Suffolk Closeup: Zeldin talks tough

 FILE PHOTO | Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley).
FILE PHOTO | Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley).

Although just a freshman congressman, Republican Lee Zeldin has become a national figure in speaking out against terrorism and the situation in the Mideast.

Mr. Zeldin, who served in Iraq as a lieutenant with a battalion of paratroopers and is a major in the Army Reserve, doesn’t mince words.

As he said last week after the massacre in San Bernadino, California: “ISIS must be destroyed overseas or we will be facing the threat more and more at home. America needs a strategy to win rather than trying to run in place at best. Throw away the obsession with prioritizing political correctness over the strongest and most effective possible pursuit of our national defense.

It’s time for America to toughen up, come to reality with the threat we are up against and eliminate it. The best way to achieve peace is to wipe ISIS off the face of the earth. It is not to live on our heels sacrificing time and security while ISIS grows in strength, numbers and resources.”

Mr. Zeldin of Shirley, who represents the lst Congressional District, which includes Shelter Island and the rest of the East End and Brookhaven Town, is a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. He is on two of its subcommittees, one with a focus on the Middle East, the other on terrorism. He has become prominent on national TV.

Following the ISIS attacks in Paris last month, Mr. Zeldin declared on the House floor: “This is not an isolated incident, or a final stand, far from it.”

He continued, with what turns out to be foresight: “It could be France today and the United States tomorrow. I should point out that there is but one mandatory function, constitutionally, of the federal government — that is to provide for our national defense. This is a constitutional duty and a moral imperative that trumps, any day of the week, the charity of opening our doors to a Syrian who will blow himself or herself up on our streets in the name of Allah.”

He went on: “I’d be happy to support a strategy to win, if I actually believed the president had one. First and foremost, ID the threat; you cannot defeat a threat that you cannot or will not identify. Next, execute a strategy to win, not just tread water. It’s not about getting them jobs, it’s about wiping them off the face of the earth. You annihilate the enemy, you don’t contain it, especially not this enemy. You eliminate the threat.”

And in May on the Fox News Channel, on which he has been a regular, Mr. Zeldin said President Obama’s strategy in the Mideast “might take out some of the bad guys, take out some of their command and control logistics, but it’s not going to eliminate ISIS. I mean, we’re relying on Iraqi military and law enforcement to finish the job on the ground. For the most part, a lot of them don’t even show up to work.”

He has been a leading critic of the Obama administration’s nuclear weapons deal with Iran. On the House floor in July, he stated: “What makes America great is what we stand for: freedom and liberty. Then there is Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, a nation overthrowing foreign governments, unjustly imprisoning United States citizens, including a United States Marine. Iran blows up mock U.S. warships, develops ICBMs, they pledge to wipe Israel off the map. And in their streets and in their halls they are chanting death to America. And none of what I just described is even part of the negotiations.”

Mr. Zeldin continued: “We must fight on behalf of our great nation, which generations before us have fought and sacrificed so much to protect.”

On Fox in April, Mr. Zeldin said: “When the president says that there will be no Iran nuclear weapon on my watch, those words ‘on my watch’ [are] what’s most concerning … There is life after President Obama. And the next president and the president after that is going to be inheriting a tougher situation to block an Iran nuclear program because of the decisions made by this president … The president is getting played. We should not trust the Iranians. They are not negotiating in good faith … But this president trusts the Iranians. Why is it that the Iranians are dancing in the streets while here at home we have so much concern?”

Meanwhile, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, who opted not to run for an easy re-election win to instead start running early as a Democrat against Mr. Zeldin, last week took him on for not backing a bill that would bar those on the federal government’s terrorist watch list from buying guns or explosives. She delivered petitions with 800 names to Mr. Zeldin’s district office calling on him to support the “simple, straightforward, common-sense” measure.

The measure is authored by Congressman Peter King (R-Seaford), whose district extends into southwest Suffolk. Ms. Throne-Holst described Mr. Zeldin as “the lone holdout amongst the Long Island congressional delegation” on Mr. King’s bill and said he “continues to rely on political spin to dodge the issue.”

Terrorism has become a key subject in the nation, world and lst Congressional District.