Out and About (Sort of): Meet-And-Greets by Howard Freedlander


Since the latter part of 2017, I’ve attended about 10 “meet-and-greets,” a political staple that enables candidates for public office to meet, greet and convince people, gathered in a private home, to support their campaign. I could have attended more.

It’s a longtime tradition that follows a certain pattern. Neighbors and friends, usually of the same political persuasion, chat among themselves, eat finger food and drink beverages provided by the host, listen to a gracious introduction and then settle back for about 10 minutes as the candidate talks about his or her positions and plans according to a mental script. But that’s not all.

Questions—some easy, some pointed—then ensue. This segment may last asking as 20 minutes.

Then chatter and eating resumes.

I can’t speak to as to whether similar gatherings happen in other countries. I consider the meet-and-greets the most basic form of democracy. The process is open and transparent (though an overused word these days). It’s comfortable. It’s informative. It’s polite.

A candidate, wherefore seeking a local, county or federal office, must be precise, clear and prepared. Attendees have their pet causes and peeves. They expect straightforward answers. They eschew vague, self-serving answers. They are trying to get the measure of a candidate.

If democracy values participation, then these gatherings, which come in all sizes and grandeur, are invaluable in generating informed opinions. So simple, so important.

Now, obviously, candidates are seeking funds and friends. No campaign can succeed without either. Votes are vital. Donations are welcomed, sometimes required, at these gatherings.

As of this column, the general election is three weeks away. Hard-working, ambitious candidates will face the electorate’s final judgment. The charm offensive will end. Lawn signs will come down. Television ads will cease. Glee or sadness will accompany the results. Spirits may dim.

Though I generally have enjoyed the many opportunities to meet and listen to earnest candidates, I have my own pet peeve. My irritation won’t matter after November 6—except to me.

I believe that the question-and-answer portion can sometimes be the vexing part. Some well-intended questioners feel compelled to give speeches before asking their blasted questions.

These people must tell the candidate—and the rest of us—how knowledgeable they are, and their credentials—as in their life experiences—before they ask their questions. Often, the answer is shorter than the preamble. My patience is limited.

I want to hear the candidate talk and explain and persuade.

My style is different. I simply ask my brilliant question. No self-important speech. Why would anyone be interested in knowing the background behind my question, and why I feel so utterly capable of voicing the searching query?

Who cares? Answers matter.

Now that I’ve gotten that annoyance off my back, I must express my admiration to those steadfast and patient men and women willing to run for office. Their lives are disrupted. They must repeat their stump speech over and over again. Electioneering demands are relentless. Their “niceness” button is always on.

The 2018 election is nearing its end. I will miss the meet-and-greets. I will miss the good conversation.

But not all the questions.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Floored by Experience by Howard Freedlander


A funny thing happened on the way to what I hoped would be a casual dinner with my wife and my daughter and her family eight days ago at a Stevensville restaurant.  As I awaited an appetizer, I fell backward. I ended up on the floor.

Subsequently I spent 18 hours at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis. I never ate dinner. Nor did my wife.

I blacked out. I took the table with me as I fell to the floor. It was frightening. I was conscious.

The medical term for what I experienced is a “syncopal episode.” I fainted. I had no warning, as I repeatedly told the skeptical medical professionals.

I was not seeking attention. I got more than I ever would have imagined.

The 18 hours in the hospital were miserable. More so than losing control of my body and suffering a visible bump on my forehead from the table.

Waiting, waiting and waiting. The hospital regimen is frustrating. Answers are elusive. Communication is sporadic, particularly in an emergency room, often the pathway to further treatment.

So, why did I black out? The diagnosis pointed to dehydration and low oxygen. Because of my heart attack in 1993, this medical history loomed constantly in the background.

I underwent two CT scans, one to look at my brain (that’s intriguing) because of the bump on my forehead, and the second to view my lungs for a possible blood clot or, technically speaking, a pulmonary embolism. Both tests proved negative.

When I was discharged and released from all sorts of tubes, wires and monitors, I was instructed to go home to see my cardiologist for a two-week heart monitor. After all, I wouldn’t want to detach myself from medical inspection. The attention is unwanted but vital.

