WHHS Class of 1964 will be holding its 55th year class reunion on Saturday, Oct. 5 at App’s Restaurant, Captain Thomas Boulvard. More info to follow.
The West Haven Italian-American Civic Association Senior Center is seeking new members to join its Tuesday senior gathering. Join a group of friendly seniors in an afternoon of good company, with Bingo, cards, trips to casinos and conversations with like-minded people and more. We meet at the club, 85 Chase Lane, each Tuesday from noon to 3. The cost is just $3 per week to cover expenses. We offer refreshments at no additional cost. Call Sherri Torre, (203) 932-2893 for further information.
1st Church VBS
Join the First Congregational Church of West Haven for a week of fun and learningwith its annual Vacation Bible School (VBS).This year features a journey to Athens on August 5-9. Kids will learn all about the Apostle Paul and God’s immeasurable love. Visit our website for more information and registration: http://fccwesthaven.org/vbs/.
Summer Camp is planned on the grounds of Saint John Vianney Church for kids entering kindergarten through grade 4. Campers will rotate through centers of music, games, crafts, and stories. The camp runs from July 8 – 12, 9-12:30. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to obtain a registration form. There is no charge.
West Haven High School Class of 1954 will be holding its class reunion on June 29, at App’s Restaurant, West Haven at 1 p.m. The $35 luncheon cost includes tax, tip, entrée with cash bar. Please call (203) 795-6619 to reserve.
West Haven High School Class of 1969 will hold its 50th reunion on Friday, Sept. 27, at Seasons located at 990 Foxon Road, East Haven, from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. There will be music provided by a DJ, a plentiful cocktail and hors d’oeuvre hour, buffet dinner along with open bar. The cost is $75 per person Checks should be made payable to Charlene Morgal and mailed to 18 Shumway St., West Haven, 06516, before Aug.ust 15 More information can be found on our Facebook page: WHHS Class of 1969- 50th reunion, or by emailing chazbo40@ aol. com /203 494 7379 or email@example.com /203 494 7730.
Senior Center trips
Join the West Haven Senior Center for the following trip:
Wednesday, July 31– The Westchester Broadway Theatre “On Your Feet” enjoy lunch at the theatre before the show Cost $90 Bus leaves Savin Rock Conference Center 9 a.m. Departs Westchester approximately at 3:45 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 17 — Aqua Turf — Rob Zappulla Celebrates the Music of Frank Sinatra $67 per person Rob has performed to sold out audiences of all ages across the country and headlined performances at the Lincoln Center in NYC and Foxwoods Casino to name a few. Menu includes coffee and donuts upon arrival, door prizes, complimentary glass of wine or beer. Family style luncheon: salad, penne bolognese, chicken florentine, baked scrod, vegetable, potato and dessert. Bus leaves Savin Rock Conference Center 10 a.m. Payment is due by Friday, Aug. 30.
A flyer with further details is available at the office at the West Haven Senior Center 201 Noble St. or you can call the Senior Center (203) 937-3507.
An Al-Anon meeting group invites new members to attend its weekly meetings on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. in the First Lutheran Church, 52 George St. For information and details, call (203) 506-1464.
The Seth Haley Memorial Loan Fund of West Haven provides eligible college students with loans of up to $2500 to help students finish their post high school education.
Applicants must be West Haven residents who have completed two or more years of college or post-secondary work or be in their final two years of advanced work. Any West Haven resident attending college or a post high school professional, technical or trade school can be eligible for a loan. Repayments do not begin, and no interest will be charged until one year after graduation. If you are interested in making an application for a loan, please Gert Beckwith at (203) 934-6921, or Ralph Lawson, (203) 934-6442
Mayor Nancy R. Rossi this week applauded the operating budget recently adopted by the Board of Education.
The school board’s 2019-20 budget will see an increase of nearly $1.6 million as a result of additional funding provided by the state. Those dollars will provide all students in grades three through eight with a laptop computer.
The state money will also allow for the computer labs in all West Haven public schools to be upgraded. In total, the school board will be buying more than 5,000 devices.
