Oops by George Merrill


There was an incident years ago, when my son was ten. I handled a situation with him poorly in a way that I have been not been able to completely forgive myself. When I think of it, I feel the sharp pain of remorse. He was needy and confused then and as we had recently moved, was trying to figure out his relationship with two of his new friends. When I look back, I can see that I didn’t get it – all the more ironic since I am a clergyman and psychotherapist. I treated his concerns casually. Rather than taking the matter more seriously and encouraging him to talk about it I didn’t hear what he was trying to tell me. It was a lost opportunity. Simply put, I blew it.

He has not forgotten it nor have I. Time and a frank discussion years later have alleviated much of the pain of that time for both of us. And even though I know that blaming myself is not helpful either for him or for myself, when I think about it I’ll still instinctively castigate myself for not getting it right.

I’ve often wondered why it is so difficult even though I may know God will forgive me, and for the most part my son has, that I find it so difficult to forgive myself. It’s as if I hold myself to impossible standards of perfection. I should never make mistakes. I’m supposed to get it right all the time. Even as I write that sentence it sounds absurd. As I think about it, there’s a perverse pride in such thinking. Taken to its logical conclusion, I’m actually saying I’m perfect, or if not, I should be.

Getting it wrong, making mistakes of all kinds is so fundamental to the human experience that rites of forgiveness have been central to religious practices for centuries. For Catholics, there is the sacrament of confession and in Judaism, the observance of Yom Kippur. Both rites help penitents to own their failings, express their contrition with others, and to put things right with self, with God and our fellow man. Each of these rites has an implied assumption; not only am I never going to get it right every time, but my efforts are probably better spent in managing my mistakes with a combination of contrition and a gentle spirit.

I characterize my routine mistakes simply as ‘oops.’ These are the annoying glitches that insinuate themselves into daily life; the lost key, the grocery bag left at the market, missing receipts, forgetting to lock the door, stepping in dog doo and the like. I shrug, get irritated, mutter under my breath and feel relieved that no one else has noticed. After making the appropriate corrections, I go about my business as usual. To make case in point when I wrote about stepping in dog manure, I wrote it first as ‘dog dew.’ My wife said I was mistaken, that it was ‘dog doo’ that I stepped in. For a moment, I wasn’t sure I had it right and I felt slightly intimidated. I googled it. In fact, I had stepped in both.

Strangely, inadvertent mistakes (the one’s committed in total innocence, with not a hint of guile and even with good intentions) can go badly and cause pain to others as well as to one’s self.

Not getting it right can be a mortifying experience. People often remark that when they suddenly realize they’ve really gotten it wrong they wish they had died on the spot or that the ground would have opened up and swallowed them. That’s one powerful emotion.

Kathryn Schulz, in her thoughtful book, Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, tells a story of a mortifying incident suffered by a journalist friend of hers. He was a seasoned writer on environmental issues and attended a lecture by a prominent environmentalist.

She made a brilliant presentation although pessimistic in content. He noticed how although her prognostications for the future of the planet were grim, that she was also pregnant. In his write up he commented that she was pregnant indicating that what he saw was her affirmation of life despite the gloomy picture she painted of the future. His article was published, made first page news and was widely circulated. Great, except the presenter wasn’t pregnant. Forty years later and he was quoted as saying “Truth is, I’m still mortified when I talk about it.” It turned out the woman was gracious about it but the journalist could never quite forgive himself for an innocent mistake, kindly disposed as it was.

I suspect that deep down many of us are aware of our failings, but try hard to disown them because we ourselves are not easy with them. The result can be that we’re intimidated by people who come across to us as on top of their game, competent, all together. It’s as if their togetherness were a judgement on us. The word ‘loser’ that has become such a popular insult today I guess underscores the contemporary obsession that in order to be of any account, you have to always get it and be winners no matter what.

Regarding mistakes, a look at how scientists behave may be instructive for getting along with our mistakes more skillfully. Many scientific researchers will routinely publish results making them accessible to other scientists knowing full well that what they’ve put out there may be flawed. That’s part of the strategy. If flaws can be identified so much the better. In the long haul, they’ll stand better chances of getting their project right.

