Tuesday’s Blue Wave by Craig Fuller

The pundits will parse and analyze every aspect of this week’s election, especially in our neighboring state of Virginia. There, Democrats from the top of the ticket through state legislative races were swept into office.

While it’s stating the obvious, voters made the difference!

When all the ads were over, and all the rhetoric was set aside, the most remarkable fact about the Virginia election was that the turnout for this gubernatorial election was the highest in 20 years. While both sides brought out more voters, the Democrats in large population areas came out in larger numbers.

With a President who received just under 50% of the popular vote in his own election last year that produced a smaller voter turnout (under 60%) than recent national elections, the message of yesterday seems loud and clear: The White House faces the immediate future without a true governing majority and the likelihood of significant change in the balance of Congress in next year’s elections just increased considerably.

Will this change the way the President approaches his choices going forward? Who knows?

It will inevitably cause current Members of Congress and their prospective challengers to reevaluate their options. Some in Congress may simply decide it is time to retire. The reality today suggests that high voter turnout in November 2018 could turn yesterday’s Blue Wave into next year’s Tsunami unless voters see less divisiveness and more results in Washington.

At least this is my soundbite on the week’s elections.

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.

Respect by Craig Fuller

”Every human being, of whatever origin, of whatever station, deserves respect. We must each respect others even as we respect ourselves.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

The sensory assault continues on our sensibilities with workplace harassment stories involving abusive behavior as well as the ongoing drumbeat of chicanery now leading to indictments and confessions of criminal conduct. Buffeted by these stories, an epiphany occurred that our nation is in serious need of a respect infusion!

My search for better understanding of respect lead me to the Emerson quote. It also lead me to a very fine book about respect by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot. She traces the respect shown by some of the most compassionate people you will find on the planet and uses her journey to enlighten the reader about how respect for others affects lives.

I’ve long thought that the degree to which an individual respects others relates directly to early family experiences. My parents definitely instilled this important value in our family. Certainly, there are people now deeply respectful of others who came to embrace this value without the benefit of being raised to appreciate its importance.

Which leads to a question: If respect for others really could make a difference in the way we lead our lives, how do we infuse this value more successfully into our culture?

Importantly, the stories in the headlines reflect only a small fraction of leaders in business and government. And, many of our leaders accept and embrace the value in their own leadership roles. In fact, I found this take on “respect” from a leading figure in Hollywood, Jeffrey Katzenberg:

“By definition if there’s leadership, it means there are followers, and you’re only as good as the followers,” Katzenberg said. “I believe the quality of the followers is in direct correlation to the respect you hold them in. It’s not how much they respect you that is most important. It’s actually how much you respect them. It’s everything.”

So, we should not let the actions of a few cast a cloud on the many. Still, we can and should do better. The recent stories have caused people to reflect on what some call “awkward situations” they have been placed in during their careers. Some feel powerless to take actions, and others walk away; however, these actions will not aid in changing the culture and enhancing the value of respect.

The truth is, if we want more emphasis placed on respect across the board from the workplace to how people lead their daily lives interacting with others, we need a concerted and conscious effort.

There are some interesting ways of going about this these days. Uber, as all users know, allows riders to rate drivers. What not as many people know is that drivers rate their passengers, too. I suspect disrespectful behavior gets you a low score.

What if the same was adopted by OpenTable where millions of reservations are made at restaurants? What if a restauranteur was tipped off to diners who show great respect to wait staff? Would that begin to shape behavior?

Performance evaluations are given to all level of executives and employees today. Why not inquire about whether the people working in a company feel respected by their leadership? Shouldn’t a board of directors be interested in knowing this? In fact, when hiring someone, would it not be useful to have some kind of “respect score” considered in an evaluation.

I really do not know why some people dining in a restaurant use phrases including “please” and “thank you,” while others favor “get me” or “I want it now.” While either approach works, one clearly makes for a better experience.

And, maybe here lies an important clue we should pay attention to on a larger scale. If disrespectful behavior works for too many people, we may get more of that kind of bad behavior.

I’d like to take a stand IN FAVOR of respectful behaviors and it may take finding more creative ways to reward this kind of desired and thoughtful approach if we are going to reduce unacceptable, disrespectful behaviors.

Thanks for reading these thoughts!

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.

Fire: So Unrelenting by Craig Fuller

Anguish and heartbreak descend upon those caught in natural disasters. To be sure, they have visited too many, too often this year. There is no hierarchy when it comes to anguish and heartbreak, no one disaster worse or less severe than the next. There is only anguish and heartbreak.