With the West Haven High School renovation project well underway, and with state-of-the-art technology included, every child who enters the school district will be better prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
“I’m extremely pleased that the Board of Education saw fit to invest the majority of its increase into the area of technology,” Rossi said. “It’s critical that any funds dedicated to our school system have a direct impact on student performance. These computer devices will allow our teachers to develop lessons that will excite and engage our students.”
The mayor added, “It’s truly an exciting time for our city and its most important resources, our children.”
Rossi, who made improving West Haven’s finances along with education the pillars of her 2017 campaign, has worked with state leaders, the Board of Education and the state Municipal Accountability Review Board to seek more funding for the school district without having to put any additional burden on city taxpayers.
“I know it hasn’t been easy for those who’ve given so much to our city and in particular its youth, but we are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel,” Rossi said. “Our financial situation is improving daily, and as a result of the difficult decisions my administration has been forced to make, examples like this will also lead to a better quality of life. There is no better investment I can think of than our children.”
The new computer devices are slated to be in classrooms by the beginning of the new school year, which starts Aug. 27. Work has already begun on the computer lab upgrades.
Last month more than 300 family members attended a Multicultural Family Night in May presented by the West Haven Community House Children and Youth Services Program. Guests enjoyed an evening of entertainment, dining and art representing a variety of cultures from around the globe. The Children and Youth Services program offers before and after school in seven West Haven schools.
Each program represented a country with researched information, art displays, performances and delicious food. Countries showcased were Italy, Egypt, Morocco, Ghana, Australia, Ireland, Africa, Jamaica and Mexico. Giant colorful display boards featuring students’ work using a variety of media, techniques and dimensions was the vibrant backdrop for performances.
“We had students perform dances from Mexico, songs from Italy and poems from Ireland. A parent demonstrated an Australian Bull horn and didgeridoo followed by students who were ‘costumed’ as indigenous species of Australia and the Great Barrier Reef. Children from the Philippine American Association performed a traditional folk dance. Africa was represented by the kindergartners who performed and danced to the book ‘Cha-Cha Chimps,’ by Julia Durango. The book is a great example of how literature can be used to teach math while dancing to a variety of rhythms. An interactive African drumming demonstration was the introduction to our Kindergarten performance. The 5th and 6th grade students showed a film that they produced and directed based on the book ‘I am the World’, by Charles R. Smith, Jr. Bloopers was featured at the end of the movie and elicited much laughter from the audience. Another site made a video of each student sharing their family customs,” said Carol James, Children and Youth Services director.
James said the event mirrored the cultures the agency is servicing in the program and had a unifying aspect to it.
“We live in a richly diverse community and the event brought our students and families together to share our many similarities and to also celebrate our differences. Thank you to our students, families, staff and friends who worked so hard to ensure the success of our Multicultural Celebration.” James concluded.
The CYS Program provides high-quality, affordable before and after school programs for West Haven families giving parents peace of mind knowing that their child has a safe, constructive place to be before and after school. It provides academic enrichment learning activities focused on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) and literacy adapted to meet various developmental levels and interests.
Activities include homework help, computer use, arts & crafts; science; cultural explorations; choice with age-appropriate games and equipment; gym and outdoor play; language, drama, music, service learning, and leadership development.
All West Haven public elementary and intermediate students are eligible to attend the program, which includes bus transportation provided between sites. Visit whcommunityhouse.org or call (203) 934-5221 x123.
Leaving to pursue degree
For close to three decades, it has always been hockey first for long-time West Haven coach Joe Morrell. That is about to change.
With an opportunity to go back to school and pursue added career opportunities, Morrell, 55, informed his team he has decided to step down from coaching the Westies effective immediately.
“I have the opportunity to go back to school,” Morrell said. “For a lot of my coaching career, it has been West Haven hockey first. I have always preached to the kids, family, school, hockey. It has not always been that way for me or my family. I have been doing this for 28 years, 21 as a head coach. I have spent a lot of time away from home. My wife (Jackie) has always been 100 percent behind me. I could not have asked for a better partner in life. My kids (Jocey and Jolie), all they know is their father coaches West Haven hockey. I am known as the coach of West Haven hockey and I love that. West Haven hockey has been a big part of my life.”