As I think back about my disrupted dining experience, I cringe. The thought of lying on a floor next to the bar area (our preference instead of the dining room to accommodate our restless grandchildren) haunts me. My wife and a waitress (a trained nurse) tended wonderfully to me before the Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and ambulance arrived.

And the EMTs were professional and spot-on with their initial diagnosis. Kudos to the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department.

Despite my faint attempt at humor, I remain scared that a blackout could recur. Loss of control, at least in my case, was a sensation that I would like to avoid, if possible. I would like to address the underlying causes as diligently I can under medical supervision.

At the risk of chastising an excellent hospital, I believe that emergency rooms—which are handling very serious problems—are inherently chaotic. Doctors seem to be in short supply. When they do visit, the patient or family member must be prepared, first, to listen carefully, and, second, to ask
unemotional questions. The stress is palpable.

Registered Nurses (RNs), the unyielding backbone of any hospital, also seem to be limited in number. In both the ER and my room, I dealt with traveling nurses. Paid well, so I understand, they typically are extremely competent itinerant nurses who live outside the state, love to travel and provide a valuable service to hospitals throughout the country.

The incessant waiting typically involves the expected arrival of doctors and their words of wisdom. For impatient folks like me, waiting is just awful. Family members also suffer from living in limbo.

Like most others, I feel thankful for the medical treatment that I was fortunate to receive. I don’t want to seem impatiently ungrateful. The two doctors, three nurses, physician’s assistant and numerous technicians were undeniably capable.

My syncopal event was stunningly quick and immediately alarming. I hope it never happens again. I trust that if the episode were heart-related, I can do something about it.

I plan to eat dinner again at the Stevensville restaurant. Uninterruptedly and painlessly.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Shore Welcomes Franklin Foe by Howard Freedlander


After listening to the excellent Spy interview last week regarding William Smith, founder of Washington College in Chestertown, I couldn’t help but focus on the underlying challenges faced by a college president in the late 1700s and by a provost, typically the second highest position on a modern college or university campus.

Before playing a major role in founding Washington College, the 26-year-old Smith served as the first provost in 1756 at the newly founded Academy and College of Philadelphia (later the University of Pennsylvania).

For full disclosure, the inestimable Benjamin Franklin, one of our nation’s founders, helped establish the Academy and College. He is one of my heroes. The university that he helped spawn is my alma mater.

Here are lessons learned from listening to the interview with Colin Dickson, an English professor at Washington College:

• A provost ought not to engage in politics, particularly during the years leading up to a revolution when passions were taking seed and blossoming into animated partisanship. Smith was a British loyalist and friend of the Penn family, the proprietors of the colony. Because of his politics, Smith clashed with Franklin, when the latter was board president and then an influential board member. Franklin was a vocal opponent of William and Thomas Penn and eventually an ardent Revolutionary leader.

It’s regrettable that the decades-long relationship between Franklin and Smith frayed. For many years, they were very close intellectually. They even traveled together in America and London raising money for the Academy and College of Philadelphia.

• A provost or university president ought not to cross swords with the president (now called the chair) of the board of trustees, nor board members sympathetic to the president/chair. It’s bad for longevity. William Smith, with his strong Tory ties, was dismissed from his job. He then took his drive, intelligence and educational philosophy to what became Washington College.

When recruited to the new school in Philadelphia, Smith had headed King’s College (now Columbia University). He was a graduate of St. Andrew’s in Scotland.

• Then, as now, a college or university leader must raise money, and so Smith did, as I noted. In fact, he persuaded General George Washington to donate 50 guineas to the new college. I wonder, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, whether Smith offered “naming rights” to the esteemed general for his contribution. Smith also knew where to seek money on the Eastern Shore, convincing Talbot County’s Goldsboroughs and Tilghmans and Queen Anne’s County’s Pacas to donate to create the college in Chestertown.

• As I learned from the interview, Smith was a solid educator and a headstrong person. Both characteristics apply equally appropriately to a modern-day college/university president. I’ve observed that a top-level academic leader must have credentials that draw respect from the often skeptical faculty. And this individual also must have a vision that he/she persistently articulates without any self-doubt. Donors respect clarity of mission and clear, persuasive communication.