I comment on the tragedy surrounding the fires in California perhaps because they impact me more directly.

I am from California.

I have made frequent visits to the California wine country since 1971.

I have family and friends living in the Napa and Sonoma areas.

I have lost a house to a fire.

Oh, and I was there when these fires started last Sunday night.

We just finished dinner during our fourth and final night of a tour through the Napa Valley as part of a celebration of a good friend’s birthday. I had a camera with me and a member of the wait staff suggested I go outside and take a picture of the fires. It was 10:00 PM local time in Yountville, California with 50 mile per hour winds wiping the fire across the ridge of nearby mountains. Twelve hours later we would be airborne in our aircraft headed back home, but those twelve hours were long and draining.

While never in imminent danger, the uncertainty as one fire became two and then six was stressful, to say the least. Power failed at one of the Napa Valley’s finest hotels. The hotel had generators, but soon they failed. Cellphone service began to fail in what a day or so later we learned was failure caused by the destruction from the fire of over 80 cellphone towers.

Inexplicably, through most of the early morning hours on Monday, the internet worked and I found a site to monitor fire emergency radio transmissions. However, being informed didn’t reduce anxiety as repeatedly dispatchers would say, “…we have no resources to send to that address.” And, this was when “that address” had been reported as a structure on fire.

While lacking resources, the first responders never lost their cool professionalism. Dispatchers guided firefighters to where they were needed most. They reminded that the first priority was protecting the lives of citizens and their own lives.

Sitting in the middle of the Napa Valley proved to be the safest place to be. At one point, there were some 30 fires reported. When we departed and even as I write this many of the fires have containment defined as “zero.” The anguish and heartbreak continue!

As bad as the reports look some three days after the fires started, it will get worse. Probably, it will get much worse.

Fire simply destroys everything in its path. It came suddenly upon the Valley. It was dark. People were asleep. There were no “forecasts” warning of tides or rainfalls. Fire just lit up the sky and overran everything in its path.

Anyone who spends time with the winemaking community in the Napa and Sonoma areas knows of their total commitment to caring for the earth, the crops, the harvest and for each other. These communities are filled with some of the finest people I’ve ever met. I am certain they will band together and rebuild even though there will be a long and painful process ahead.

While our group of ten people are safely back on this side of the country and for that we are very grateful, our hearts and prayers are with old friends and new as they face the challenges of the future.

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.

Proud Moments by Craig Fuller

I think we all have them. Some are widely shared. Some are very unique.

I’m fully prepared to acknowledge that in the unique category are those proud moments that occur in public service at the White House. And, mind you, I said “unique” not better or more important.

They are unique because of the roughly 326 million people now living in the United States, only a tiny percentage have an inclination to serve in the White House and only a fraction of those ever receive the opportunity.

Several days ago, I confess to spending a good deal of time in reflection about proud moments shared with President George H.W. Bush. The occasion was a meeting of the Bush Library Foundation Board of Trustees. I was asked to serve in the 1990s as the former chief of staff to Vice President Bush. The group hadn’t actually met in a number of years and out of the blue came an invitation to Kennebunkport, Maine for a meeting and a reception with President and Mrs. Bush.

Perhaps because I have not visited their wonderful home in Kennebunkport for a few years; or, perhaps due to the tribulations in Washington that seem almost debilitating; but, whatever it was, the occasion brought some of the best of times rushing back.

We’d traveled to over 60 countries together. And, we managed to build a campaign effort that proved successful with his election in November 1988.

It wasn’t so much a sense that somehow we’d changed history…of course, we certainly made some. And, there wasn’t some focus on big decisions. It really was more a sense of pride in time spent helping a person in whom I believed so much become President. Along that path there were many proud moments.

I came away from the weekend mindful of how important it is not to take for granted the proud moments all of us experience in whatever circumstance they may arrive. Family certainly provides many. Professional opportunities provide them. Helping others brings a sense of pride and self-worth that has been the focus of many a study.

Wherever you may be and whatever the activities in which you engage, do take the time to pause and appreciate the proud moments in life.

If there was any downside to these proud moment reflections, it went to the notion that in this White House so many must be working so hard; yet, I can’t help but think they will be denied the proud moments the many who have gone before them experienced. That is a shame. But, maybe the message here is that proud moments are too important to endanger with adverse circumstances. Paying attention to the environment in which one places themselves and the available opportunities for taking pride in one’s achievements is important; and, a paucity of proud moments is not to be taken for granted – at least that’s what I’d tell anyone currently working at The White House should they ask.

