Remembering Barbara Bush by Craig Fuller


Early in February 1985, when I accepted the position as chief of staff to Vice President George H.W. Bush, I had some idea of what I was getting myself into. On the official side, we had the entire second term of the Reagan/Bush Administration to complete. On the political side, we had a presidential campaign organization to build and an election to win in 1988.

What I did not fully comprehend was that I was also being invited into a family lead by Barbara Bush.

The opportunity to serve the Vice President was a high honor. The privilege of being invited to be so close to the Bush family would be an extraordinary life-long experience.

While sad to see her leave us, it is remarkable to hear so many people from around the world express their profound affection for Barbara Bush. She touched many lives in exceptionally positive ways during her 92 years.

While I had a close-up view for only a fraction of those years, the impact certainly never left me. She was honest, frank, funny and never for a loss when asked her opinion. These are traits extraordinarily valuable when you are trying to get through a presidential campaign.

Soon after accepting the position as her husband’s chief of staff, I asked if we could have lunch. While I didn’t know her well, I knew there was no way to go through the next four years without a strong bond.

We had a delightful lunch, and she said she had two requests. First, she knew that she would have to do events and travel during the course of the four years; but, she said, she really wanted to be able to end her day with her husband if at all possible. Second, she suggested she probably would do anything asked of her, but she did want to understand why.

Pretty remarkable!

I told her I had two requests. First, having been around the White House for four years, I knew how people liked to present themselves as carrying an important message from someone. I asked that if she ever had anything she wanted to share or communicate that she do it directly and indicated I would try to do the same. We both agreed that “messengers” usually get it wrong anyway. We were together a great deal, and I think we both lived up to this commitment without exception which was extraordinarily valuable.

My second request was that she help me understand who the really close friends were since I was being bombarded by calls wishing me well from people explaining that they were the closest of friends to the Bush family. She said she would help and offered to share their private Christmas card list which she suggested would give me a good place to start. A couple of days later the list arrived and I realized the extent of the challenge….there were hundreds of names on the list.

We traveled throughout the world and the country together. I observed how beloved she was wherever we landed. There truly were close friendships everywhere we went in the world. While she never had the formal title of Ambassador, I know of no finer Ambassador our nation has ever had whether she was greeting people at a residence or traveling to world capitals.

My last opportunity to spend time with her occurred a few months ago in Kennebunkport when, with Karen, I attended a small event for the Bush Library. For a few moments we sat alone with the President and Mrs. Bush in their home, and I shared how enjoyable it was to be with them in a place that had so many wonderful memories. Without missing a beat, she said, “and some that were not so wonderful as well!” She still got that last word!

I know her family wants us to celebrate her life and what a life it was!

I count myself fortunate to have been a part of it for a time.

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.

A New Boat and a Fine Wine by Craig Fuller


Among the personal passions accompanying me from the West to Washington nearly 40 years ago were boating and wine (not necessarily together). Perhaps it’s the elongated winter (as Howard Freedlander elegantly described here recently; but, it most certainly is due to a new boat in our family that I’ve had an increased focus on the beginning of a new boating season. Recently it struck me that my focus reminds me of what happens in the wine country with the harvesting of grapes for fine wine.

As with the harvesting of grapes, one works for weeks and months preparing for a moment that turns out largely dependent upon the weather. Is it too cold, too windy, too wet are all questions asked about placing boats in the water as well as picking grapes from the vine. Then, in both cases, once a decision is made all sorts of things are set in motion.

Ranger Tug Tranquility

The added focus this year, for me, around a new boating season on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, is a new boat. And, it really is not just a new boat, it is a new chapter in my boating life. From early on in California, I sailed. First with my uncle and cousins in Newport Beach followed by sailing in San Francisco Bay during high school, and later as crew for Wednesday night racing out of Marina del Rey while I was in college. It wasn’t long after arriving in the Washington, D.C. area in 1981 that I was sailing on the Chesapeake Bay, a magnificent and magical body of water.

Late last year, as I looked ahead to a new boating season, I knew it was time for something different and the idea of a small trawler entered my head only to develop into a full-blown notion that it was time for more creature comfort on the water while moving at about the same speed. Upon landing on a bold, if not fully developed, plan to find a vessel that met a standard my neighbor described as room for six at cocktail time, four for dinner and sleeps two, I discovered the world of Ranger Tugs.

These days, there are online forums for any fascination, and so I became a full-fledged member of TugNuts, the online forum for those with an interest in Ranger Tugs and Cutwater boats. I learned just how much people enjoyed these boats whether they were aboard for a day, a week, a month or, for some, living aboard.