So, since we are never always going to get it all right, what do we do? Ask for help if our mistakes have been harmful to ourselves or others, if we can. If not, accept, shrug, forgive, and keep a sense of humor.

Remember, to air is human, to forgive, divine.


Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Mid-Shore Gardening: Ruth Clausen’s Campaign for Pollinators


In yet another example of how the Mid-Shore seems to attract some of the very best in their chosen fields for their retirement homes, horticulturist Ruth Rogers Clausen has found her way to the Delmarva after a long and distinguished career as a gardening writer, lecturer, and the horticultural editor for the highly regarded Country Living Gardener in New York City.

Raised with a love of gardening while growing up in Wales and England, Ruth has spent her entire professional life educating thousands of inspiring gardeners of the important elements of a successful garden, or, as she says, “a garden must be something beyond looking beautiful.”

And one of her primary passions is for gardeners to do everything they can to design their projects with pollinators in mind. With 35 percent of the world’s crop production requiring pollination, gardeners can do their bit by planting flowers that are specifically designed to help such pollen transporters as bees successfully complete their work.

The Spy spent a few minutes with Ruth at the Bullitt House last week in preparation of her lecture at the Talbot County Free Library in Easton on February 14 sponsored by the Adkins Arboretum to talk about this mission.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about Ruth’s lecture please go here



Outrage Costs by Al Sikes


Oxygen is life-giving. When somebody remarks that a given person’s dominant personality “takes all the oxygen out of the room” they mean that the others in the room become lifeless.

Most American journalists and especially pundits have become lifeless — outrage has consumed them. Fighting Trump seems almost the only animating stimulus.

The Afghanistan War— little is said, even less is reported from the field. And the tax bill reporting tended to be binary with the wealthy pitted against everybody else. If Trump was for it then per force it’s inner-workings had to favor the rich. Yes, there are reporters who dig and dig and then write objectively, but you have to search them out.

But, let me return to the now 17-year war in Afghanistan and begin with a simple question. What do we expect from a free press when the nation is at war?

On a visceral level, have more soldiers been killed or maimed because journalistic assets have been misallocated? How many billions of dollars have been spent because our national civilian and defense leaders have not been sufficiently scrutinized?

There are a lot of government programs that defy outcome measurements. War is not one of them. We can ask and answer whether the enemy is diminished. Likewise, we can measure territorial gains or losses. We can also measure the health of our principal ally; how is the Afghanistan government doing today?

Most importantly, any government that chooses to wage war must be held accountable for the why.

But this is not a column about the Afghanistan war, but one about journalism. Suffice it to say, the human and financial costs of the Afghanistan war have been enormous.

We know in retrospect that the press eventually played a large role in ending the Vietnam War. Hard questions were asked and answered and even those who believed in the domino theory—if America lost in Vietnam, Communism would sweep over Southeast Asia—began to disfavor the war.

Wikipedia lists 47 war correspondents who covered the Vietnam War. Peruse the list, and you will find a wide range of print and broadcast journalists. Names like Peter Arnett, Ed Bradley, Bob Simon and David Halberstam are memorable names to those of a certain age.

We certainly know that some journalists dig deep while others shrink from comprehensive reporting and still others can’t leave their biases out of their reporting. And knowing this, it is clear that if only a few journalists cover a subject, the risk of incomplete and/or biased coverage is pronounced.

If there is one subject today that is comprehensively covered, it is Donald J. Trump. The outrage is palpable. The disproportionate weighting is equally palpable. But beyond outrage, one motivation is clear. Trump sells — it is entertainment masquerading as news. It is reality TV on the cheap. Trump’s tweets provide daily fodder — a reporter can grab the days narrative early in the morning. Even reporting from the security zone in Kabul is risky and costly and often encounters the opaque. Why risk life and brain when covering the ever-colorful President is so easy?

Obviously, the White House needs to be covered and especially this one, but what about the outcome of the programs heralded by the White House? Unfortunately, in the Trump era, the storyline is all too often binary. If Trump favors “it,” whatever the “it” is must be wrong.

There has rarely been as challenging a moment for both the nation and news organizations. Most news organizations have seen dramatic staff reductions as conventional media-business models have suffered from digital media competition. And foreign coverage is certainly expensive.