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.

Grass: Cut vs. Hire by Craig Fuller

Several days ago, a person I was riding next to in a golf cart noticed how the grass was growing and commented that such rapid growth was sure good for the people who cut grass. I thought to myself, that would be me, but it wasn’t what was meant, of course.

It caused me to reflect on the reality that there are those of us who cut our grass and those who hire someone to do same. Not that one is right or wrong, better or worse….it’s just a different point of view. And, I wondered why.

President Reagan Clears Brush

Many years ago, I attended a small luncheon at a fairly exclusive club in San Francisco with David Packard of Hewlett-Packard. He was a man of great stature and when he entered the room and sat down, all eyes went to the horrible knot with a crusty scab on his forehead. Noticing our collective reaction, he said, “…oh, yeah, a big rock flew up from under my tractor last weekend and hit me right in the forehead.” Seems weekend work on a tractor for this giant of the technology industry of the day was a favorite pastime.

Years later, working for and traveling with President Ronald Reagan to his ranch near Santa Barbara, I came to appreciate how important it was to the leader of the free world to go out on his ranch and clear brush. We could travel to his ranch and brief him on some of the world’s most perilous circumstances in the morning, as long as we moved along so he could go to work removing all manner of dead wood and plant growth before the sun went down.

Growing up and throughout my adult life, I confess to finding any number of reasons to avoid yard work. Allergies became the common rationale for avoiding the work. Of course, the allergy was more directly related to the work than to the grass.

Which brings me to the Eastern Shore.

I’m not sure whether it was the influence of Packard or Reagan or both, but when we settled into our wonderful place on Trippe Creek with a generous portion of lawn and with more time, I decided that I’d cut my own grass. This decision lead me to Atlantic Tractor in New Market where I quickly learned that a small discount tractor just would not do. It was good advice and Atlantic’s service and support have been superb even though my John Deere x380 has been virtually trouble free through nearly 170 hours of operation.

I immediately learned how much I liked every aspect of this work. I enjoy getting the tractor fueled and ready to go to work. I like carefully covering every square inch of our acreage and marvel with satisfaction when every blade of grass sits at precisely the same height. After nearly 3 hours, I am dusty, dirty, thirsty and immensely satisfied!

At this point, there are no small number of you saying, “this is nuts!” My wife calls it crazy…but, she does like the fact that the lawn has never looked better!

The neighbors go by and wave. Some choose to cut their lawns and others hire one of the very capable teams of professionals we have in the area. By the way, the professionals wave every bit as much as the neighbors….it’s a bond of sorts. Only a few people tell me they would never cut their own lawn. However, several who I’ve seen cutting their own lawn share privately how much they, too, enjoy it.

And, so it goes. In an era when it seems so much divides us, those who cut and those who hire manage to happily coexist throughout Kent and Talbot Counties proving you can be different but neighborly at the same time!

Lastly, I’m curious. Where do you fall? If you click below on “cut” or “hire” you can share why you fall into the camp you’ve chosen. I’ll share the results when the votes are in.

Take the CUT or HIRE Survey 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 American Spirit after Harvey by Craig Fuller

Like most people, I watched the tragedy in Texas unfold hour by hour. For me, the scenes were made more horrific because of the many times I have been in Houston and the people I’ve come to know there. Seeing familiar streets flooded with only boat traffic moving among people and debris was difficult to watch.

As the drama played out, stories of individual heroism began to emerge. People traveled into the area with boats to effect rescues, risking their own lives to save people they were meeting for the first time.

The image of “the Cajun Navy” showed us all how people who have been impacted by floods stand ready to help those in neighboring states.

No doubt, the recovery will be long and challenging. But, against all odds, lives were saved and recovery becomes a reality thanks to something we all recognize: the American Spirit!

Having endured a difficult year with far too much drama coming out of Washington, watching those in Texas cope and overcome the worst natural disaster any have seen was a reminder that the American Spirit rises above even the worst of times.

It took me back 25 years ago when the National Republican Party Convention convened in Houston. Honored by President George H.W. Bush to lead the Convention, when we searched for a theme for the event, the theme selected was The American Spirit.

Our intention was to bring the country together as thousands gathered in Houston 25 years ago and as we celebrated the American Spirit then, we should celebrate it even more today….perhaps, because we need the American Spirit even more today!