The quest for a vessel did not take me far. A dealer that specializes in these boats is in nearby Grasonville, Maryland. After looking at the previously owned boats and envying the brand new ones, I found the perfect answer in a briefly owned 2017 Ranger Tug.

Tranquility, as I named her, entered the water on March 30th. After a superb orientation – the Garmin system rivals any aircraft avionics package I’ve used – she and I headed out on a windy and occasionally rainy day for Trippe Creek and her new home. Yes, for me the 2018 boating season has begun. But, on that cold and wet day, I was warm, dry and comfortable at the helm. Foul weather gear was onboard but not a consideration during my four-hour cruise.

So, a new chapter has begun. In our climate on and around the Chesapeake Bay, being in a warm, dry place makes for a longer boating season than I would otherwise enjoy while sailing. Of course, sailing is where I started and I no doubt will always enjoy it; but, this new experience is one I am going to savor. It is like harvesting grapes from a new vineyard where you know what you’ve enjoyed in the past is still available, but the anticipation of what lies ahead is very exciting.

So, if you see the Ranger Tug Tranquility on the water or at a marina, stop and visit. And, for guests and for the captain in the evening, there will always be some wine onboard in the refrigerator…did I mention it comes with a refrigerator?

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.

Is article is also a podcast. Listen to it here.

Tyranny of the Un-Truth by Craig Fuller


Mark Twain got it exactly right when he said, “When in doubt, tell the truth.”

Events of the past month give many pause because of their salacious quality. For me, the worst part is the reality that people in high office are simply not heading Mark Twain’s call for truth telling. Failing to tell the truth has become the order of the day and the un-truths come with consequences.

A weekend commentator posited a theory that we have undergone some major cultural change when a porn star and a Playboy model have more credibility than the President of the United States. A stunning statement that was speculative until polling just days later suggested only about 20% of the population believes the President is telling the truth about his own behavior.

What really hit me around the same time was a question posed by a serious fellow who inquired as to whether or not I was asked to lie during my years in public office.

The answer is a definite “no.” I was never asked to lie while in office. Was I expected to put the best face on difficult circumstances, yes. But, we did that by providing an interpretation of facts not by presenting an un-truth! Or, we stated that we could not comment. But, at no time was I asked or would I have damaged my credibility by stating something I knew not to be true.

Pondering the question and my memory of a seemingly bygone era, I felt a sadness for those serving in the White House today. Many of them now must realize that they have been directed to make statements that are simply not true. Just how does one deal with this? How do they make statements on matters related to official business and have their words believed?

In a world that offers challenges and real dangers, officials of the United States need to have their words believed. We need for America to be trusted and that trust must be earned by our leaders and a reputation for telling the truth.

The damage done during the past few weeks extends well beyond what some believe to be diminished moral standards. Damage has been done to our ability to lead. Damage has been done to those who came into the White House to serve who simply cannot be counted upon to be honest.

In the past few days, a phrase is now being used in the White House briefing that I suspect we will hear a lot more often. The phrase, “….the President believes.” This is an obvious way for a spokesperson to state what they know the President to have said, whether or not they believe it to be true.

The bar is being set way too low for a great nation.

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.

How Do You Serve at the Pleasure of the President When the President takes Little Pleasure about Those Who Serve? By Craig Fuller


We seem to be witnessing further upheaval in President Trump’s Administration. While all appointed to over two thousand positions by a sitting President serve at the pleasure of the President, our current President’s criteria of “pleasing” differs substantially from prior administrations. The path to pleasing is firmly fixed in delivering strong and effective statements of public support of the President.

Larry Kudlow’s recruitment into the White House staff brings a seasoned and experienced economic policy professional to the table. I know because I served with him. He holds well considered and carefully developed views, some at odds with where the President stands, at least today, on trade. But, I suspect the strongest of the Kudlow credentials is his television persona. He can be counted upon to energetically deliver the Trump message. Time will tell just how well Larry Kudlow can differ in private with someone whose threshold for contrarian thought seems historically low.

Others on the cabinet now being identified at risk all have in common a poor performance on television or negative news stories about their practices in office. One has the feeling that the President and a small focus group of White House aides is grading the public performance of the Cabinet and seeking new cast members when ratings fall.

Compelling communications skills are, to be sure, important to successful service at the highest levels of government. But, there are other important factors. Experience, judgement and discipline to name three. People in trouble seem to be those who have a worldview shaped by experience quite different than the President’s. Or, they are trying to bring discipline to the White House staff…or both.

