Euphoria for Some that Cannot Last by Craig Fuller

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After 48-plus hours of commentary about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report to the Attorney General, I am wondering just how much more one can take. Throughout the epic coverage, I came to feel like I was witnessing an individual, speaking strictly metaphorically, who suffers from serious heart disease that wants us to celebrate the news that he’s been declared cancer-free. I would never wish to deny a moment of celebration, but it is hard to see how the future turns out well.

Indeed, I suspect that from a political standpoint, this may be the best week President Trump has with regard to the Russia investigations. And, I doubt the news swirling around the Mueller Report will change anyone’s mind, just yet. Supporters feel vindicated. Opponents look to New York’s Southern District of the Justice Department and to the investigative committees in Congress. Both are ambitious investigative bodies who can deliver withering blows.

I, for one, never really believed there was a great case for actual collusion with Russia. There is a strong case for serial naivete. I believe Trump’s world view propelled him to think about and speak of changing the relationship between the US and Russia while he was a candidate. That is something his first national security advisor advocated. Where they were so naive was in believing that President Putin seeks anything other than opportunities to diminish America to the benefit of Russia. They were also painfully naive in ignoring the intelligence community’s judgements about Putin’s actions when there was no interagency debate. What Russia did during our 2016 election was not new. It was much bolder. Their motivations needed to be factored into the new Administration’s ambitions, not derided.

While many seasoned and serious people would have taken exception to an effort to quickly find a better place for the President of the Russian Federation and the President of the United States to stand, if this was what the President-Elect had in mind, he should have just said so. Instead, whatever team Trump was up to, they seemed inexplicably committed to hiding their intentions, which is why people are now so determined to figure them out.

Many of the naive or devious have paid a high price in this process, and the investigations are going to continue at a fast and furious pace. And, here’s the thing that people in high places seem to have to relearn the hard way: the actual actions taken or decisions made may well be within the law, but failure to tell the truth to Federal investigators and the Congress is a felony and triggers prosecution.

Can’t say as any of this is something to look forward to. People who chose not to tell the truth set us on this path a couple years ago and will ultimately keep us on this path. We can only hope that our economy continues to expand, opening new opportunities for employment. We should also hope that in the Presidential primaries that begin about 10 months from now there will be more focus on the substantive issues we need to concern ourselves with than the literal trials and tribulations of a few.

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.

Breaking Clear Away by Craig Fuller

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Don’t know about you, but from time to time I just get obsessively curious about something.

Driving to enjoy the special features of the beautiful area in which we live, I kept noticing that Scenic Byway signage often had a Chesapeake Country sign attached. Whether there are more of these signs being mounted around the area or I am just noticing them more frequently, I couldn’t help but wonder just what the geographic characteristics of Chesapeake Country entailed or who founded this “country” within a country.

Turns out, it’s not so clear.

Seems that a confluence of thinking related to the protection our scenic beauty and encouragement of citizens to travel purely for the sake of enjoying our unique heritage culminated with federal, state and local officials launching common initiatives. So, who knew? But, with too few successful collaborations around these days, why not recognize a worthy effort.

Research uncovers that the states got into the action first in 1910 with Massachusetts enacting legislation authorizing cities or towns to designate scenic roads. Now, there are about 900 state scenic byways nationwide.

At the federal level, a burst of national awareness occurred back in 1965. Then, at a White House Conference on Natural Beauty, discussions on scenic roads lead to a call for scenic development and road beautification in the Federal highway system as part of the Highway Beautification Act of 1965.  

One wonders why things didn’t move faster….although, the US Forest Service did start designating scenic roads in the late 1980s. Then, in 1991, The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act established an Interim National Scenic Byways Program authorizing the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to designate National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads, as well as providing dedicated funding for byway projects. From 1992 to 2012, the Secretary made 150 such designations and provided $507 million for 3,174 projects.

Of course, no place is better than Washington, D.C. at establishing interest groups, and the scenic byways have theirs – Scenic America... And, wouldn’t you know, at this very moment Congress is being pressed – successfully – to reinvigorate the “dormant” National Scenic Byway program! Here’s the press release from last month by Scenic America concerning recent developments: 

So, this brings us to Maryland’s scenic byways and what the State calls Chesapeake Country.

