Letters to the Editor: Zeldin 11.30.17

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At War With Himself


November 23, 2017

Dear David,

As I reflect on the things I am thankful for on this Thanksgiving morning, like many other members of our community, I am saddened by the state of our politics. And especially disappointed with the latest news that our elected representative in Congress, Lee Zeldin, has agreed to be feted at a fund-raiser sponsored by the far right’s leading propagandist Steve Bannon.

Watching Congressman Zeldin make the rounds on TV news shows to defend our president’s every pigheaded move and those of his co-conspirators, including saying that Bannon “has been given a very bad rap,” is like watching a man at war with himself. Why? I have no doubt that Zeldin is a thoughtful person. That he truly cares about his family, his community, and the people of the First Congressional District. Yet it is clear by his actions that he will do and say anything in support of his team. Here is a human being — a Jew — with no sense of history, who is willing to stand shoulder to shoulder and accept money from a man (and Bannon’s primary sponsor, the Mercers) who runs the country’s leading hate-filled publication spreading misogynist, racist, and anti-Semitic lies. And in doing so, showing tacit support for fringe groups that not only believe there are “two sides,” but stand firmly on the wrong side. How can Zeldin, this respected businessman and war veteran, throw his support behind such hateful ideas and the people spreading them? In short, Zeldin is a man devoid of character.

More and more, this thing we call character seems to be an outdated construct in our politics, relegated to old Jimmy Stewart movies and hagiographic writings from the right about their saint, Ronald Reagan. And when it does reveal itself — such as the occasion of John McCain’s recent speech on the Senate floor chastising fellow members of his party — it seems like nothing short of a miracle, worthy of front-page stories and hours of argument on the cable news networks about “true” intentions.

So as I reflect on everything I am thankful for this Thanksgiving, I am also going to make a wish. That we voters not merely pull the lever in 2018 for leaders that support our side, but that we also seek out those who dare to demonstrate strength of character, who are willing to risk their political reputation to be on the side of the decent and (small “r”) right. Only then can we begin to heal our broken system. Happy Thanksgiving.


Anti-Semitic Stance

East Hampton

November 27, 2017

To the Editor:

Congressman Lee Zeldin is one of only two Republican Jews in Congress. As such he should be a strong voice for those suffering religious persecution and anti-Semitism in particular.

His latest move is an alliance with Steve Bannon, who will be headlining a high-end fund-raiser for Zeldin in New York City. Bannon is the executive chairman of Breitbart News, the “platform for the alt right,” which has a public anti-Semitic stance and is in lockstep with the neo-Nazi movement. 

Mr. Zeldin has cast a blind eye on the rise of anti-Semitic hate crimes since the campaign and election of Donald Trump.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation just released 2016 hate-crime statistics. There were 6,063 single-bias incidents involving 7,509 victims: 58.9 percent of victims were targeted because of their race; 21.1 percent were targeted because of their religion.

The Southern Poverty Law Center comments that the number of hate crimes reached a five-year high in 2016, taking a noticeable uptick toward the end of the year around Donald Trump’s surprise victory. Surprisingly, the majority by far, of these hate crime incidents were anti-Jewish, not anti-Muslim or anti any other religion! This flies in the face of an earlier statement by Lee Zeldin that denies a correlation between anti-Semitic incidents and Trump’s election as reported on newsmax.com by Todd Beamon, on March 1.

Zeldin hasn’t responded to a United States vote against condemning Nazism at the United Nations. The resolution called on all U.N. member nations to ban pro-Nazi speech and organizations. The Russian-drafted resolution was approved Thursday by the General Assembly’s human rights committee on a vote of 125 to 2, with 51 abstentions. Only Ukraine joined the United States in voting “no.” Despite U.S. pressure to vote “no,” Israel supported the resolution as reported by The New York Times on Nov. 16. 