Those not listed as “at risk,” could be described as doing their jobs while keeping their heads down. Time will tell whether anything short of cheerleading will suffice.

What the President seems not to understand is that those he appoints to the highest most complex jobs in the land, are there to serve him; however, they have a higher calling captured in the oath they take when they assume the office when they state:  I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.

If we have entered an era where strong television appearances become the coin of the realm for high appointed office, we have put ourselves on a slippery slope where a sound bite can make or break a public career. The price we pay is that good people won’t survive and stronger people will decline to serve.

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.

No Clearance / No Security by Craig Fuller


Consider how challenging it is to know at this moment just what the intentions of leaders in the government of the United States are across a range of issues from national security and defense to health care, trade, and energy. What do leaders intend to do about these issues? What is likely to happen that will affect us?

Hard to know, right? And, yet, we live in the most open and transparent country on the planet.

So, when we ask the intelligence community to understand the motivations and probable actions of our adversaries and our allies, always in less open and sometimes hostile environments, in order to accurately inform our US decision makers, shouldn’t we understand that this is an extremely difficult mission.

It’s not like there is no information. But, we don’t call it the “information community.” We call it the intelligence community because we require thousands of people to assess information from many sources, often clandestine, for the purpose of presenting carefully considered intelligence.

One of the most interesting aspects of my job many years ago in the White House was to read and receive the President’s Daily Intelligence Briefing from a senior CIA official. I cannot imagine a more enlightening daily dose of reality than this document and the accompanying oral briefing. Knowledge built over time is invaluable to staff and decision makers who take an oath to make choices that will protect the nation.

Much is being made of security clearances these days. While some high profile people now lack the highest clearances, the problem goes far beyond those in the headlines. It has been suggested that over 100 people inside the White House lack full clearances.

Here is the reality: developing the very best and most useful intelligence requires that those at the highest levels of government can be trusted with secrets. And, not only the actual intelligence provided; but, also the fact that we have it along with any knowledge of the means by which we gained it. The failure to act with discretion and in accordance with very strict laws, puts our own highly trained and vulnerable people at risk. The failure also discourages the very sources we rely upon from sharing information.

So, back to the people without full clearances….

There are several levels of security clearance, but the information flowing into the President and his top staff requires the highest clearances.

When someone lacks a clearance, people with the sensitive information do not know why. Thus, a clearance problem is within a range of issues that could mean placing into the hands of a non-cleared individual something they might inappropriately disclose.

For this reason, someone in possession of classified information in not supposed to knowingly provide it to an individual without proper clearances because being trusted with such information requires that you protect it.

It’s a very important principle.

Think about the phrase, “….now, don’t let anyone know that I know this, but…..”

If our nation’s leaders are going to benefit from having the most sophisticated intelligence gathering capabilities available to them for the purpose of making the best decisions possible, then they need 100% compliance with the laws designed to protect the secrets – no exceptions.

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.

The Danger of Distraction by Craig Fuller


During a drive across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge earlier this week, I listened to a good portion of the hearing held by the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence with the leaders of our Intelligence Community. Held to focus on the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment of the United States Intelligence Community, it provided one of the few public looks into what are seen as major threats facing our nation. The director of National Intelligence provided an initial statement and the 28-page document is available here [ ]. His opening points are below.

After listening to the broadcast, my thoughts turned to the dilemma we face. In a world with real and serious issues, we have a White House in turmoil focused on the latest inside intrigue that, while important in many ways, distracts the leadership of our nation from the important work requiring their full attention.

When it comes to security threats, those who lead the dastardly efforts outlined below DO NOT: tweet; get driven by the news story of the day; turn over their top staff; tolerate people who can’t get security clearances…just to name a few differences.

The truth is that we have a very resilient system of government and things do get done. But, leadership really does count and it is required hourly, daily, every 24 hours. Someone needs to be driving the system and we have very distracted driver!

You can bet our nation’s Intelligence Community is looking for leadership on how to cope with the very daunting list below, as outlined by DNI Coats.

From Dan Coats opening statement:

Competition among countries will increase in the coming year as major powers and regional aggressors exploit complex global trends while adjusting to new priorities in US foreign policy. The risk of interstate conflict, including among great powers, is higher than at any time since the end of the Cold War. The most immediate threats of regional interstate conflict in the next year come from North Korea and from Saudi- Iranian use of proxies in their rivalry. At the same time, the threat of state and nonstate use of weapons of mass destruction will continue to grow.