Maybe, just maybe, the events of August can drive the nation’s leaders to find their “better selves.” As we entered September, Senator John McCain wrote an open letter to his colleagues outlining the work awaiting them as they return to Washington. He concluded suggesting there are many opportunities “…to show that ordinary, decent, free people can govern competently, respectfully and humbly, and to prove the value of the United States Congress to the great nation we serve.”

Let’s hope Senator McCain’s colleagues take this message to heart and reach within themselves to bring some of the American Spirit to the tasks at hand. 
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.

Joy and Certainty by Craig Fuller

Seems like the certainty of experiencing a joyful moment has been in short supply in recent months. Perhaps this explains why so many of us were moved as we experienced the total solar eclipse this week.

While many experienced it in groups and crowds (the NEW YORK TIMES captured some great examples)  others watched with a few friends and family. Our choice was to travel to the Tred Avon River, anchor and enjoy lunch while experiencing the eclipse over about two hours. Yes, my wife and I had the special glasses and watching was part of the experience. But, so was feeling the breeze cool and the river gets a little darker.

The whole event was more moving than I expected and more of a national experience based on the extensive news coverage than I would have imagined.

As I thought about this, it struck me that thanks to science we had been told what would happen, when it would happen and where it would happen. And, it happened just the way we’d been told. And, that simply no longer happens very often!

Then, there was a pull to actually go experience it. This was a case where just watching on television was not going to be sufficient. So, people flew and drove to areas where the eclipse would be total and we marveled at how the last time people stood (or, in our case floated) and shared the experience was in 1918.

All of these factors combined to make a moment simply joyful. Whether watching alone or amidst hundreds, even thousands, a joyful moment moved millions to smile, cheer and, I suspect, reflect on a few universal thoughts.

As we returned, my thoughts went to how in these very uncertain times one still finds certainty and joyful moments are available to be cherished. Whether dining with friends or a loved one; or, enjoying the greeting you get from a dog when you enter the house; or, just watching a sunrise or sunset here in Talbot County, these moments are certain to bring a measure of joy. I pledged to myself to be more mindful about seeing the joy in each day if only to provide more balance to the chaos and uncertainty that visits us.

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

A Defining Moment by Craig Fuller

In life, there are defining moments. At their best, they may be acts of heroism, selflessness or extraordinary kindness. At worst, they are acts or phrases that simply sear the national psyche and are never or not soon forgotten.

For people in public life, defining moments can literally make them or break them. In a campaign, a candidate and his or her team only hope that if a favorable defining moment comes they will be smart enough and fast enough to take full advantage of it. And, countless hours are spent seeking to avoid the moment that negates much of the good one might otherwise have done.

Consider these brief excerpts and you get the picture:

“Ask not what your country can do for you….”

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall…”

“I am not a crook.”

“Read my lips….”

This August will long be remembered as a time that provided a defining moment for President Trump. Every armchair quarterback can judge just what the moment meant; however, what is clear is that Mr. Trump sought the opportunity to speak his mind on the tragic events in Charlottesville. He found the moment in the lobby of Trump Tower. He spoke and most were outraged with his message and even his usual defenders were silenced.

It was a defining moment that provided instant reaction followed by some strong moral action.

Within a few days, a group as unlikely as the chief executive of Walmart, an individual leading more than 2 million employees who see 100,000,000 customers a week in their stores along with the members of the nation’s Joint Chiefs of Staff who lead America’s military were separating themselves from the views expressed by President Trump. Presidential advisory committees were shut down ahead of all their distinguished members resigning. These were not hastily made political statements. These were carefully considered expressions that took the moral high ground.

Now, we should ask, just how do we move on?

Will this President ever travel without protests?

Will we ever listen to a Presidential speech read from the teleprompter without wanting to wait a few days for the “real views” to emerge?

Can congressional leaders be persuaded by a presidential call for action on important legislation?

Can the American people be moved by Presidential proclamation?

If political leaders ask the nation to move forward to advance an agenda, will anyone really follow?

The defining moment that came days ago has weakened the presidency. About this, I am certain. The critical issues that need to be addressed in Washington in the weeks ahead are the same: health care, national security, the budget, infrastructure, the debt ceiling, tax reform and a serious drug crisis to name a few. Now, only with strong legislative initiative and bipartisanship in our nation’s Capitol will these issues advance. Whether today’s Congress is up to this task is unclear, but even they must know, regardless of party, that in August President Trump managed, at least for a time, to achieve a kind of lame duck status only seven months into his term as president making their obligations all the greater.