After Charlottesville, the president expressed admiration and sympathy for a group of white-supremacist demonstrators who marched through the streets, flaunting swastikas and openly chanting, “Jews will not replace us!” Among those demonstrators, according to Trump, were a lot of innocent and “very fine people.” Mr. Zeldin posted his support of Trump on Facebook, saying the president was right for blaming the violence on both sides.

When Jews neglect to consistently call out anti-Semitism, I am reminded of those Jews who stood by Hitler and lived (or died) to regret it.


Morally Bankrupt

East Hampton

November 23, 2017

Dear David,

On Dec. 14, Steve Bannon will be headlining a high-end fund-raiser in New York City to benefit Congressman Lee Zeldin. Mr. Zeldin’s willingness to align himself with Bannon, the editor of Breitbart magazine, which Bannon proclaims is the “platform for the alt right,” betrays the constituents of our First Congressional District and is morally bankrupt. 

Our district is a diverse, multinational, and tolerant one. Among our other attributes, our district includes Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory, each a draw for international students and researchers. This pluralistic society is rejected by Mr. Bannon’s alt-right and the alt-right should be rejected in turn. Mr. Zeldin campaigned as an “independent voice in Washington,” but has been anything but and seemingly has no problem selling his principles to the highest bidder, even if those bidders are in lockstep with neo-Nazis and others who feed on intolerance. 

Mr. Zeldin often speaks of his Jewish heritage, but seems to have forgotten (or never understood) the Jewish principle of “tikkun olam,” repairing the world. His embrace of Mr. Bannon, a man who delights in creating chaos and fomenting hate, is contrary to the Jewish values he claims to embrace. Additionally, Mr. Zeldin’s support of building a wall and banning Muslims runs counter to this passage from Leviticus: “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens. You shall love each one as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

For the sake of expedience and fund-raising, Mr. Zeldin forgets or chooses to ignore the long history of discrimination against the Jewish people. He aligns himself with Mr. Bannon, whose publications and supporters espouse hate, prejudice, and divisive views, and is happy to take money from that crowd. Neither Mr. Bannon nor his cohort Mr. Zeldin represent me or the values that I hold dear, and while Bannon holds no elected office, Zeldin does — until we voters at the next election finally say “enough,” assert ourselves, and reject the politics of fear and division. 


Another Costly Vote


November 20, 2017

To the Editor:

Is our congressman, Lee Zeldin, really fighting for his district? Are you one of the thousands of homeowners in Mr. Zeldin’s district who are subject to the federal flood insurance program? If you are, you should know that Mr. Zeldin just cast another costly vote that will harm Long Islanders. He voted with a Republican majority to overhaul the federal flood-insurance program. 

There was bipartisan consensus for reform of the program and bipartisan consensus that the federal government must provide affordable insurance for areas most threatened by severe weather.  However, there was no such support for reform that would penalize flood victims, which is exactly what the bill Mr. Zeldin supported threatens to do.

Under the bill, flood insurance premiums will increase dramatically. Increased cost does not mean increased, or better, coverage. In fact, the quality of coverage available to policyholders will be suspect. For example, the bill Mr. Zeldin supported would allow “surplus line carriers” to offer flood insurance. However, these insurers are not regulated by the states in any meaningful way. This means that, in the event of a major loss event, these insurers would be free to walk away from, deny, or delay payment of any legitimate flood claim. 

The lack of meaningful state regulation leaves consumers with no protection in these situations. Nor would states have any power to ensure that these insurers are not charging excessive rates, offering inadequate coverage. These practices could expose homeowners to ruinous liability or additional costs needed to procure more appropriate coverage. This bill so adversely impacts affected homeowners that Peter King, Frank LoBiondo (South Jersey), and Rodney Frelinghuysen crossed party lines to oppose it.

When Mr. Zeldin voted against the tax bill, he bragged that he was fighting for us, and that we were his only concern. His craven vote on a flood insurance bill that throws thousands of us, North and South Fork residents alike, under the bus shows his true lack of concern for anything but toeing the G.O.P. party line.