* Smith was a heavy drinker, as I learned during the Spy interview. That’s dangerous. Moral authority is critical to any leader’s credibility. The Washington College professor said that Smith’s irascibility had roots in his alcohol consumption. Nonetheless, Smith, a fully functioning alcoholic, achieved significant academic success first in Manhattan and later in Philadelphia and Chestertown.

As I wrote, Dr. Franklin and William Smith developed fierce antipathy toward each other during a time of divisive and passionate loyalties. Both were determined to be right; their deep-set self-confidence conspired against reconciliation, at least not until much later. Smith was still unsparing in his criticism—though at the request of the American Philosophical Society, he served as at the official eulogist at Franklin’s funeral on March 1, 1791.

Then, a year before he died and 12 years after Franklin’s death, the poet Smith attached a scathing verse composed by a Tory sympathizer about Ben Franklin to the eulogy that he reprinted. So much for forgiveness on the part of Smith, also an ordained Anglican minister.

In a 1964 article in the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography about the Franklin-Smith quarrel, Ralph L. Ketchum wrote that the two antagonists differed notably in their personalities and public philosophies. Franklin believed in seeking consensus quietly, pursuing agreement “in small steps, rather than controversy over big ones.” According to Ketchum, “Smith’s impulse, on the other hand, was to seek the overwhelming victory…his florid style was designed to stampede his hearers or readers.”

Washington College is a superb asset to the Eastern Shore. Though an imperfect person, William Smith helped found what has become a small liberal arts college well respected beyond the borders of Maryland. A liberal arts education supposedly enables and inspires tolerance and open-mindedness.

His foibles aside, Smith made an educated mark on the Shore.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Friendship Between Opposites by Howard Freedlander


Ten days ago on Saturday, Sept. 1, my wife and I visited Sen. John McCain’s gravesite at the U.S. Naval Academy’s (USNA) cemetery.

The private burial service was to happen the next day. We savored the quiet and serenity.

McCain died Saturday, Aug. 25. The burial at the Academy was to be the final event in five days of memorializing the Arizona senator that began in his home state, continued in Washington, DC and concluded on the hallowed grounds of a place that he, his father and grandfather attended.

His gravesite adjoins one containing the remains of Admiral Chuck Larson, McCain’s close and cherished friend, classmate and two-time superintendent of USNA. The poignancy was unmistakable. The burial plots overlook the Severn River.

The two friends were polar opposites. While John McCain accumulated a whaleful of demerits for his reckless, anti-authority behavior at USNA, his friend was a serious student who graduated near the top of his class and led the class of 1958 as brigade commander. With a measure of pride and defiance, McCain often referred to his position as fifth from the last. “Look at me now,” he seemed to be saying, still prodding the institution he later learned to love.

Just last week, I spoke with a Naval Academy friend of John McCain’s. This county resident seemed to smile as he recounted stories about the rebellious midshipman with the famous pedigree. He talked about McCain’s renowned temper. He also said he found him very likable.

I met Admiral Larson in 2002 when he ran as lieutenant governor during Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s losing Democratic campaign as governor of Maryland. My youngest daughter worked in the campaign and always spoke highly of Larson. The retired four-star admiral was friendly and professional.

In the numerous newspaper articles about McCain following his death at 81 of brain cancer, I read that Larson said the toughest part of being McCain’s friend was around midnight when the rambunctious midshipman decided it was time to climb the wall surrounding the Naval Academy and misbehave in Annapolis. The straight-arrow Larson likely learned how to say “no,” repeatedly, to his headstrong friend.

Friendship transcends our lives on earth. Family members long tell stories about their parents and the friends they got to know as they grew up. They learn to understand that friendship, unrelated to blood ties and often complicated family relationships, is based upon a rock-solid bonding nurtured by common experiences, unfiltered emotions and earned trust.

Both McCain and Larson were extraordinary public servants. They shared allegiance to an elite military academy and a deep love of country. They decided more than 20 years ago to be buried as neighbors facing the Severn River, a defining feature of Annapolis.

John McCain received many tributes, all well-deserved. I pay homage to his respect for genuine friendship.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Back to School, Carefully by Howard Freedlander


Back to school. Can you remember?