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.

Paucity of Veracity in Washington Could Impact Easton Airport by Craig Fuller

These days in Washington, what troubles me is not so much what people tell you that’s false, it’s what they fail to tell you that’s true. And, I’m not talking about statements dictated on Air Force One!

The privatization of the nation’s air traffic control system is set for debate when Congress returns next month. There are strongly held views on both sides. The debate features airline CEOs, President Trump and the chairman of the House Committee on Transportation, Bill Shuster, on one side, favoring privatization while the general and business aviation community leads the opposition.

Does it really matter? Well, interestingly enough, the mayors of over 115 cities located in all 50 states are saying it matters to their communities and they oppose privatizing our nation’s air traffic control system – including Easton’s Mayor Robert Willey.

It matters because there are about 5,000 public use airports in the US. The airlines use about 10% of those. But, all of the airports represent real or potential economic hubs for communities. And, in places like Easton, the air traffic control tower is operated for the federal government by a private company. This and a few hundred other “contract towers” could be on the chopping block if a private company determined how best to spend resources across the country, especially if the company’s board was dominated by airline interests.

Because the airlines are so resolute in their effort to remove the air traffic control system from the federal government, plenty of people in the aviation community are very worried. Would these towers survive? Would access to the airspace be assured? How would issues involving fees be resolved if Congress is removed from the equation? Finally, wouldn’t a huge organization upheaval set back the comprehensive modernization effort now underway?

These questions are not easily answered….in fact, they are not really even being addressed. The proponents merely assert that privatizing the air traffic control system is the only way to advance modernization. They suggest we are falling behind with equipment based on World War II technology.

Of course, it is based on World War II technology….and, so are our most modern aircraft today.

It’s what the proponents don’t tell you that has me perplexed.

They don’t tell you that this World War II thing called radar has been modernized and “lives” very much in a digital world. The so-called “blip” the controller sees is generated by modern technology.

They complain about things being old, but they don’t tell you that their exciting “new” proposal to privatize air traffic control has been around for more than three decades and has never been approved by Congress.

They suggest Canada has modern features like electronic flight strips that controllers use, but they don’t tell you that the aviation community – including airline executives – working on priorities for air traffic control never made electronic strips a priority. And, they don’t tell you that in Canada, these electronic strips are part of a billing system that charges aircraft by their weight and distance flown.

They suggest that the airlines really would benefit by having more control over modernization, but they don’t tell you that airline CEOs have lead the FAA-created NextGen Advisory Committee since its inception and well over 100 airline executives participate in the Committee’s work.

They suggest that a more modernized system would greatly reduce frustrating delays. But, they don’t tell you that over 80% of air traffic delays are caused by the weather and most of the others are due to airline related issues.

Perhaps what is most galling is that when Members of Congress go to the White House for a “briefing” by the National Economic Policy Council staff, they are told the only way to provide stable funding and modernization going forward is to privatize, yet these White House briefers are sitting on a detailed study commissioned by the FAA that outlines just how Congress could make changes that would provide the necessary funding flexibility, even borrowing authority to advance the modernization process.

Finally, while some in Congress and the Administration suggest the current system is seriously flawed – one organization used the term “dysfunctional” – a study requested by the Congress and conducted by the Government Accountability Office provides a very thorough and complete picture of real progress on the modernization of our air traffic management system by the FAA over the past several years. Since this didn’t fit the narrative of disarray some in Congress were trying to create, they buried the study by requesting more and more information. But, that information has now been incorporated. I understand that the conclusions are the same. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee should call for the publication of the study immediately so that the current reality can actually be considered as a decades old proposal is debated.

The veracity deficiency in Washington not only deteriorates the political discourse, it also adversely affects critical policy discussions.

Today, the United States has the safest, most efficient, complex and largest air transportation system in the world. Thousands of people deserve credit for operating this system every day and also deserve credit for focusing on the modernization of the system with new technology.

I do not believe the case has been made for privatization. More importantly, I do not believe that all of the cards have yet been put on the table to inform the debate. It is in Talbot County’s interest and it is in the nation’s interest to see that judgements are made based on the facts…all the facts!

Craig Fuller was the assistant to President Reagan for cabinet affairs and chief of staff to Vice President George H.W. Bush. Following eight years in the White House, he lead public affairs firms and two large associations. He now resides in Easton with Karen Fuller where where he provides strategic counsel to aviation organizations. His interests include writing, photography, boating and raising the family’s Weimaraner.