18 LONGISLANDPRESS.COM • FEBRUARY 2018 18 LONGISLANDPRESS.COM • SEPTEMBER 2017 18 LONGISLANDPRESS.CO M • SEPTEMBER 201-----------TUTU111
POINT OF VIEW
By STEVE ISRAEL
The smoking of cigars may be a vice,
but it has this virtue: you hear the
unvarnished opinions of people in
cigar bars, as I did recently.
I frequently slip into Matador Cigars,
a cigar establishment in Roslyn. It’s
as far from Capitol Hill in attire and
accoutrements as I can get. Usually
I wear jeans, a ratty shirt and a
baseball cap; find a comfortable
leather chair, and write. Often I go
with my friend, George Tsunis, a
prominent national supporter of
On the eve of the last government
shutdown, the place was packed
and Fox News was on the overhead
Then I heard it: “Let ’em shut down
“What does immigration have to do
with a budget?”
A ringing chorus of expletives
directed at various elected officials
Now, those guys — there were no
women, thank goodness, given one
individual’s anatomical references
about one particular female
Democrat — and I were there
to enjoy a cigar, so I kept quiet. I
could have asked what Planned
Parenthood had to do with the
budget when the Republicans tried
shutting down the government, or
suggested that if Democratic votes
were needed to pass it, then there
had to be some compromises. Or
asked why Democrats are to blame
for a shutdown when President
Trump tweeted he wanted one and
Republicans have a majority in both
the House and Senate.
But, no. I get the frustration. There
was a time when Republicans and
Democrats actually governed by
compromise. When they fought but
functioned. When bipartisan was an
attribute, not an attack ad in a nasty
primary from far left or far right.
What happened? Gerrymandering
drew congressional districts to the
extreme poles of the electorate,
pulling apart compromise.
The media — led by an explicit Fox
News strategy to be an ideological
amplifier of the right — became more
echo chamber than news provider.
Politicians found gain in tearing
down the institutions any democracy
relies on to govern.
The Republican Party decided, in
1995, that a shutdown of the federal
government to achieve an ideological
objective was appropriate. And repeated
that strategy in 2011, 2013, 2015, and
2016. It was a brilliant strategy. If
government can be shut down, why do
we need it? Why pay taxes?
That history is indisputably true, but,
that day, completely irrelevant to
my fellow cigar smokers at Matador
Cigars. They just want government
to work capably. I don’t think most
of them like the idea of uniformed
federal agents rounding up and
deporting children whose parents
brought them here when they were
infants, who speak perfect English,
pay taxes and work damned hard in
the only country they’ve ever known.
They want common sense. They want
compromise. They want a decent cigar
without watching their government
falling apart around them.
Steve Israel’s next novel, Big Guns, can
be pre-ordered at repsteveisrael.com.
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