As I recall, it was bittersweet. I had to vacate leisure for a mandatory structure and incessant demands. I joined friends in coping with academic stress and occasional fun.

Parents are pleased, of course. They encounter no more claims of their children complaining about being bored. On the other hand, they have to prod their children to do their homework and then awaken unwilling, cranky offspring to report to school at the prescribed time.

Mornings can be emotionally challenging. An age-old circumstance of being a parent.

Once ensconced at the neighborhood elementary, middle and high schools, life has changed—and not for the better. Potential violence is a constant and ugly presence.

Unfortunately, children and parents have to live with fear of a mass shooting propagated by an alienated student. The prospect of mayhem is and must be overwhelmingly gruesome for parents throughout our nation. Random and deadly firing by a crazed gunman no longer can be dismissed as something that happens elsewhere, not in my backyard.

Just last March, a 17-year-old student at Great Mills High School in Southern Maryland wounded two students.; one later died. A school resource officer fired at the gunman, who later died. The frightening incident took less than a minute.

Teachers and administrators now must spend time and resources on safety to an extreme never before experienced in our young country. It’s absolutely regrettable that teachers. principals, guidance counselors, custodians and security personnel must spend an inordinate time and energy protecting students and staff from senseless violence.

An article in the Aug. 25, 2018 issue of The Sunday Star about the Aug. 22 meeting of the Talbot County Board of Education reported that landscaping will be cleared at all schools to preclude hiding spots for potential shooters; exterior LED lighting will be upgraded; door hinge pins to doors’ interiors will be relocated; science labs’ propane tanks will be secured and tourniquets will be provided at all schools.

The county’s school board discussed the acquisition of 31 additional 700Hz encrypted radios at the cost of $103,850. Communication among first responders during chaos must be crystal clear.

We live in a new reality at schools throughout the country. We can’t ignore the all-too frequent mass shootings. Worse-case preparation is mandatory and repulsive at the same time. School systems necessarily are spending time and money on non-academic needs, because to do otherwise would place students in situations already experienced in Florida, Connecticut, Colorado and other well-publicized towns and cities.

Yet emergency preparedness is an unfortunate but critical distraction.

I feel sickened by the murders visited on our schools. Too many young people have lost their lives. Too many parents have lost their loved ones, scarred forever by senseless violence. True too of friends whose classmates were killed often for incomprehensible reasons.

No column such as this one should end on a sour note. Every day, a school opens for business is a day that makes our future brighter.

Schools often spawn dreams Teachers and coaches serve as invaluable role models.

A new school year is exciting and hopeful. Students grow as people mastering sometimes difficult subjects and forming relationships with fellow students and demanding faculty members. A school is a crucible that tests intellectual and emotional limits.

When I see children waiting for a bus, sometimes with parents, I feel nostalgic, but mostly I feel optimistic. I wonder if these nameless children will accomplish great things, or maybe live good, productive lives. I’m also glad that school is long past.

The word that comes readily to mind to describe my educational experience. is “discipline.” The self -imposed kind.

I recall the continual journey to perform up to my parents’ standards and compete with peers. The struggle at times was worth the benefit.

As children attend their first day of school today, with backpacks filled with supplies and minds filled with nervous anticipation, I hope that the 2018-2019 school year in Talbot County brings hard work, mental and physical growth and periodic fun and laughter—all happening in a safe and comfortable environment.

When I I sit behind a school bus loading and unloading school children, I will be determined to be patient and appreciative of the school bus drivers transporting kids to their futures. I learned patience in school—maybe my toughest lesson.

I’m still picking up bits and pieces of knowledge and self-awareness. Schooling and learning never stop.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): The Message Isn’t Getting Through by Howard Freedlander


For some reason, I cannot ignore the constant specter of global warming. I even eschew the term, “coastal resilience,” the politically correct description of our strange and inconvenient weather trends.

But I seem to be whistling in the wind. The subject rarely comes up in political discourse.

This summer on the Eastern Shore exemplified the new normal, with witheringly hot temperatures in June, July and August. Winter 2017-18 seemed endlessly miserable despite the relative absence of snow.

