People Have to Know by Craig Fuller


“People have got to know….”

Up until now, President Richard Nixon’s statement stands as a kind of a low bar on the presidential trust and respect meter. You’ll remember the full quote I’m sure:

“People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook. I’ve earned everything I’ve got.”

I wanted a few days to pass to reflect on this new book out about the Trump White House. I also wanted to read Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside The Trump White House. Well, with the passage of a few days, the impact, at least on me, just grows more troublesome. And, a new bar seems to have been set with the Presidential declaration attesting to being a self-described “…stable genius.” Every time it’s repeated I hear the unspoken phrase, “People have got to know whether or not their President is nuts.”

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, the fact that we have a President who feels compelled to address this issue just a few days short of his first year in office is politically breathtaking. But, what to me is the most extraordinary takeaway from the book is that the President’s own family and staff have created a montage that begs a question like this and a required a direct response to and an all-out concerted attack on the book and its author.

It should be said of this book that it will not go down as an example of high journalistic standards. It is not clear that commentary from one source was actually corroborated with others in a given meeting. But, what must be acknowledged is that all of the major players inside the White House spent some time with an author who invested months listening and probing his sources to gain insights into the internal operations of a White House. Those sources held all the cards. They could have shared stories of sensitive and inspired leadership. That is seemingly decidedly not something even one source tried to advance.

This is certainly not the first nor will it be the last White House filled with highly competitive people. However, individuals with little or no experience for governing seemed not to have turned to their better selves for guidance. They seemed to have elected to engage in a systematic pattern of behavior designed to tear apart their colleagues with the thought that ridding the White House of competing voices would smooth the decision-making process. Oh, along the way, at least initially, there seemed to be no decision making process.

While a President, like the leader of any organization, sets the tone and bears responsibility for the conduct of his team, among a number of concerns described in the book, President Trump seems to have set up a structure incapable of withstanding the pressures of the Presidency.

A book written from contemporaneous notes and interviews conducted over several months cannot just be dismissed. While changes have occurred since the interview process concluded, the damage done by this peeling back of the onion will be long-lasting. How do colleagues trust colleagues? How do current insiders react to anyone taking notes on conversations? What other books will be spawned by this one where another author seeks to outdo this first offering of a look behind the scenes at the White House? Can any future “look inside” fail to focus on dysfunction?

Again, no matter where you fall on the spectrum of viewing the current Administration favorably or unfavorably, we should all pause and reflect on what this book reveals not just about the President but also by those closest to him. Can they advance legislation? Can they manage a crisis? Will they fumble into trouble at home and abroad?

Sadly, my take away is that any and all of these worrisome possibilities are more real now at the end of year one of Trump’s Presidency.

What, in my view, we, the people, have got to know is whether this will get better, for all of our sakes!

Craig Fuller served four years in the White House as assistant to President Reagan for Cabinet Affairs, followed by four years as chief of staff to Vice President George H.W. Bush. Having been engaged in five presidential campaigns and run public affairs firms and associations in Washington, D.C., he now resides on the Eastern Shore with his wife Karen.


Letters to Editor

  1. Donald Powell says:

    President Nixon’s statement, much like President Clinton’s “I did not have sex with that woman” turn on your definition of the words used. Crook meant something different to Nixon. A crook meant stealing money or robbing a bank or similar. He did not think a crook was someone who broke into The Watergate or lied to the public. Similarly, I don’t think our President understands what a genius is or what stability means so when he says those words they mean something entirely different to him than they mean to most Americans. Such is the essence of communication but communication relies on both parties agreeing, at least approximately, what the words mean and in this case, that is not so and never will be.

    Our President has had a narcissistic existence beginning with a wealthy father who underwrote his first fortunate business success and has rode that train ever since. It is almost a cliche that he does not live in the same world we do and he never has, so his definitions reflect his reality not ours. The bottom line to all this is that when we hear his pronouncements of his mental status or his intellectual ability, we must attempt to consider the source and his frame of reference and not ours.

  2. Deirdre LaMotte says:

    Another good piece, Mr. Fuller. I do not think this will get better with Trump because he is a “cornered rat”. And the spineless Republicans on the Hill have known about him from day-one, but, hey, what a perfect puppet for their tear down America agenda. And the WH staff.? Well, the food is too good in the Mess; what a dilemma for them!
    Really, again, this Trump family is like the Beverly Hillbillies, with nukes but without the charm.

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