  • Adversaries and malign actors will use all instruments of national power—including information and cyber means—to shape societies and markets, international rules and institutions, and international hot spots to their advantage.
  • China and Russia will seek spheres of influence and to check US appeal and influence in their regions. Meanwhile, US allies’ and partners’ uncertainty about the willingness and capability of the United States to maintain its international commitments may drive them to consider reorienting their policies, particularly regarding trade, away from Washington.
  • Forces for geopolitical order and stability will continue to fray, as will the rules-based international order. New alignments and informal networks—outside traditional power blocs and national governments—will increasingly strain international cooperation.


Tension within many countries will rise, and the threat from Sunni violent extremist groups will evolve as they recoup after battlefield losses in the Middle East.


  • Slow economic growth and technology-induced disruptions in job markets are fueling populism within advanced industrial countries and the very nationalism that contributes to tension among countries.
  • Developing countries in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa face economic challenges, and many states struggle with reforms to tamp down corruption. Terrorists and criminal groups will continue to exploit weak state capacity in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
  •  Challenges from urbanization and migration will persist, while the effects of air pollution, inadequate water, and climate change on human health and livelihood will become more noticeable. Domestic policy responses to such issues will become more difficult—especially for democracies—as publics become less trusting of authoritative information sources.


We can only hope this and the full testimony going into further detail can bring greater focus to the important mission of meeting the national security challenges facing the nation.

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.

Crazy Things Can Come True by Craig Fuller


“Crazy Things Can Come True.” – Elon Musk

When asked what had been learned from the successful launch of the Falcon Heavy from the Kennedy Space Center earlier this week, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said, “Crazy things can come true.”

I confess to having been a space enthusiast since the beginning of the manned space program. And, it has been sad to see us lose some of our edge in space exploration, especially in one critically important area, that of having the lift capability to make exploration even possible.

So, we should all take a moment to watch and celebrate just what, SpaceX, a private company has accomplished. To appreciate the magnitude of what was done only takes a few minutes of viewing a YouTube video that, as of this moment, is approaching 20 million views. That so many took the time to watch what is now the most powerful rocket in the world by a factor of two, suggests interest in a vibrant space program exists.

The launch was spectacular, as was the eight minutes that followed when the two sixteen story tall side boosters separated, turned around and returned to their Kennedy Center landing pads is some of the most exciting video you will ever see. Elon Musk, who has seen a thing or two, says it is absolutely the most exciting thing he has ever seen!

Needing to demonstrate lift capability requires a certain amount of weight be placed in the payload areas. Not one to settle for cement blocks, Musk provided a $200,000 Tesla automobile complete with a spacesuit attired “driver.” Again, all of this captured live and broadcast to a worldwide audience.

The press briefing by Elon Musk was also something rather remarkable. He was clearly amazed by what he and his team had accomplished. He addressed a room of reporters that seemed almost hushed as Musk’s slow and careful description of events was shared.

All that needed to be accomplished had been accomplished with only one glitch. Musk shared with the group that the center booster simply ran low on fuel and could not slow enough to land on a floating landing site in the ocean. He broke the news that it actually hit the water at 300 miles an hour, adding it should make for some amazing pictures if cameras survived!

Throughout the broadcast, hundreds of SpaceX employees who witnessed the launch and booster recovery are cheering and exhibiting unrestrained euphoria. They were witness to a launch and showed all who watched a large and important part of the space program’s future.

Without a doubt, those who accomplished what many considered impossible are people who, in their celebration, deserve our appreciation.


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.


With Friends Like These….by Craig Fuller


Mr. President, you should tell your friends to stop ‘helping!’”

The heavily scrutinized memo released by Republicans on Capitol Hill purportedly helping President Trump – or, so he says – actually does far more damage.

Here’s why for four reasons:

If read to the end, the memo concludes by revealing that an investigation was open by the FBI when it learned that a Trump campaign aide was bragging about the fact that they had access to Clinton emails. This had nothing to do with the “dossier” that the Committee questions.

The memo also revealed that a very involved process leading to the approved use of electronic surveillance of an American citizen was actually completed no fewer than four times with a special court agreeing each time that there was sufficient reason to engage in the surveillance of a citizen who was involved in the Trump campaign and believed to have contact with Russians and people connected to Russian intelligence.

Omitted from the discussion is the faulty notion that a work product associated with professional opposition research should be viewed with great skepticism. As one who has engaged professional investigators to conduct such research, I can tell you that these investigators are not paid to create political spin or campaign rhetoric. They work to learn what can be found that might raise concerns. In my case, the professionals were engaged to look into the background of the candidates with whom I was associated. Yes, smart campaigns actually delve into the backgrounds of their own candidates in order to learn what might be discovered by others. The fact something is revealed that could be of concern does not make it factually correct. But, when found by a professional using sources considered to be credible, these findings should be examined closely. If something potentially illegal is discovered, then once in the hands of the proper officials it should be investigated and not dismissed.