Brian Ambrette, a key staffer at the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC), wrote nearly two weeks ago, when referring to testimony in 1988 by Jim Hansen, NASA’s top climate scientist, “These three decades have been the hottest on record, each one hotter than the previous. The current decade is on pace to be the warmest yet, containing 7 of the 10 hottest years on record.”

Ambrette added, “The American West seems one spark away from inferno six months out of the year. At the same time, 2017 was one of the wettest years for many other locations in North America and Northern Europe.”

Yet, I have a sense that most people don’t seem to care. I find that bewildering.

While others may say that the climate changes—surges of heat and precipitation—are simply a phase. I call this attitude gross denial. I prefer to blame global warming and climate on us.
We have emitted more carbon in the atmosphere through our indulgent lifestyles, such that we now must cope with living on an increasingly hot and uncomfortable earth.

Not to speak of rising utility bills.

July 2018 is a glaring example of an unpredictable weather episode on the Eastern Shore. We experienced two weeks of drought, followed by the weeks of rain, rain and more rain. How do we human beings explain? it I’m not willing to shrug my shoulders and pretend that conditions are inexplicable.

Early last week I read an article in The Washington Post about a woman who lives in a lovely community in Charleston, SC. Her home, about a block and a half from the Ashley River, has withstood three instances of flooding. Fed up with the flooding, she decided a year ago to sell her home for nearly $1 million. After reducing the price 11 times, she has decided to tear it down and sell the property.

A new buyer likely will build an elevated house, one that might be valued at $1.3-$1.4 million dollars, according to a local real estate agent.

Dueling studies differ on whether homes in beautiful and highly livable Charleston have suffered significant drops in values.

The conclusion by a professor of real estate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School points to continued coastal building. What is happening is that while “beachfront property is not declining in value, rather, the studies suggest that more exposed properties—including properties that have not yet experienced direct flooding—simply are not appreciating as rapidly as their inland neighbors.”

In pointing to effect of constant flooding and potential exposure to storm-related damage, I’m suggesting that real estate values in our area face the same market pressures instigated by the impact of global warming and climate change. We too must appreciate the splendor and peril of living in an area prone to storm surges and consequent damage.

What do we do to reverse frightening trends?

The New York Times’ columnist, Thomas L. Friedman, suggests that climate change warriors must understand that “the public has grown uneasy,” wondering “what’s real?” He thinks that a 50-page report produced by the top experts in climate science, written “in language that a sixth grader could understand, with unimpeachable peer-reviewed footnotes,” would sharpen the message and drive home the need to act.

At the outset, I bemoaned what I consider the current reality: the message about the searing urgency in addressing the disastrous consequences of global warming is simply not resonating with the public. The public will is lacking. Political discourse seems devoid of concern.

This is not my first column about global warming. Nor will it likely be my last. Our fragile world, amid explainable climate changes, has opted for neglect.

As Malcolm Forbes Baldwin, the acting chairman of President Reagan’s Council for Environmental Quality, said in 1981, ‘There can be no more important or conservative concern than the protection of the globe itself.’

Baldwin sounded the alarm 37 years ago. The response has been eerily mute.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Nation Loses a Patriot by Howard Freedlander


The death Saturday of Sen. John McCain grieved me. He loved our country, viewing fealty to it as far surpassing service to ourselves.

He will go down in history as that young, dashing U.S. Navy fighter pilot held captive under miserable conditions by the North Vietnamese in Hanoi. He suffered horrendous treatment, as did others. He stood out because he refused to be used as a propaganda tool, forsaking a chance to get out of jail because he was the son of a four-star admiral newly named as commander of Pacific forces.

His injuries after ejecting from his wounded aircraft haunted him the rest of his life.

John McCain was a military and political warrior. He delved into politics in Arizona shortly after leaving the Navy. He gained a reputation as a fighter and a maverick; his Republican elders often disapproved of his actions and attitude.

He ran twice for U.S. President. He lost to George W. Bush in the GOP primary in 2000 and to Barack Obama in 2008.

Honor and courage characterized McCain. Though he slipped sometimes and pandered as do many politicians to win election, he did it rarely. He had the audacity and character to oppose his party. He felt comfortable criticizing, sometimes harshly, American presidents. He viewed Donald Trump with contempt.