Realities are often uncomfortable. A reduction in resources requires ingenuity. At least to this writer the almost mono-thematic news coverage of Trump does not reflect well on the nation’s assignment editors.

My frustration peaked several Sundays ago while watching Martha Raddatz anchoring “This Week” on ABC. Ms. Raddatz is ABC’s Chief Global Correspondent. She has earned that title in her probing reportage on our Middle-Eastern wars. Yet, Raddatz on that Sunday morning was relegated to anchoring political panels on this and that Trump outrage.

My frustration has nothing to do with the content of Trump’s comportment. It is terrible. But, his constant provocations have become boring. So what if he bashes a critic? So what if he publicly berates a cabinet member? So what if he settles a claim against him by a porn star? Report it and move on.

The content of his Presidency is more important than his considerable personal deficiencies. And no content is more important than what he does or doesn’t do as Commander-in-Chief (CC). The CC has wide-ranging discretion, and his ways and means can place both the nation and its defenders in harm’s way.

I end with this unsolicited advice to the managers and editors who make news decisions. Trump is, if anything, titillated by his dominance of the news cycle. Why else would he serve up the days script in pre-dawn tweets? As you consider news priorities and assignments, don’t forget the ethos of good journalism — help people understand what they need to know.


Footnote: President Trump has decided that the nation’s top intelligence, law enforcement, and judicial institutions are the enemies and many of his supporters seem gleeful when he attacks them. To those who find this conduct appealing, please understand the ultimate price—cynicism. History chronicles the illnesses bred by a cynical public.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 

Mid-Shore Food: Chef Erin O’Shea at Mason’s Redux


Just like any other hiring process for a significant leadership position, the search for the right executive chef with the proper credentials is paramount to the success or failure of that dining establishment. All serious searches start with the premise that a person’s background and education that will made an indelible impression on the community and its long-term reputation.

That is why the Spy has continuously found a way to interview some of the best Mid-Shore chefs who have made the Eastern Shore their culinary home. From the past brilliance of Jordan Lloyd in Easton, Patrick Fleming’s remarkable presence in Cambridge, or Kevin McKinney’s legacy in Chestertown, we have intentionally sought to understand better these chefs unique pedigree and history.

That was why the Spy was excited to catch up with Erin O’Shea, the new executive chef at Mason’s Redux on Harrison Street in Easton. To our surprise, Erin is no stranger to the Eastern Shore having attended school in Talbot County before heading south for a brief tenure at Texas A&M University. But while college life didn’t quite fit with her ambitions, the cooking scene in Houston did, and very shortly she headed back east to pursue her passion for food and cooking.

Last week, the Spy sat down to talk to Erin and those early years of training, her mentors, and the privilege to bring Easton’s beloved Masons back alive with her own unique touch.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about Mason’s Redux please go here

Chestertown Marina: Full Speed Ahead!


The first roof truss swings over into position on the new Chestertown Marina store and interpretive center.

Have you looked at the Chestertown Marina lately?

There’s a lot of activity going on, and it promises to make the town-owned marina a far more attractive — and functional — facility than it has been for a number of years. The new marina store and interpretive center is taking shape along the Front Street side of the marina, with roof beams and siding installed in just the last few days. Along the riverfront, the old marina building has been demolished, and the former fuel pier has been removed. On Tuesday, workers from High Tide Marine Construction of Ocean City were removing the last pilings from the old dock to prepare the marina basin for dredging.

Worker nails cross bars onto trusses during Chestertown Marina construction

The new marina store, originally planned as a two-story building, was redesigned as a single-story building when bids for its construction came in at $1.9 million, nearly double the town’s budget. The low bidder, Yerkes Construction, agreed to take on the project and renegotiated the contract at a price of about $1 million less than the original bid. Mayor Chris Cerino said at a council meeting in November that the town had about $480,000 on hand for the marina building. He said plans were to complete the foundation and shell and raise some $500.000 to finish the project. The store replaces an older building which was purchased and moved to Iowa by a Kent County resident who owns farmland in the midwestern state.