A physical education teacher at West Haven High and also the head coach of the school’s softball team, Morrell is looking to the future as he pursues his sixth year degree in administration and leadership. With an opportunity to broaden his career, Morrell is taking the step forward.
“It is just something that I feel I have to do,” Morrell said. “I want to be able to give all my effort to going back to school. I have to be fully committed. That’s the way I am.”
Said Superintendent of Schools Neil C. Cavallaro, “Joe is old school West Haven hockey. One of the things about Joe is how he takes the game of hockey, and the tradition and history of West Haven hockey. That is a big part of his coaching philosophy. The kids understand what it means to wear the West Haven High School jersey. Joe is really passionate about West Haven hockey and he gets that message to the kids.
“I think above all else, Joe is a teacher. He is a consummate professional, whether it is coaching or teaching physical education, or scheduling. He gets involved at the Bennett Rink, and he is involved with West Haven Youth Hockey. Joe is all about promoting the kids. He gives his time and effort to the community.”
In his 21 years at the helm of the Westies, Morrell qualified for the state tournament in 20 of those campaigns, only missing the postseason during the 2005-2006 season. Morrell compiled a regular season record of 223-170-23 and overall mark of 234-190-23.
Said West Haven athletic director Jon Capone, “Words can’t describe what West Haven hockey meant to Joe. It’s been a huge part of his life both as a player and a coach. He has so much respect for this program and he instilled that in all his players. I can’t thank him enough for all his hard work and dedication to the West Haven High School hockey program.”
While Morrell looks ahead, there are plenty of fond memories to look back on, including his 234 career wins in his storied career at West Haven. The long-time coach came to the Westies after one year as an assistant at Guilford and six years of being an assistant coach across town at Notre Dame.
“I just want to thank all who supported me, including Neil Cavallaro, Jon Capone, and (the late) Pam Gardner, who was a huge supporter of me,” Morrell said. “I know she would be happy with my decision. The West Haven High School Penalty Box Club played a huge role in the program, and I would like to thank all the past and present members for doing what they do every year.”
Known for getting the best out of all his teams, Morrell was admired for having his teams ready to go, especially against teams which drew from more than one town.
With the hockey numbers down, Morrell and his staff, which also included long-time assistants Steve McCarty, Gene Pacapelli, John Ascenzia, Jim Lafo, and Eric Dillner, always seemed to get the best out of the team. Morrell could also turn to alumni such as Jim Perno to make sure his team was prepared in every aspect as well.
The Westies never won that elusive state title under Morrell, but reached the semifinals four times under his guidance, the latest time coming during the 2016-2017 season when the Westies were eliminated at Ingalls Rink in the semifinals by Ridgefield. That year saw the Westies upset third-seeded Xavier in the tournament.
“I am happy with the amount pf times we made the tournament, but that one thing, a state championship, eluded us,” Morrell said. “It still bothers me. A lot of coaches were rooting for us because they knew how much that meant to me. That was the one thing I wish I could have gotten for this program.”
Xavier would prove to be a thorn in the side of the Westies as the two teams squared off in the postseason in six of the last seven years, with the Falcons coming out on top in five of those contests, including the last two seasons.
That 2016-2017 team embodied everything Morrell and his staff preached with solid goaltending and defense, and scoring from numerous players. The bottom line always came back to hard work.
“I always told the kids it would come down to hard work,” Morrell said. “We may not have been as talented as some teams, but we were going to outwork them. I think for the most part, we did that. I think the team really understood what it took to play at West Haven. Our teams outworked other teams to be successful.”
Morrell and his teams suffered heartbreak twice in a span of three years going back to the 2001-2002 and 2003-2004 seasons as the Westies fell in overtime of the semifinals of the state tournament in both seasons.