It appears the state embraced a federally designated national byway that runs from Chesapeake City to Kent Island. State and local officials looked at plans late in 2011 to expand the national byway further south. Today, the State of Maryland literature suggests that the Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway extends 419 miles from Chesapeake City to Crisfield. And, to add further emphasis, Maryland has designated a “Heart of the Chesapeake Country Heritage Area” governed by the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority and administered by the Maryland Historical Trust.

Believe it or not, this is the simple explanation for how and why Chesapeake Country came to be.

It also seems evident that well intentioned people wanted to capture the national excitement from James Michener’s 1978 novel, Chesapeake and thus encourage travel and tourism to our region.

However it all came about, in my view it is a worthy and important cause that brings people and revenue to the region by broadening the understanding of lands off of Highway 50.

As we look forward to improving weather with the arrival of spring, I intend to spend more time on the Scenic Byways of the region regardless of which governmental entity established them. They lead to important places that share stories of our past.

While the focus of the Scenic Byway program is road-based, the areas also provide hiking and boating opportunities.

From time to time I hope to provide a look at an interesting scenic place or two…but, don’t wait for me. Get your map and head out on your own adventure.

Ever seen this bridge? It’s found on the way to Hoopers Island and a world away from the larger cities we all pass through. Check it out one day. Share a favorite spot and we’ll give it well deserved attention.

There is no doubt that areas have been protected for generations so people can learn their stories and enjoy their beauty. And this all comes with a great benefit identified so eloquently by John Muir when he suggested we should, “…keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods….[to] wash your spirit clean.”

On the road at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge…

 

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.

Ignominy by Craig Fuller

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Time was when individuals seeking leadership positions carefully considered how events in their past might impact their quest for public office.

To witness the circumstances in Virginia where individuals are coping with differing but troubling past behaviors, caused me to wonder who is to judge anymore? In the era of Trump, just what is unacceptable? And, what standards now exist to determine what we will accept or reject when it comes to a person’s past?

My first instinct was to ponder what in the world those who ran for public office were thinking. Did they just assume some elements of their past would not surface? Or, did they think that it no long matters what surfaces?

It used to be that if there was something untoward in one’s past, the election process would surface the issues. Candidates even retained investigators to determine if there might be anything in their own past that would cause concern. Always thought this was smart since while something might not be disqualifying, being surprised and reacting poorly could damage a campaign….or, as it turns out, a sitting governor.

I wondered where the challengers were with their opposition research and where the media was with their laser like focus on the misdeeds of those seeking election to public office. How could three statewide candidates be elected only to be subject to virtually simultaneous calls for resignation?

No matter where one stands on any one elected leader, no one should want to be surprised by questionable deeds from the past. Candidates should be more transparent…as in providing tax returns. The media should probe carefully but aggressively; because, here’s the thing, the decision now about what is acceptable and unacceptable is now up to the individual voter. That voter must make a determination with the facts and that determination is far better made before the election than after with nothing other than public humiliation or the next election to correct a wrong call.

While I, for one, no longer can tell just what normative behavior is, ignominy – public shame, humiliation and embarrassment – after someone is elected serves no one well. We need to demand openness and transparency. While it is unlikely we will find the individual without an embarrassment in their past, knowing about it and judging how an individual learned from it must be part of the calculation going into selecting our leaders.

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 Quest for Authenticity by Craig Fuller

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Authenticity was one of George H.W. Bush’s most endearing qualities. I witnessed it daily and admired how someone so competitive and so much in the public view remained determine to be himself.

As individuals announce their intention to seek the presidency, something we should search for is their authenticity. Frankly, I find myself drawn to those who seem authentic and worry less about specific policy pronouncements at this point in time.

So, just what is it?

Carl Jung offered this insight: “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”

And, Psychology Today magazine suggests:

….authentic people possess a number of common characteristics that show they are psychologically mature and fully functioning as human beings.

They…
Have realistic perceptions of reality.
Are accepting of themselves and of other people.
Are thoughtful.
Have a non-hostile sense of humor.
Are able to express their emotions freely and clearly.
Are open to learning from their mistakes.
Understand their motivations.

A very good list!