The upgrade to the marina, which the town purchased in 2012 for just over $2 million, is being funded almost entirely by state and federal grants. The town council decided to purchase the property to avoid its being acquired by private owners who could convert it to condominiums and restrict public access to the river. The property had come on the market because the previous owner was facing financial difficulties following the Great Recession of 2008.

One of the reasons the town decided to move ahead with building the shell of the marina store is that the issuers of the grants are reluctant to extend more funds until the town has used up the funds it has already received. So getting the building started is a necessary step to getting the funds to complete it, Cerino said.

Cinder blocks on the site of the demolished marina office.

Workers from High Tide Marine Construction remove debris after old dock and pilings are removed – Chestertown Marina construction










At the Feb. 5 town council meeting, Councilman Marty Stetson said he was impressed by the new store building. He said the one-story design was better in scale with the existing buildings in the area. He also said he was pleased that the town was saving $ 1 million on the project.

Removal of the old marina store creates an open space that can be used for concerts or other public events. The space will be named “Grassymeade Plaza” in honor of  Michael Lawrence of Grassymeade Farm near Comegys’ Bight on Quaker Neck, who donated $100,000 toward the marina upgrades. Also, some $200,000 the town received from Washington College as part of the agreement by which the college obtained the Chestertown Armory, was used to repair the bulkheads.

Removal of the old fuel pier is a preliminary to dredging the basin to a depth a six feet, which will allow larger boats to use the slips along it. The basin has silted up over the years to a depth of no more than two feet in some areas. The ability to dock larger boats in one of the keys to making the marina more attractive to visitors and bringing more tourist trade into Chestertown. Also, the replacement pier will extend an additional 75 feet into the river, compensating for the fact that the current three piers will be replaced by two and providing deeper slips for large boats. The Cannon Street pier, where schooner Sultana and the Echo Hill boats regularly dock, is also scheduled for extension.

The Fish Whistle restaurant is next door to the Chestertown Marina. The two share the parking lot.

Fish Whistle

In addition to the work currently under way, the town plans to replace bulkheads and walkways along the river side of the property, and to raise the level of the parking lot some two feet to mitigate flooding of the property during high tides and storms. That project will also benefit the Fish Whistle restaurant, which shares the parking lot with the town. The Fish Whistle has announced plans to extend its waterfront porch, including installing a new crab deck, in conjunction with the marina work — adding another attraction for both locals and out-of-town visitors.

Already completed are an upgrade to the boat ramp — now doubled in width — and replacement of the walkways and bulkheads on the downriver side of the marina. The boat basin on the south side of the marina was also dredged early in 2017. New floating finger piers are to be installed along that side of the marina, as well.

Much of the current work is expected to be completed or the start of this year’s boating season.

Photo Gallery – Photography by Peter Heck and Jane Jewell

Chestertown Marina construction – removing old pier and pilings

Chestertown Marina construction – old pilings from piers

Chestertown Marina construction equipment – with waterfront condos in background

Workers from High Tide Marine Construction remove debris after old dock and pilings are removed – Chestertown Marina construction

The new interpretive center under construction – Chestertown Marina

Over to its place on the roof – Chestertown Marina construction

Up goes the roof truss – Chestertown Marina construction

Down comes the truss into place on the roof of the new marina building – Chestertown Marina construction











Sanctuary or Secession by David Montgomery


Several commentators, including Ben Stein, have suggested that the Sanctuary Cities are repeating the Secession crisis that led directly into the Civil War.  There is an enlightening comparison to be made, but the facts need to be straight first.

The Sanctuary Cities are not yet at the stage of secession, their actions so far amount to an attempt at nullification.  Likewise, the states that have declared marijuana to be legal in defiance of Federal law appear to me to be attempting nullification.

The famous Nullification Crisis was prompted by South Carolina, but it was over a tariff not slavery.  It occurred during the administration of Andrew Jackson, a President almost as famous for his populism as Donald Trump.  The very protective Tariff of 1828 was enacted during the presidency of John Quincy Adams, and it was very unpopular in the South and parts of New England.  

The more radical opponents of the tariff in South Carolina began to advocate that the state declare the tariff null and void within its borders.  The compromise Tariff of 1832 provided insufficient relief, and in 1832 a state convention in South Carolina adopted an Ordinance of Nullification that declared both tariffs to be unconstitutional and unenforceable in South Carolina.  