I met Senator McCain once prior to a commencement at the University of Pennsylvania. I exchanged some small talk. It went flat. However, when I heard him speak self-deprecatingly of his basement rank in his graduation class at the U.S. Naval Academy, as he expressed wonder at being asked to speak at an “elite” university, I applauded his sense of humor.

John McCain was a tough hombre. A lengthy stay at the Hanoi Hilton can do that to anyone. His years as a prisoner of war inured him to fear. Political combat probably seemed easy and bearable.

Sen. McCain will be missed by his family, friends, and constituents. At the risk of seeming trite, he was one of a kind. His death afflicts millions of people in our nation with grief about the loss of a hard-nosed patriot.

My brief conversation with Sen. McCain had no impact on me. But my knowledge of his personal history and rock-solid character left me with the impression that this war hero and political warrior was a historic figure.

Service beyond yourself—that’s John McCain’s enduring legacy.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Lying – Vice and Virtue by Howard Freedlander


In 558 days as president, as of August 1, 2018, Donald Trump has lied 4,229 times, according to the Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” database. The lies amount to an average of 7.6 a day.

Now, if I were being charitable, an attitude difficult to sustain during the tumultuous Trump presidency, I would use the phrase “false and misleading claims,” as the Post did. I prefer the simpler and more accurate word—lying.

Why do I feel so emboldened to call President Trump a chronic liar? Because I think he would agree. He believes in and practices on a daily basis the art of creating an alternative reality.

And he’s good at it. If you continue to repeat a falsehood over and over, as he does so very adroitly, some—as in his loyal base—will consider his bombast as the truth. That’s downright scary.

The media is the “enemy of the people.” There were two sides to the racist riots in Charlottesville, VA about a year ago in which an innocent person was killed. President Obama secretly taped conversations during Trump’s post-election transition. Russian President Vladimir Putin is a decent fellow and well worth pursuing as a chum.

His statements not only are false, they are dangerous. He doesn’t care. He’s an expert in firing up his base.

He measures his success by the intensity of his followers.

Eighty-eight times he said he engineered the biggest tax cut in U.S. history. Untrue.

His beloved, still unbuilt wall with Mexico is under construction despite lack of congressional funding. He has uttered this assertion 30 times. Untrue.

He has said more than 60 times that the United States pays as much as 90 percent of NATO costs, and that other countries have failed to live up to their obligations. He dishonestly couples our nation’s overall defense spending with our specific NATO support.

To deal with the daily onslaught of lies and instances of boorish behavior, I sought the refuge of humor to provide a perspective on lying. I certainly wouldn’t want to seem self-righteous about my disdain for falsehood as a vital ingredient in President Trump’s governing style.

So, I turned to the great humorist and philosopher, Mark Twain, and his essay entitled, “On The Decay Of The Art of Lying.” I learned, not surprisingly, that Donald Trump, our liar-in-chief, is not a very good or refined liar, according to Twain’s satirical standards.

Twain wrote, “No fact is more firmly established than that lying is a necessity of our circumstances—the deduction that it is then a Virtue goes without saying. No virtue can reach its highest usefulness without careful and diligent cultivation—therefore it goes without saying that this one ought to be taught in the public schools—even the newspapers.”

After noting his inability as an “ignorant uncultivated liar against the cultivated expert,” such as a lawyer, Twain opined, “I sometimes think it were even better and safer not to lie at all than to lie injudiciously. An awkward, unscientific lie is often as ineffectual as the truth.”

As he dwelled on the glorious art of lying, Mark Twain, ever so skillful in his use of words and humor to scour the human condition, said, “I think that all this courteous lying (as in falsely and politely saying that you are glad to see someone), is a sweet and loving art, and should be cultivated. The highest perfection of politeness is only a beautiful edifice, built from the base to the dome, of graceful and gilded forms of charitable and unselfish lying.”

