Good afternoon and welcome to The Point. Today we’re reflecting on the State of the Union, flu season and continuing to follow #ReleaseTheMemo.
Between the State of the Union lines
Throughout most of his first State of the Union address, President Donald Trump stuck to the official remarks released by the White House ahead of the speech. But the reality TV star who knows how to act on camera took some noticeable diversions — often, in service of applause lines.
At times, he seemed to react to the crowd’s response, as when he said, “I think they like you, Steve,” to Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise after the chamber joined his recognition of Scalise’s recovery from a gun attack in June.
Trump also made much use of his citizen guests. Leading up to or just after applause pauses, Trump padded the original remarks to add “great job” and jokes about the good quality of their work. When describing new hiring by Staub Manufacturing, he added, “Good feeling,” to claps.
One of the longest apparently ad-libbed sections occurred when Trump praised the work of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection via ICE Supervisory Special Agent Celestino Martinez. Trump included the bizarre suggestion that Martinez “goes by ‘D.J.’ and ‘C.J.’ ”
Language not in the prepared remarks included a riff on the “thousands and thousands and thousands of MS-13 horrible people” deported or imprisoned, plus a line he said Martinez told him: “We’re just tougher than they are.”
And he punched up a simple line about sending ICE “reinforcements,” one of the most politically contentious policy proposals in the address, leading into a discussion of immigration: “And all of the people in this great chamber have to do it; we have no choice.”
There was long (Republican) applause.
Is DeFran totally fried?
Why would a fairly powerful politician like John DeFrancisco, a 71-year-old Republican from DeWitt, give up his spot as deputy majority leader of the New York State Senate to tackle what looks like a fairly hopeless run against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo?
DeFrancisco officially announced his run Wednesday, and immediately became the Republican front-runner over Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb and a few others talking up a try.
Here are some explanations for his candidacy, according to political observers:
He’s never actually accepted being deputy leader, the spot he got after he lost a ferocious battle to John Flanagan by three votes.
DeFrancisco won’t enjoy being in the minority party in the Senate, a distinct possibility after the 2018 elections.
And a run as the Republican nominee for governor is a decent prestige and influence builder, and not a bad cap to a long stretch in state politics.
DeFrancisco’s seat in the 50th District was certainly safe for him, but for another Republican candidate, it might be a tougher win. Cayuga County’s three Senate districts are represented by Republicans, but it is a “pivot” county because it went for President Donald Trump by 11 percentage points in 2016, but for President Barack Obama by the same margin in 2012.
DeFrancisco and any other Senate Republicans who don’t seek re-election could be accused of reacting to the potential of a November debacle. The question is: To what extent would they individually contribute to the end of the GOP’s hold on the Senate, the last part of state government under Republican control?
’Tis the season
As first-term State Sen. Elaine Phillips pursues her legislative agenda, she has recently added an accomplishment that might make opponents stand back. Phillips completed a week-long test to earn her fifth-degree black belt in the Korean martial art of So Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan. It signifies mastery in both physical and spiritual dimensions.
The Republican former mayor of Flower Hill told The Point that the key teachings of her 21-year martial arts pursuit are humility, honesty and courage — including how to step away after a fight. These lessons help in her political career, she said, but “I spent many years on Wall Street, and it helped just as much there.”
Now 58, she became interested in martial arts in her late 30s. She had participated in modern dance in college but, given her age, didn’t think she could achieve a level of excellence again in dance. “I needed exercise, and I’ve always worked in reasonably high-stress environments,” she recalled. She visited Kwon’s Wellness center in Manhasset and found a new passion. She has also taught there.
Phillips traveled to Texas in November for the test, which isn’t entirely about strength or how high one can kick, she said. Judges watch for team-building, inclusiveness, leadership and the ability to listen. Phillips said she hasn’t received the actual belt yet, but she believes she passed. “I’ve heard positively back,” Phillips said.