Congress responded by passing the Force Bill, which authorized the President to use military forces against South Carolina, and a compromise tariff that was acceptable to South Carolina.

Leading up to the Civil War, it was actually the Northern States that practiced nullification.   In the aftermath of the Fugitive Slave Law, which declared the right of owners to capture escaped slaves anywhere, Pennsylvania and twelve other Northern states passed laws making it “a crime for any person to forcibly remove a black person from the state with the intention of keeping or selling him as a slave.”  The Supreme Court ruled against all these attempts at nullification by states.   Nevertheless, abolitionists defied the law by refusing to turn over escaped slaves and preventing their capture.

I have not yet read about a sanctuary city or state trying to clothe itself in the righteousness of abolition, but I expect it any day.  Where our ancestors overthrew slavery by nullifying laws that required them to return slaves, sanctuaries are determined to overthrow … what? … by nullifying laws that require illegal entrants to be detained and possibly deported.

So one question is, what are sanctuary cities trying to accomplish? If it is to prevent convicted criminals from being deported, that is a foolish obstruction of justice.  What claim does someone who violates the law after arriving in the U.S. have on a right to live here?  Those who have earned a chance are the dreamers who have respected the law and worked hard since being brought here, not the criminals among them.  If the purpose is to undermine enforcement of U.S. immigration laws and create open borders within the sanctuary jurisdictions, that is another and much more serious matter.

The next historical nullification attempt should give the Sanctuary Cities more pause about whom they emulate.  After the Supreme Court declared segregated schools unconstitutional in Brown vs Board of Education (1954), at least ten Southern states passed what amount to nullification measures and refused to follow the Brown decision.  

The Supreme Court explicitly rejected these attempts at nullification in 1958.  In a unanimous opinion, it held that Federal law “can neither be nullified openly and directly by state legislators or state executive or judicial officers nor nullified indirectly by them through evasive schemes…”

The first Nullification Crisis led to granting the President power to intervene with force to enforce laws that states claimed to nullify, and the states backed down.  The Supreme Court held that Brown vs Board of Education could not be nullified, and President Eisenhower sent the soldiers of the 101st Airborne to escort the Little Rock Nine into Central High School.  His action was violently condemned by the Democrats who then held sway in the South.

There is a great deal for Sanctuary Cities to learn from this.  

The first and last nullification crisis ended when the states backed down after President Jackson and President Eisenhower made it clear that they would use sufficient force to uphold the law.

The nullification practiced by abolitionists and endorsed by Northern States had a different outcome – it contributed to the confrontations that precipitated the Civil War.  The Declaration of Immediate Causes that South Carolina issued along with its secession ordinance in December 1860 stated that nullification attempts by the northern states were a cause of its action.  From there on, a series of confrontations led to an avoidable war in which 750,000 soldiers died on both sides.  Nullification inflamed tensions between slave and free states and made a gradual and peaceful abolition of slavery, such as Robert E. Lee and other slave and free state leaders tried to accomplish, impossible.

Thus I agree that there is an enlightening comparison between Sanctuary Cities and the secession crisis.  The Sanctuary Cities are turning the immigration debate into a confrontation between those who would nullify immigration laws and those who favor closing the borders and exporting them all, leaving no room for some compromise on legalizing the status of otherwise law-abiding and productive illegal entrants.   In this, they are just like the nullifying abolitionists whose moral fervor contributed to the disastrous outcome of the Secession Crisis and Orval Faubus who defied Federal law on desegregation.

Even I, firmly lodged in the middle group favoring some compromise, am outraged by sanctuary cities’ and states’ defiance of Federal law and willingness effectively to pardon convicted criminals and release them to continue their predation.  None of us want to face the choice between allowing that practice to continue and ending it by force.  One civil war was enough.

David Montgomery was formerly Senior Vice President of NERA Economic Consulting. He also served as assistant director of the US Congressional Budget Office and deputy assistant secretary for policy in the US Department of Energy. He taught economics at the California Institute of Technology and Stanford University and was a senior fellow at Resources for the Future.


