Retired FBI agent and terrorism consultant James Fitzimmons speaking March 7 at a packed meeting of the Westside Republican Club. Photo: Madeleine Thompson
Republicans swarm to west side club
Trump supporters pack the room for blunt talks on immigration, terorrism and political correctness
By Madeleine Thompson
Even after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, it is a bold statement to support him openly in areas of mostly-liberal Manhattan. But last Tuesday night, in a packed room at the YMCA on West 63rd Street, hats and T-shirts reading “Make America Great Again” were both plentiful and welcome. The Gertrude and Morrison Parker Westside Republican Club was hosting its monthly meeting, with two guests who railed against the previous administration’s approach to immigration and terrorism, and lamented the focus on political correctness.
“What I want you to understand is that the American people for years have been lied to about immigration,” said Michael Cutler, a former officer with Immigration and Naturalization Services. “I’m registered as a Democrat [but] I can’t tell you the last time I voted for a Democrat. I consider myself a liberal — [the establishment Democratic party are] fascists,” he continued, to enthusiastic applause. For most of his talk, Cutler criticized the laws surrounding immigration that he credited with allowing terrorist attacks to be carried out here. He also blamed such policies, and the politicians who made them, for “the engineered destruction of the middle class” by allowing immigrants to work blue-collar jobs.
It was standing room only at the meeting, which consisted of a mostly older, mostly white crowd of 80 or 90 people. Marcia Drezon-Tepler, co-president, said club attendance has soared since the presidential election in November.
“It’s really encouraging,” she said, noting that the club was open to people of all political interests and backgrounds. “I think [Cutler’s] views on immigration really closely follow the parallels of what Trump is trying to do. We’re hopeful that [Trump] will carry out what he promised in the campaign.” According to Drezon-Tepler, that includes the repeal and replacement of Obamacare and the building of a wall, “whether that’s a virtual wall or a real wall.”
James Fitzsimmons, a terrorism consultant and former FBI agent, took a milder approach. He recounted stories of his time in Syria and Jordan, and cautioned against the U.S. military putting faith in foreign agents by telling the story of an asset who gained the trust of the CIA and then detonated a suicide bomb after being allowed into an army base in Afghanistan. “There’s always a possibility that we can be fooled,” he said.
Fitzsimmons went on to criticize the media for publishing “things that are untrue” about Trump that then skew perception of him in other countries. “We’re self-destructing by publishing this stuff all over the world,” he said.
When it was time for questions, audience members asked what they could do to help achieve stricter immigration policies. “Sanctuary cities are a good start,” Cutler said, arguing for more collaboration between police and immigrant communities. He suggested that people band together to get answers from politicians, and that they record videos of those meetings or town halls. “You need to confront the politicians in a public place, but bring people with you,” he said.
Though more like-minded neighbors have made themselves known since the election, Drezon-Tepler is concerned that numerous protests and actions in opposition to Trump’s policies will hinder his progress. “The Democrats who lost the election [are] making a lot of noise, showing up with a lot of participants in demonstrations, but that’s not how we operate in the United States,” she said. “We’re a democracy. The people’s voice is from an election, not from mobs that appear on the street.”
Citing the recent re-election of Congressman Jerry Nadler to the 10th Congressional District, Drezon-Tepler said getting more Republicans elected locally and at the state level was a priority. She is currently organizing for City Council hopeful Rebecca Harary, who is running for East Side Council Member Dan Garodnick’s seat. The club also hopes to have mayoral candidate Paul Massey speak at an upcoming meeting. Its next meeting, on April 4, will be a discussion of political analyst Doug Schoen’s book “The Nixon Effect: How Richard Nixon’s Presidency Fundamentally Changed American Politics” with chairman of the state Republican party Ed Cox.
Madeleine Thompson can be reached at email@example.com