As I watched California Senator Kamala Harris announce her campaign for the presidency, the focus seemed to be on the size of the crowd. But, I looked ever more closely. She seemed joyous. She seemed to have searched and found who she is and decided she wants to lead the nation for a series of good reasons.

In one rating of experts viewed over the weekend, Senator Harris placed first in the strongest of the newly announced candidates. I think her authenticity, even more than her just beginning to be crafted policies, that gave her a boost. [View recent interview here.]

Then there is the new and youngest Member of Congress from New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who at age 29 is attracting considerable political and media attention. Again, her authenticity seems to be at the heart of what excites people. She may rile Democrats and Republican with her passion to upset the system, but no one can doubt her commitment to improving the future in ways in which she believes deeply. [View recent interview]

So, some might ask, what about the Republican party? Is the authenticity exhibited by Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush something of the past in the GOP? Well, I certainly hope not!

In former Congressman and former Governor, John Kasich, we have an undaunted warrior who seeks to spread his message, one that seems both deeply thought out and believed in. If his authenticity seems to ignite less fervor, perhaps that is due to the fact he has been so public for so long. [View recent interview]

As voters begin to focus (and Iowa Caucuses are only one year away), I believe the search for authenticity grows in importance as candidates are evaluated. Interestingly, over the weekend Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) shared in an interview that he was going to be himself in a quest for the presidency and if half of the voters didn’t like that, then he wouldn’t be President.

Let’s hope the others who run will seek to really share who they are…and, even more importantly, let’s hope they know!

Source: Psychology Today

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.

 

Up River by Craig Fuller

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Ever wonder what boating enthusiasts do when there is snow on the ground? Well, we plan future cruises. And, while getting “there” is always at least half the fun, another goodly percentage goes to the time spent planning.

With this in mind, I recently found myself among some seasoned cruisers who gathered in the middle of winter to discuss where it might be fun cruise this coming boating season. We talked of boats and cruises past and some new, or newly redone, places we want to visit.

Chestertown Marina

Emerging from the intense review of options, I decided that the Ranger Tug and I needed to head up the Chester River to historic Chestertown this year and visit what I knew to be a 300-year-old working port. My focus was such that I decided a drive north to see the new Chestertown Marina would be a strong element in my own cruise planning process.

While I knew the Town was refurbishing the marina, what I discovered was a virtually new and beautiful facility. The transformation since my last visit over a year ago was beyond anything I could have imagined.

Now, any good plan requires some knowledge of the backstory. And, who better to learn from than the mayor of Chestertown, his honor, Chris Cerino, who responded to an email by saying, “just give me a call anytime!”

While the commitment to rebuild the marina was launched before Mayor Cerino took office, this is one elected official who made a promise to see the marina totally redone and it is clearly a promise kept! Having taken office in 2014, he shared with me that “there is not a single square-yard we left untouched.” And, to think that back in 2011 people actually planned to sell the marina to build condos!

It took a good deal of financial finesse along the way. No single grant could fund the project, but a series of grants were applied for that made the initial work possible. Then, to the credit of the community, private donors stepped up to raise money needed to complete the project thanks to their funds and matching monies. By the way, a little help is still needed. [Link: http://chestertownmarina.com/marina-fundraising/ ]

One look at the new marina tells anyone that the good people have Chestertown have given all who enjoy cruising a fine new destination. And, as the mayor happily points out, “a beautiful historic town is a short walk away for all who visit.” There is no doubt that the mayor, along with the local shops and restaurants, welcome visitors.

Surely a number of slips will be leased for the season, but groups of up to 15 or 20 boats should be able to be accommodated, at least this year. And, there is a commitment to work with any captain who wants to spend some time in Chestertown.

So, a bit of snow on the ground will not prevent those who enjoy boating from getting excited about that next cruise….even if it is still several weeks away.

For more information on the Chestertown Marina please go here

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 Johnson Card by Craig Fuller

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A Facebook friend and supporter of President Trump ask me for a comment on a review of President Trump’s accomplishments. The request really got me thinking about the path the country is on with this President and now a divided Congress.

The sense I have and cannot shake is that this really is not likely to end well.

Then, I thought about what might change the path we’re on in a way that works out well for almost everyone.