Despite an epic comeback in the final minutes or regulation as the second seed, West Haven lost to New Canaan in 2001-2002, before falling in a gut-wrenching 4-3 double overtime contest to second-seeded Fairfield Prep in 2003-2004. The Jesuits would go on to defeat Notre Dame-West Haven for the state title.
“I enjoyed winning,” Morrell said. “You obviously want to win as much as you can and you don’t want the kids to be afraid of losing. In the quarterfinal and semifinal games, everything was this close. It was the bounce of a puck. Against Ridgefield a few years back, we were tied going into the third period. We just had to get that bounce and we didn’t get it. In the postseason, it is true when they say it is a game of inches.”
Over the last 10 seasons, Morrell’s teams had three golden opportunities to take home the program’s first state title since 1994.
The biggest opportunity never panned out during the 2009-2010 campaign as the Westies entered the postseason as the top seed with a 17-3 record, but were upset in the first round by Darien. Two years later, West Haven fell to Notre Dame-West Haven in the semifinals, before suffering the same fate against Ridgefield during the 2016-2017 season.
Morrell will always be known for his softer side when dealing with players and tough situations. He will also be known for how serious he took practices.
“My wife would always get mad at me because I always said no one does it like Joe Morrell and I had the same philosophy,” Pacapelli said. “His way was the right way and no one else came close as far as I was concerned. He put so much into everything he did, whether it was practice with a 5-year-old or a high school game. He gave it his all no matter what. It was just his positivity in any situation. He was upbeat about everything. He could look at anything and look at the bright side of that situation. He just had a great attitude.”
“Practice is what I loved,” Morrell said. “Practice was like gold to me. One of the best things to me was seeing all the alumni who came back to help. I knew how much this program meant to them. I will miss that a great deal. I love being the coach of West Haven.”
The search to replace the long-time coach will begin immediately. Cavallaro feels the job is an attractive one with the history of the program and a new school set to be in place.
“I believe with all my heart, this is a very attractive job,” Cavallaro said. “We will start today to begin that process.”
By Bill Riccio, Jr.
As one gets older it is difficult to see people move on with their lives, particularly when they have been part of something for a very long time. That’s true of one’s self as well. When I was elected Commissioner of the New Haven Football Officials Association and had to retire from the field, I still consider myself an official, and one that can still work. It’s hard to see that part of your life ending and another phase beginning.
Those were the feelings running through this writer when he heard to Joe Morrell, the longtime coach of West Haven High School’s Blue Devils hockey team was leaving to pursue other things – in this case, a sixth-year degree to advance his career. While Morrell may have been at the helm of WHHS for more than two decades, his relationship to the program goes far beyond that to just less than 40 years.
It must be remembered that Joe Morrell was part of the heyday of Blue Devils hockey. While his teams didn’t win state championship while he was there – and while he captained his senior year – from the 1970s to the 1990s, the program had what can be called its second Golden Age. State championships were won, and those that weren’t won were fought for to the last whistle. It was a great era of high school hockey.
Morrell was a bridge to that era. He played under the legendary Art Crouse, and, if memory serves, assisted under Art DeLucia when he took the helm. We remember Morrell as a player, and remember his senior year as captain. Art Crouse and I were good friends. We talked a lot, and had coffee together a lot. In those days I spent a lot of time at the Edward L. Bennett Rink.
That’s the bridge that Morrell is. He is of the era of Bud Conlan as Rink Director, Jackie Coyle as the ubiquitous man on the Zamboni. He was captain. And Crouse treated his captains as men, mentors and conduits. They talked about the team, and Crouse, many times, relayed concerns and suggestions. That’s what coaches do with captains – or at least did.
And Morrell was a captain because he was a leader in all senses of that term, but especially in the most important one: he expected nothing from his teammates that he didn’t expect from himself. He was a leader by example.
While we don’t have the connection with WHHS hockey the way we once did, we still kept tabs on the Devils and on the coach. In many ways, Morrell was similar to Crouse in his methods of teaching and his relationship with his players.
Morrell is also the coach of the softball team, a post he’s had for a few years. But we know one very important thing: if he thought he could have continued as West Haven’s coach he would have. We are sure there were some sleepless nights attached to this decision. Hockey – and West Haven hockey – is part of the fabric of his being.
