election Day.

Helmut Norpoth is a political science professor at Stony Brook University and has designed models to forecast elections in the U.S. and abroad. He will be contributing ongoing election analysis ahead of the 2016 election.

Narcan, a drug that stops opioid overdoses. File photo by Jessica Suarez

“[CARA] is the culmination of so many families that had to lose loved ones over the last several years.” —Steve Chassman

Help is on the way, as President Barack Obama (D) signed a multibillion dollar bill into law this week that takes aim at the growing drug abuse problem facing many North Shore residents and families.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 is an $8.3 billion plan to fight drug addiction in the United States, with a significant amount of funding for prevention and treatment.

Obama said in a statement last Friday though, that he feels the bill could have gone further with funding for prevention.

“This legislation includes some modest steps to address the opioid epidemic,” he said. “Given the scope of this crisis, some action is better than none.” However, Obama was critical of the amount of money allotted for treatment options.

CARA funding includes $160 million for the expansion of medication-assisted treatment options, including grants that will be awarded to state, local and tribal governments to provide opioid abuse services. These grants will help fund programs that could expand treatment alternatives to incarcerations — with consent of attorneys and participants — for individuals who meet the program’s criteria.

Funding will also help develop, implement and expand prevention programs and training for first responders to administer opioid overdose reversal drugs, like Narcan. It will also fund investigations of unlawful opioid distribution activities.

Obama said he is committed to ensuring that support continues for individuals and families who are struggling with drug addiction.

President Barack Obama said he wanted even more funding for treatment. File photo
President Barack Obama said he wanted even more funding for treatment. File photo

“I have heard from too many families across the country whose lives have been shattered by this epidemic … I’m going to continue fighting to secure the funding families desperately need,” he said. “In recent days, the law enforcement community, advocates, physicians and elected officials from both sides of the aisle have also joined in this call.”

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who is a co-sponsor of the bill, has been vocal about asking the Senate and the president to pass the bill, after it went through the House of Representatives with a bipartisan vote of 407 to 5 in mid-July. It was passed by the Senate with a bipartisan vote of 92 to 2 the following week.

“Our communities and families on Long Island have been severely impacted by the rise of prescription drug abuse and the growing epidemic of heroin, and I will continue working with local elected officials, law enforcement, health professionals, community groups, parents, concerned residents and those in recovery to discuss and develop a more localized solution to address this crisis by increasing treatment and recovery services, education, and stopping the influx of illegal substances,” he said in a statement on Monday.

Steve Chassman, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, said the law is “arguably the most comprehensive bill” out there concerning the combat against drug abuse.

“It is heavy in education, prevention and treatment,” he said. “We are not just going to incarcerate our way out of this. [CARA] deals with this crisis as the crisis is.”

Chassman has attended multiple drug forums, prevention talks and community meetings on this growing problem, and said the new law is “the culmination of so many families that had to lose loved ones over the last several years.”