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Trump voters take inventory after his first month in office

| Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017, 11:40 p.m.
Kevin Zwick | Tribune-Review
Customers at the Tin Lizzy in Youngstown watch President Trump give a news conference Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Buck Pawlosky, center, speaks with patrons at his bar, The Tin Lizzy, in Youngstown, Pa., on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017.

It's not that they found the president's first month in office to be chaos-free, but some of the most steadfast support for President Trump can be found among regulars at The Tin Lizzy off the Lincoln Highway in Youngstown.

That could be surprising to anyone following the wall-to-wall news coverage of Trump and the outrage that his executive orders — controversial and otherwise — and actions have stirred since Jan. 20.

But those at the Westmoreland County bar along Youngstown's Main Street — and not far from the famed “Trump House” — said that kind of controversy is what to expect from a president hell-bent on changing how Washington operates.

One afternoon last week, Sandy Wolf poured drinks at the neighborhood restaurant and tavern. She said she was one of the more than 116,000 county residents who voted for Trump because she wants to see positive change.

So far, she said, she has.

“I feel like he's done more in the month he's been in office than most people,” Wolf said.

She said she supports Trump's immigration positions, including his call for a newly built section of a wall along the Mexican border — although she isn't happy at the prospect of U.S. taxpayers footing the bill. Trump campaigned on billing Mexico for the border wall, but the Mexican government has said it will not pay for it.

Trump also has run into problems implementing other parts of his immigration platform, namely his executive order temporarily barring travel into the United States for nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The order generated protests and confusion at airports across the country, and Trump fired the acting attorney general — an Obama administration holdover — after she refused to defend the travel order in court. He then publicly attacked judges who halted the order. On Thursday, he said he would replace it with an amended one.

In the past week:

• Trump fired his national security adviser, retired Gen. Michael Flynn. Trump said Flynn didn't tell Vice President Mike Pence facts about conversations Flynn had with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

• Trump watched as his Labor secretary pick, Andrew Puzder, withdrew his nomination. Puzder, a fast-food executive, admitted to employing a housekeeper not authorized to work in the United States, which cost him support from some Senate Republicans.

Past spousal abuse accusations from his late 1980s divorce also had re-emerged. Though his ex-wife had recanted those claims, a video surfaced that featured her in disguise discussing the accusations on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 1990.

• On Friday, a Gallup poll found Trump had a 40 percent approval rating. The first Gallup poll, issued days after he was sworn in, showed voters split evenly over how he was handling the job.

President Obama started his presidency with a 67 percent job approval rating that dropped only slightly after his first month in office. President Bush's 57 percent approval rating jumped after his first few weeks in office, according to Gallup.

Watching the wheel

The Tin Lizzy bills itself as “your quintessential Western Pennsylvania neighborhood bar.”

The first-floor tavern opens at 7 a.m. and serves as a pit stop for some workers on their way home from third shift.

“The mornings are just a good, working-class type of people,” said longtime owner Buck Pawlosky. He said he gets lots of patrons from Latrobe Specialty Steel, Pace Industries and sawmills, and other people who maybe can't work because of the weather.

“You get everything,” Pawlosky said. “Arnie Palmer used to come in here.”

Although his restaurant in the old Youngstown Hotel has three bars, the first-floor tavern is the one for regulars. Patrons are invited to spin an old carnival wheel and, depending on where it stops, could land a free drink, be forced to buy one for Pawlosky or the bartender, or take home a vacuum-sealed tin of Spam.

Clatter from the spoked wheel broke the hum of ESPN's talking heads. A handful of regulars turned to watch the wheel.

Wolf, the bartender, is on a first-name basis with customers, and they spent the afternoon cracking jokes at one another's expense. Debate ensued over whether Wolf's cherry-red blazer was actually pink. At one point, Wolf stared daggers at two patrons for tracking mud into the bar.

One was Bruce Piper, a 61-year-old logger and lifelong Republican. He wore his politics on his black Trump baseball cap but reluctantly discussed the president's first month in office.

“I just got tired of politicians,” Piper said, sipping a light beer. “I voted for him, but then I turn around and bitch at him.

“I just never liked politicians,” he said.

Asked if he ever met one he liked, Piper responded: “Not really.”

With a shrug, Piper said Trump is changing things.

On the sidelines

Jennifer Bungard and Dave Bongianino stopped in after their shift at Gutchess Hardwoods, a Unity sawmill. Neither voted in November.

“They were the best we had to offer?” said Bongianino, referring to Trump and Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton.

“It's almost like a reality show,” said Bungard, who said she favored Trump over Clinton.

Bongianino considers Trump's first month to be “controversial” because the president's “strong-arm” approach will take time to get used to.

“We're used to politicians pussyfooting around issues,” he said.

Bungard took a turn spinning the wheel. People turned to watch as the ticks stopped on a space for half off a drink.

“It's really, really sad people don't want to give him a chance,” said bartender Tina Quinn, another Trump supporter. “As far as what's going on, he's done 99 percent of what he said he was going to do.”

Still, some said, Trump's first month has been too much too fast.

“I think Trump bit off a little more than he could chew” with the travel order, said Rina Piper. “I think he's definitely upsetting the apple cart.”

Pawlosky, a 72-year-old conservative, said he doesn't agree with Trump on everything. He thinks calls for tariffs and taxes to implement some sort of “fair trade” is a bad idea.

“It does not work,” he said. “The more tariffs and taxes you charge people, the more they're gonna tax and tariff you.”

Pawlosky said the tavern's neighborhood — and therefore the politics discussed at his establishment — has changed over the years. There once was a stronger union presence, and political discussions at the bar had mixed perspectives.

“It just flipped with Trump,” he said.

Pawlosky now is thinking of capitalizing on a Clinton campaign gaffe that became a rallying cry for die-hard Trump supporters.

“I'm thinking about having a ‘Deplorables Night,' ” he said.

Kevin Zwick is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2856 or kzwick@tribweb.com.

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