He will be missed by players, fans and outside observers, like this writer. But I will also miss him because he bridges an era upon which I look very fondly, and where I can still see him cruising up and down the Bennett surface as a member of a storied program.
Best of luck, Coach Morrell.
Speaking of retirements, the late Tom Hunt used to say, “Teachers never retire, they become consultants.” We were brought back to that remark with the recent “retirement” of West Haven Athletic Director and Hunt’s successor, Jon Capone. Capone is technically retiring, but staying on another two or three years.
The go-to guy for many projects by Superintendent of Schools Neil Cavallaro, Capone was the coordinator of the move that coalesced sixth grades into Carrigan around a decade ago, and is now being tapped to do the moving with the opening of the first wing of the new high school
Classes are going to be moved into the new building section along with the main office. Other sections of the old building, meanwhile, are being prepped for demolition and so classes will be moving around.
When he’s not deciding where the science books are going to be moved, he still has his given job of Director of Athletics and Physical Education and Health. To say “retirement” won’t be lazy days on the golf course doesn’t’ even touch what he’s going to be doing.
That leads this writer to another reminder, that of Poo-bah in the Mikado. He had every job in the fair town of Titipoo and the salaries to go with them. Capone has the titles, not necessarily the greenbacks…though he’s not doing badly.
Thanks to Peter J. Malia for contributing to this week’s column:
The most vivid account of the landing of the British in 1779 was given by Thomas Painter of the West Haven Congregational Church. He was a member of the artillery, and under command of Lt. Azel Kimberly, also of the Congregational Church. Painter relates that the night the enemy came he was on guard duty near the shore, close to Platt Avenue. Not long after midnight, a large fleet of enemy ships appeared in the harbor.
(From the account of Thomas Painter) “Myself and others of the guard started walking along the shore eastward to the location of the ships on what was known as Old Field Shore. After staying there on this star-lit night we discovered the fleet anchored off Old Field.” We note that this spot is some distance west of the present site of Chick’s restaurant. Fearing for his family, young Painter went back to his uncle Steven’s to inform them of the danger. However, they were not willing to believe there was much danger since there had often been ships seen anchoring along the shore and causing unnecessary false alarms. Painter then hurried back to Old Field Shore to continue to observe the enemy. Suddenly a gun was fired from the British Commodore’s ship, and troops began to unload!”
As Tom Painter and two militia friends from West Haven watched from Old Field shore, the British troops began to disembark from their ships into smaller boats, and began to row toward shore. The time was 6 o’clock on the morning of July 5, 1779.
The small boats headed directly for the shore at about the middle of Old Field (near Washington Avenue). In Painter’s words, “It was near high tide so the boats could come up to the beach. As soon as they came within point blank shot we fired into them and continued the fire, until they began to land within a few yards of us, when I thought it was time either to retreat, or to resign, and beg for quarters, rather than to run the risk of crossing over the open field under the shower of shot, which I knew must soon follow me. But, I well knew, that after we had been so foolish as to come and fire a few shots, at an army of men, all huddled in their boats and without any possibility of the enemy answering our fire, that our chances of surviving this encounter were slim.”
Painter continues, “There was therefore no other alternative but to run, and run we did. I instantly started across the field at the height of my speed, with the bullets after me, like a shower of hail which seemed to prostrate all the grass around me. But fortunately I escaped, unhurt, and retreated to another good stand, on the rock pasture and awaited the approach of the flank guard. Then I would fire a few shots, and retreat to another ambush, and fire a few more shots and again retreat and so I continued to do until I had got nearly up to the Milford Turnpike Road, where there was an adjutant of the enemy was killed and left behind.”
The Redcoats attempted to cross the West River on West Bridge, at the site where the Post Road currently enters New Haven.
However, three Yale students under the direction of Captain Phineas Bradley manned a field piece and with accurate cannon fire, kept the British from entering the city by that route, while the bridge was disassembled by its defenders.