Publisher Notes: Pamela Heyne


It is with a very heavy heart that the Spy team learned last weekend that our gifted architecture and design writer, Pamela Heyne, had lost her courageous battle with cancer. Pam had been a volunteer contributor for Spy for the last four years on topics that were close to her heart including both interior and exterior design.

As many know, Pam was a gifted architect herself who counted among her many clients the likes of Ben Bradlee in Georgetown or more locally, the highly praised Cottingham Farm in Talbot County. She also had a long-term affinity and friendship with Julia Child and the challenges that come with kitchen design.

Pam was also an extraordinary experimenter with the use of lighting, particularly the early use of LED lights, and mirrors to cleverly direct emulatination and unique views from nature into dark parts of homes and offices.

Her last book, “In Julia’s Kitchen, Practical and Convivial Kitchen Design Inspired by Julia Child,” was a unique look back at Child’s approach to merge cooking and eating areas into one warm inviting place for friends and family .

We will miss her and her voice for many years to come.

The Life and Times of Jameson Jones (Chapter Three): In Unremembered Season by Jamie Kirkpatrick


Destiny is capricious: one day, you’re on a course that’s bright and straight as a Saharan sunrise; the next, it all turns out to be a mirage, ephemeral as moonlight…

Jameson Jones, newly-minted college graduate, isn’t quite sure what to do with himself. Camelot has crumbled and The Great Society has lost its luster. Martin is dead; Bobby, too. Richard Nixon has grabbed the spotlight and the orders of the day are racial strife, drugs, cultural wars, peace signs, and this thing called Vietnam. Jameson has a pretty high draft number (210), but the future is fuzzy. Only one thing makes any sense: Jameson hopes for the best and, still wrapped in Kennedy’s afterglow, joins the Peace Corps.

He looks the part: long hair, Fu Manchu mustache, bell-bottom jeans. He is assigned to a sports development program in a country he has barely even heard of: Tunisia. It’s a soft spot on the North African littoral, a slice of lemon wedged in between two giant neighbors. But it’s perfect. At the end of training, Jameson is offered a comfortable post in a coastal city, a tourist destination, but he stuns his supervisor when he opts to coach basketball and teach physical education in a small village in the remote mountainous corner of the country hard by the Algerian border. He’s all in.

His house in Kasserine is a few spare rooms off on open courtyard covered by a grape arbor. It has a cold water tap and a privy. The kitchen is a hot plate running off bottled gas. When Jameson wants fresh bread, he goes straight to the baker’s oven. He buys eggs in groups of four. When the open-air butcher shop has meat, the head of a slaughtered beast signals what is available that day. When he needs a warm bath, he spends an afternoon hour or two with the men in the hammem, the village steam bath where he is pounded, stretched, and scrubbed by one of the attendants. He recovers with an orange and a glass of mint tea. In summer, there may be no rain for months; in winter, a freezing wind blows down from the mountains. He is invited to a student’s home for a holiday feast and watches as a sheep is ritually bled and slaughtered in the street out front. He attends a friend’s wedding and waits with the other men until the marriage has been honorably consummated. At night, he plays cards with old men, drinking glasses of tea in a cafe. He is supremely happy.

One day, news trickles into town: a movie company is filming in another village down in the desert. Jameson is curious. On a whim, he heads south and when he arrives in the town, he is greeted by a stunning French women who is working with the production crew. She takes one look at his 6’4” frame and inquires if he wants a role in the film: “We need a tall alien.” She takes him out to the set and he sees dinosaurs and strange underground dwellings. It would require several days of filming and there’s even a modest per diem that sounds like a fortune to Jameson. But he has school to teach and a team to coach so he declines. Plus, the whole concept seems a little far-fetched. “What’s the film called?” he asks his host. “Star Wars,” she replies as Jameson boards the bus back home.

And so Jameson’s life remains on its modest arc. There will be no movie career, no Hollywood. Several months later, when the day comes that his tour is up and it’s time to finally leave the town, he is overcome by a beautiful sadness. As his bus pulls out of town, he is reading a passage from Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet:

“If this is my day of harvest, in what fields have I sowed the seed, and in what unremembered season?”

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was released in May and is already in its second printing. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.

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.