As I move my attention, leavened by humor, back to our lying-infested, morally bankrupt president, I must quote once more from Twain, “The man who speaks an injurious truth lest his soul be not saved if he do otherwise, should reflect that that sort of a soul is not worth saving. The man who tells a lie to help a poor devil out of trouble is one of whom the angels doubtless say, ‘Lo, here is an heroic soul who casts his own welfare in jeopardy to succor his neighbor’s; let us exalt this magnanimous liar.’

Mr. Trump is not a very good liar, despite his years of experience. His lies are based upon a poor, uninformed command of information. He lies simply for his benefit, not for the sake of others.

We Americans must accept that our president is a congenital liar, or should I say a purveyor of “false or misleading claims?”

After 18 months imprisoned in the purgatory of a Trump presidency, we should be inured to the daily storm of incredulous comments. Perhaps we should pity a person who cannot meet Mark Twain’s standards of useful, selfless lying.

Maybe we should laugh a little more. Maybe we should realize that truth is not part of the Trump brand.

Mark Twain should have the last word in my commentary about lying:

“Joking aside, I think there is much need of wise examination into what sorts of lies are best and wholesomest to be indulged, seeming we must all lie, and what sorts it may best avoid—and this is a thing which I feel I can confidently put into the hands of this experienced Club—a ripe body, who may be termed, in this regard, and without undue flattery, Old Masters.”

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Ridiculous Meddling by Howard Freedlander


As I followed last week the effect of the president’s ill-advised tariff war, specifically its impact on the country’s farmers, I became concerned about the consequences on the Mid-Shore. Trump’s politically shrewd decision to offer $12 billion in aid to farmers hurt by China’s reciprocal tariffs on soybeans, pork, sugar, orange juice, cherries and other products did not ally my fears about economic injury to farmers.

Trump created a crisis, as he normally does. Then, in response to Republican congressmen representing red states and fearing backlash from agricultural voters in the upcoming mid-term elections, he rode to his own rescue, so he thought, by announcing the $12 billion package.

Republican legislators immediately labelled the program as welfare.

As I read in the Washington Post, “It is unusual for the government to extend financial bailouts to U.S. farmers on the basis of trade-related circumstances precipitated by the White House.”

I spoke to a longtime farm businessman on the Shore. He used words like “crazy,’ insane” and “frivolous” to describe the impact of China’s tit-for-tat tariffs in response to Trump’s initiation of a trade war with China, the European Union and other countries.

This businessman explained that local farmers, as well as those across the nation, have developed long-term relationships with countries in the Far East. For years, farmers have participated in “check-offs,” whereby funds are used to market Eastern Shore products throughout the world.

He characterized the tariffs as “insulting,” oblivious to the reality of deals made one or two years out for the sale of soybeans, for example. He further criticized Trump’s actions as “not sophisticated, condescending and unhelpful.”

Soybean prices have dropped 18 percent since the silly trade war began.

Like many in the farm community, this businessman decried the $12 billion bailout as something that would alienate farmers from fellow citizens who see the aid as a corporate handout, though unwanted.

During my immersion last week into the plight of the farmers, I listened on NPR to a Wisconsin dairy and soybean farmer react to questions on July 26 about the tariffs on farm products and Trump’s election-year gift to constituents who generally supported him in 2016.
Brad Kremer, of Pittsville, Wis., said, “And, you know, with the tariffs that have just hit, we’ve lost $2 a bushel in the last 30 days. So our farm, we generally produce about 30,000 bushels of beans a year, somewhere in that neighborhood. So that’s a legitimate hit on our bottom line of about $60,000 on our personal farm (roughly 2,000 acres of corn, soybeans, alfalfa and wheat).

“And that’s a significant blow to a mid-sized farm. And you know, these are real numbers that are affecting family farms.”

Asked his opinion of the $12 billion in aid to farmers, Kremer said, while acknowledging China’s abuse of the World Trade Organization, “We’d still like to see, in my personal opinion and I think most farmers I’ve talked to, at least here in Wisconsin, we want trade, not aid.”

Uncertainty is the bane of a businessperson’s existence. Trump’s governing by constant chaos, as epitomized by the tariffs, affects multiple sectors of the American economy.

A $12 billion gift, though politically adroit, is insulting, as the Mid-Shore agricultural businessman said.

Butt out, not bail out, Mr. President.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.