Today, a statue in their honor may be found at the intersection of Congress Avenue, Davenport Avenue and Columbus Avenue with Ella Grasso Boulevard.
New Haven was taken that day by the Redcoats, but the Patriot Militia and Continental Army, though badly outnumbered, gave them a fight to remember. Adjutant Campbell is buried at the spot where he fell on Allingtown Heights–then known as Milford Hill—on Prudden Street, across the Post Road from the University of New Haven.
His grave is marked with a bronze plaque upon which is inscribed, “Blessed are the Merciful.” And so it came to pass that West Haven became the only city in the United States with its main street named to honor an enemy soldier!
The capture of the Rev. Noah Williston with the church records, and the subsequent sacking of the parsonage by the Redcoats, robbed this church and the community of its earliest records. There is an enormous amount of information on early West Haven in First Church’s archives, but prior to 1779, everything is gone.
Those West Side farmers who took part that day in the defense of present day West Haven are buried in the cemetery alongside First Church. They represent but one chapter out of many in the stories that intertwine the histories of West Haven and the church on the Green.
The Savin Rock Festival will return to the West Haven shoreline in 2020 after the city clears the cumulative deficit in the Savin Rock Festival Fund, Mayor Nancy R. Rossi announced.
After running consecutive deficits, the festival was canceled in 2018 as the city began addressing its overall financial situation.
The festival fund ran deficits over several years, Rossi said, and is in the red for $53,845. The cumulative deficit of $53,845 excluded police expenses and included public works expenses only for two years.
City records show the 2017 festival alone ran a deficit of $32,606. That festival had revenues of $39,292 and expenses of $71,898, with the largest expenditure being entertainment — to the tune of more than $30,000.
“The city of West Haven will pay off the $53,845 deficit in the Savin Rock Festival Fund, only after securing permission from the state Municipal Accountability Review Board, using a small amount of the projected operating budget surplus this fiscal year,” Rossi said. “We are in a much better place than we were 18 months ago. I have had to make some tough decisions — canceling the Savin Rock Festival was one of them — but we had to fix the city first.
“Once we pay off the old deficit in the festival fund, I will appoint a committee and ask for volunteers to be responsible for organizing and running the festival in 2020 within an established budget. The festival will request sponsors and charge a reasonable fee for food, ride and entertainment vendors to cover the cost of the event.”
West Haven’s flagship festival was established by the Chamber of Commerce — initially under the direction of Brian M. Stone, David Gesler and Michael Shiner and thereafter by John L. Perrone and his wife, Mary Perrone — to bring organizations, clubs, businesses and families together for a summer festival that celebrates life in one of America’s oldest coastal communities.
From the dawn of the Savin Rock House hotel in 1838, “the Rock” had long been a resort hub until it was officially incorporated as an amusement park by the Savin Rock Park Co. on Memorial Day 1925, when it opened to 300,000 visitors and 66,000 automobiles in one spectacular day.
For the next four decades, the popular seaside park captured the hearts and imaginations of “Rock rats” of all ages with its distinctive sights, sounds and smells. “The playground of New England” shuttered Sept. 21, 1966, to pave the way for the Savin Rock Urban Renewal Project.
“The Savin Rock Festival is a great event and highlights the city’s rich history,” Rossi said. “I look forward to bringing the festival and all the memories and nostalgia back to Old Grove Park next year.”
Dear Eleanore Turnkington
I have a comment about what SB.Wenham Street wrote about the trucks on Meloy Road. For several years I meant to write you, so here it is. Living on Canon Street I have to tolerate landscaper vehicles, city buses, extra school buses and all of the traffic that use this street for a short cut to Route 34 etc., vehicles playing very loud music and noisy exhaust. These are my favorite gripes:
Several years ago, when the buses would leave from the stop sign by my house, they would leave a cloud of smoke which at times would enter my house. The old buses have been replaced and no more air pollution.
My neighbors at the time, had a meeting with a Department of Transportation (DOT) representative to try to get the buses back on Orange Avenue where they came from. They are still here and more than ever.