There is really just one option: President Trump needs to repeat the phrase uttered by a wartime President when Lyndon Johnson said, “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.”

The Johnson Card would be a game changer!

President Trump is kind of a wartime President. There are conflicts around the world to be sure. However, the real war seems to be the one he is waging on Washington with fact-free commentary and virtually no empathy for those impacted by policies formed around the principle of what’s right is what will make President Trump look good.

Proceeding down this path with a certain challenge within his own party, a possible challenge by an independent and then an onslaught of critics from the Democrats, both in Congress and on the campaign trail is fraught with peril for the President. While his base may stay behind him, there is little reason to believe that the base can grow. And, with the wild policy swings bringing volatility to the stock market, not even a strong economy can offset concerns about longer term consequences.

Of course, there is always the wildcard of the Mueller investigation which may or may not change everything.

Here’s the thing, the single best option for the President is to play the Johnson Card. Electing not to seek reelection takes all the energy out of the opposition. It actually opens opportunities for a President, unburdened by any past record or firm philosophy, to work out compromises that will pass the House and the Senate. He actually could get a few things done!

Even though the President’s view is that he has accomplished more than any President in history, his base will be disappointed; but, the secret to the kind of success President Trump seeks is to leave them wanting more. And, he can give it to them! He can have the biggest paid speaking events. He can draw the greatest crowds. He can be the most beloved figure to millions.

What’s not to like?

He won’t have to endure the scrutiny of voters who delivered a remarkable number of Democrats to Congress. He won’t have to joust with the pollsters who want to study every move he makes. And, the media will inevitably and happily move on to the news around who comes next.

Plus, he can get started on raising money for the greatest Presidential Library any President has ever known…I mean, why wait for this kind of stuff.

Best of all, he can get that Tower built while he can still enjoy it in Moscow.

Yes, the Johnson Card is the single best move President Trump can make. It’s one that friend and foe alike would ultimately embrace.

If it makes so much sense, why do I worry it will never happen?

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.

Calling Anyone in the Trump Investigation a Rat is Unfair to Rodents

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Lest we forget the right and appropriate role of military officers, lawyers, senior government officials and others caught up in the various investigations swirling around President Trump, his campaign and then his transition into the presidency, we should remember that honesty and integrity must be and, up until now, have been at the heart of actions by people in high office and those who advise them.

This is not a partisan perspective; this is an observation of individuals who were elected as president and those who supported them over past decades. And, I am certain that my shock about the behaviors that many around Trump engaged in is not unique. While those who serve in the White House have differing philosophies and political views, there are shared values across both parties and several administrations. Each day it becomes increasingly clear that the Trump organization operated in a value- and integrity-free zone.

Understanding what happened is critical to bring an end to such aberrant behavior. Those who seek to govern, prepare to govern and hold public office must operate openly and honestly, and an unwillingness or some genetic inability to do so should sound alarms to the electorate in the future, making such lapses disqualifying in an election.

This brings us to how we should view those who are culpable.

While generally compassionate and understanding, I think those who engaged in a pattern of questionable and possibly illegal behavior and then lied about it publicly (and eventually to federal investigators) deserve the proverbial “perp walk.” Not only are they deserving of the spectacle, the treatment is necessary as a deterrent to others.

It is high time for lawyers to say, “We no longer can represent you.” Or, for aides to say, “We no longer can assist you along a path with which we fundamentally disagree.” And, it is time to understand that whatever fallout these principled actions might cause, it is far less consequential than potentially committing federal crimes.

Of course, all this assumes that the people wrapped up in all of this were operating out of some kind of motivation based on their personal view, however perverse, of public service. However, the increasing problem of sustaining such an assumption is that it does not offer a rationale for conduct by those indicted by and cooperating with federal prosecutors.

Even if the notion of an initiative to improve relations with Russia is the basis for questionable behavior, why try to cover it up with serial misrepresentation? That’s something that was at the heart of what Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn reportedly conveyed to the Russian ambassador when he suggested not responding to the sanctions applied by a sitting U.S. president. Though naïve, there would have been nothing illegal about early outreach to Russia once Trump and his team were in office. Then, their approach and foreign policy initiatives could be supported or opposed on their merits.