Finally, stepping up hostilities with one of the most respected law enforcement groups in the world seems a high-risk gamble. The FBI is not infallible, but to disrespect the work of the individuals that currently serve and those who formerly served in the FBI will have consequences. And, what do you know? It only took a few days to learn that while the Republican’s memo suggests surveillance began on this American citizen associated with the Trump campaign in 2016, TIME magazine was provided with information that this citizen was actually on the radar three years earlier and being looked at after bragging that he was an advisor to Russians back in 2013. I somehow doubt that we’ve seen the last of facts that support the actions of the nation’s leading investigative body.

This breakdown between a key Committee of Congress with important oversight responsibilities over our intelligence agencies, aided and abetted by the White House, and the very agencies of the Federal government they oversee is a serious problem that will not be quickly or easily resolved.

It is high time to stop encouraging friends to do really foolish things!

The author suggests this link for future reading.

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.

State of the State of the Union by Craig Fuller


We’ve come a long way since George Washington presented his State of the Union message to Congress with two minutes of remarks. Today’s State of the Union has become a major media event and provides a President with the chance to form his thinking about the future and present his priorities to the nation and the world.

So, just what is the state of the State of the Union?

Having watched most of them since the 1970s and having had the good fortune to actually contribute to the development of about eight of them during my time at the White House, I think many of the talking heads focus far too much on the second element of the three important phases of a State of the Union address.

The first phase involves a President becoming fully engaged in thoughtfully framing his thinking about the years ahead and the priorities of his Administration.

The second phase is the speech itself where content and tone are judged by one and all. The event favors the President who, speaking before the entire United States Congress, exemplifies the notion of being presidential.

And, the third phase is the Administration’s strategy around successfully driving the themes of the State of the Union into the public’s consciousness through a well-executed and disciplined communications plan.

Presidents have used the first phase in the weeks leading to the State of the Union to meet with members of the Administration, leaders in Congress, and thought leaders in our society. Indeed, in Ronald Reagan’s pre-State of the Union phase, a series of futurists to focus on the kind of future we as a nation might confront visited with him in the White House.

Trust me, thought leaders from all segments of our society will accept the invitation to sit with a President and reflect on the future along with the challenges and the opportunities we face. However, there is no evidence in the weeks leading up to the State of the Union address that thought leaders from different fields who might inform the thinking of the President and those around him about the future were part of this year’s process. Since this speech comes around but once a year, this is a missed opportunity of some significance.

When it comes to the content of last night’s speech, most would agree the tone was, well, down. Ironically, “toned down” is a style that brought compliments from commentators. Also, as the third longest speech in history, most would agree the speech was long. However, to my ear, it was short on any new insights, innovative approaches or reflective thought.

The script was adhered to. Also, remarkably one of the media’s pre-announced criteria for a successful “presidential” delivery. But, this made the factual inaccuracies all the more puzzling. Comments about economic growth or some kind of heretofore unknown substance called “clean coal” are harder to explain when written into a speech that will knowingly undergo the fact checker’s magnifying glass.

As for the very important third phase of the State of the Union triad, it is hard to believe we will observe anything resembling a well-crafted, strategically executed communications plan. Indeed, the White House was backgrounding on the distraction de jour – the Nunes memo – in the hours before the speech and White House staff will be even more heavily embroiled in this issue in the days that follow. There was even speculation again about whether or not the President would consider firing special prosecutor Mueller or, perhaps argue there has not been an adequate case made to require a Presidential interview with the special prosecutor. Dwelling on this during the run-up to the speech does not bode well for the communications effort going forward.

So, for those who like to score these sort of things, the trend – at least to me – does not look favorable. Having failed to take full advantage of the run-up to the speech and by planting all kinds of serious distractions complicating efforts to sustain the SOU messages, the Administration cannot get what it needed out of this speech to drive major Administration initiatives forward.

As January comes to a conclusion, Administration supporters probably are pleased with the speech and will not be moved by any analysis. Opponents may come away from the evening embolden to challenge the President in Congress and at the polls later this year….but, in fairness, I am not sure how much bolder most of them could become. And, for anyone still left in the middle, the evening did little to win over their support.

And, that is the state of the State of the Union….much ado about something that has left little more than a ripple in our tumultuous political sea.

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.