Around that time, I spoke to Lou Esposito, (Mayor Nancy Rossi’s Office)about the trucks and his reply was we can’t stop trucks from using this street and walked away.
I brought this up at a council meeting and my councilman was going to look into it. I think he got sick and that is why nothing was addressed.
I have since spoken to my councilwoman Robin Watt Hamilton and our Mayor Nancy Rossi. The mayor said we don’t have enough police to take care of this problem. So, it continues to grow. Would you vote for them? You are doing a great job and I appreciate it.
Carl K, Canton Street
Dear Carl K Canton Street:
I have forwarded information from your letter to your Council Woman, Robin Watt Hamilton and have asked her to seek a solution to your problem. It is very important that you notify me of any or no changes occurring on your street. Meanwhile, any communications I have with Council Woman Hamilton will be shared with my readers.
Dear Eleanore Turkington:
As much as I appreciate the enthusiasm that summer brings and that people are energized to start exercising on the boardwalk near West Walk, I just want to ask that they are walking and talking loudly in a residential area where the residents of West Walk like to keep their windows open and the sound carries near the water. So could people be respectful and speak quietly during their morning walks.
CC West Walk
You can send your gripes, comments and issues to Gripevine4wh@aol.com or mail them to Gripe Vine c/o West Haven Voice, 666 Savin Ave. Please include your name, address and phone number, kept in strict confidence with me. You can also submit through our online form.
By Rich Lowry
The worry was that the Trump administration was ginning up fake intelligence about Iran blowing up oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz to justify a war against Iran. Then the next week President Donald Trump said the Iranian attacks weren’t a big deal.
The episode is another indication of the underlying modesty — not a very Trumpian word — of the administration.Subtract Trump’s taste for nonstop controversy and rhetorical brinkmanship, and you’re left with an incrementalist center-right government that has pursued an expansionary fiscal policy and avoided foreign war, for a period of peace and prosperity that — in any other universe — would be at the core of a stay-the-course re-election message.
For a while, the Obama doctrine was, “Don’t do stupid stuff.” The Trump team has built out the doctrine to “Privately consider and sometimes openly threaten stupid stuff, but at the end of the day, don’t do it (usually).”
The Mexico tariff threat was typical. If Trump had gone through with the steadily escalating tariffs, it would have been a blow to our own economy and that of an ally. Instead, he got what might prove to be meaningful concessions from Mexico.
The thing about a Trump threat is that he always controls whether he’s going to go through with it or not. He’s going to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, actually no, he’s not. He’s going to impose auto tariffs on Canada, well, not really. What he’s going to do is sign a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada that’s a somewhat altered version of NAFTA and urge Congress to pass it.
Allies might be understandably appalled (or at times alarmed) by his habit of berating them and squeezing them for concessions, but the alliance system, a product of deeper forces than the persona of any one president, remains intact.
In the Middle East, Trump accelerated an anti-ISIS campaign that he inherited, announced a withdrawal from Syria that he didn’t fully follow through on and kept troops in Afghanistan. Steady as she goes.
Pulling out of the Iran nuclear accord is a big deal and, given that it’s not entirely clear how the administration imagines resolving the crisis, genuinely a shot in the dark (although Trump says he wants to talk).
Another gamble is the trade war with China, a truly significant departure from the old bipartisan consensus, yet even here, Trump presumably has the off-ramp of a fig-leaf deal should he decide that he wants to take it.
At home, in terms of the economy, everything (except for the tariffs) has been geared to preserving and boosting the recovery, from the tax cuts, to the deregulation, to the lack of interest in cutting spending, to Trump’s jawboning of the Federal Reserve to keep rates low.
Given the choice, you’d prefer that people believed that your administration was cautious and incremental, while it undertook far-reaching changes, rather than believe it’s on the verge of careening out of control, while pursuing a fairly reasonable path.
For now, he can plausibly make a re-election pitch that, despite what you might have gathered, he’s been a steward of a country enjoying markedly good times.
Rich Lowry is editor of the National Review.(c) 2019 by King Features Synd., Inc.