If there is a “rat” in the middle of all this, it may well rest with the simultaneous commercial and campaign activities engaged in by senior advisers. Dialogue about hotels, towers and other commercial ventures with Russian representatives is a growing dark cloud. And to the extent people around candidate Trump had their eyes on a very different ball than the election, a rationale for obfuscation after the election begins to crystalize. If the campaign for the highest office in the land was even partially a commercial venture, the motive of the candidate would and should be called into question.

Smart, experienced people have engaged in inexplicable behavior, considering their years of experience. Something caused them to do this — and that something, when we discover it, might better fit the characteristics of a rat.

Craig Fuller served President Ronald Reagan from 1981-85 as assistant to the president and head of the Office of Cabinet Affairs, and then became chief of staff to Vice President George H.W. Bush from 1985-89. He co-chaired President-elect Bush’s transition office and chaired the Republican National Convention in 1992. He then led two major associations and was a consultant in Washington. He now runs his own firm, The Fuller Company.

 

George H.W. Bush: A Lifetime of Commitment to Family and Country by Craig Fuller

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I join with millions who reflect on the life of one of the nation’s most remarkable individuals. His service to country has few parallels. The same can be said of his 73 years of marriage to Barbara Bush.

Vice President Bush and the author at the UN Security Council in July, 1988

As I met him in 1981, it was clear that if the country sought to prepare an individual for the White House, the path George H.W. Bush followed provided the best possible experience. It was also clear the vast experience, when combined with his strong values, brought great judgment

When he asked this Californian, who came to the White House with Ronald Reagan, to become his chief of staff for the second term of the Reagan/Bush Administration it was a bit of a surprise, but also a very high honor. We would travel to over 60 countries and every state in the nation multiple times as he served his second term as vice president and sought to win a presidential election.

Karen and Craig Fuller with George and Barbara Bush – Kennebunkport 2017

Much will be said as people look back about all he accomplished and the significance of the positions he held. For me, the memories that stand out most are of the thousands who called him a trusted friend. It mattered not where we traveled, there were always people, be they world leaders or a person in a New Hampshire diner, who felt the warmth of true friendship.

While a sad time, my thoughts upon hearing the news were of how much he and Barbara Bush wished to end each day together and how on this day that is exactly what will surely come to pass.

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.

 

It’s Tuesday….GIVE! By Craig Fuller

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Don’t know about you, but I got slammed this week from organizations I know well and many I’d never heard of….all with the same message: “Dear Craig….It’s Giving Tuesday so send money.”

Now, I really do believe in making contributions and do so all year long to the organizations, both local and national, that make a difference related to things about which I care.

So, I got curious….who decided that the first Tuesday after Black Friday and Black Monday should be Giving Tuesday?

Figured it must be a charitable organization who slyly calculated that many of us would be so overcome by guilt associated with uncontrolled spending during a long weekend that when Tuesday arrived, we’d give to a cause. Well, it turns out in 2012 that is exactly what the United Nations Foundation figured might happen…but, has it?

For me, the overwhelming number of requests on one day yielded nothing. It just seemed like too much of a gimmick this year. If the “it’s Tuesday, so give plea” from multiple organizations wasn’t enough, Facebook friends (some I’d never heard of) took up the cause and began requesting gifts for their favorite charities….because it was Tuesday.

Maybe it’s time to rethink this UN Foundation initiative.

Here’s the thing…with no small measure of jubilance, it was announced last year that #GivingTuesday had raised $274 million online…the most ever since the concept was launched.

Impressive. But, consider this….in 2017, Americans gave $410 billion to charity. Yes, that is over $1 billion a day, every day of the week. This from the National Philanthropic Trust which also tells us there were just over 1.5 million charitable organizations in the country in 2015.

I’ve always thought that giving is an important part of life. But, it usually involves a relationship between a donor and an organization. The gift of money and time help the organization and just as much or more help the individual who gives to feel good about themselves.

While I certainly would not frown on methods to encourage people to give, I wonder whether an overwhelming onslaught of requests on a Tuesday in late November is working for or against the real need to help others. Placing pure annoyance between great needs and generous donors is a mistake in the view of this donor and fundraiser, and I look forward to responding favorably to thoughtful messages from organizations and people I know and trust, but not because they message me on Tuesday.

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.

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