People Have to Know by Craig Fuller

“People have got to know….”

Up until now, President Richard Nixon’s statement stands as a kind of a low bar on the presidential trust and respect meter. You’ll remember the full quote I’m sure:

“People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook. I’ve earned everything I’ve got.”

I wanted a few days to pass to reflect on this new book out about the Trump White House. I also wanted to read Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside The Trump White House. Well, with the passage of a few days, the impact, at least on me, just grows more troublesome. And, a new bar seems to have been set with the Presidential declaration attesting to being a self-described “…stable genius.” Every time it’s repeated I hear the unspoken phrase, “People have got to know whether or not their President is nuts.”

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, the fact that we have a President who feels compelled to address this issue just a few days short of his first year in office is politically breathtaking. But, what to me is the most extraordinary takeaway from the book is that the President’s own family and staff have created a montage that begs a question like this and a required a direct response to and an all-out concerted attack on the book and its author.

It should be said of this book that it will not go down as an example of high journalistic standards. It is not clear that commentary from one source was actually corroborated with others in a given meeting. But, what must be acknowledged is that all of the major players inside the White House spent some time with an author who invested months listening and probing his sources to gain insights into the internal operations of a White House. Those sources held all the cards. They could have shared stories of sensitive and inspired leadership. That is seemingly decidedly not something even one source tried to advance.

This is certainly not the first nor will it be the last White House filled with highly competitive people. However, individuals with little or no experience for governing seemed not to have turned to their better selves for guidance. They seemed to have elected to engage in a systematic pattern of behavior designed to tear apart their colleagues with the thought that ridding the White House of competing voices would smooth the decision-making process. Oh, along the way, at least initially, there seemed to be no decision making process.

While a President, like the leader of any organization, sets the tone and bears responsibility for the conduct of his team, among a number of concerns described in the book, President Trump seems to have set up a structure incapable of withstanding the pressures of the Presidency.

A book written from contemporaneous notes and interviews conducted over several months cannot just be dismissed. While changes have occurred since the interview process concluded, the damage done by this peeling back of the onion will be long-lasting. How do colleagues trust colleagues? How do current insiders react to anyone taking notes on conversations? What other books will be spawned by this one where another author seeks to outdo this first offering of a look behind the scenes at the White House? Can any future “look inside” fail to focus on dysfunction?

Again, no matter where you fall on the spectrum of viewing the current Administration favorably or unfavorably, we should all pause and reflect on what this book reveals not just about the President but also by those closest to him. Can they advance legislation? Can they manage a crisis? Will they fumble into trouble at home and abroad?

Sadly, my take away is that any and all of these worrisome possibilities are more real now at the end of year one of Trump’s Presidency.

What, in my view, we, the people, have got to know is whether this will get better, for all of our sakes!

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.

Scenarios for 2018 by Craig Fuller

Time for predictions. But, how often are they accurate?

The weekend shows were full of pundits offering predictions, but how useful are they for planning our future?

The discussions caused me to reflect on something I learned about long ago from a large global corporation that found the best way to prepare for events in the future was decidedly NOT to try and predict the future. Rather, they examined the major factors that would influence the future and developed scenarios.

Of course, books have been written about scenario planning, but for me, it has always meant charting alternative paths forward based on assumptions one makes around key factors shaping our society. Sounds simple and it comes with one important advantage – if you pay attention to what happens with the key factors you considered at the start, over time you will refine your thinking about the most likely scenario. The company – Shell – that really focused on this, wanted to make sure they were ready for all of the most likely scenarios that could affect their business, then they watched over time to refine what they determined to be the most likely situations they would confront during a planning period.

With so many variables in today’s world, the chance of a single prediction being correct in twelve months seems slim. So, maybe looking at key factors and developing a few scenarios might be useful.

This can be a participatory process where you get to decide the factors to look at and which ones are most important. You also get to decide the movement or direction of change most likely to be encountered.

Here are mine:

The economy – we are still in recovery. In fact, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, we’re entering the 102nd month of economic recovery. The average post-World War II recovery has lasted 58 months! So, will the economy continue to strengthen, or will it begin to decline?

The political climate – many of us around Washington will say we have never seen it this bad, but there are many around the country who suggest it is about time we shake things up. So, will the President work more collaboratively with Congress, or continue on the path he established during this first year in office?

Congress – while holding their approval scores well below the President’s own record low scores, the Congress did manage to pass a Tax Reform measure. Will this action to advance a legislative priority show them the way forward and should we expect a more productive legislative agenda in 2018?

Engagement – in off-year election cycles where there is not a presidential race, voter turnout is generally lower, and the election is usually viewed as a referendum on the incumbent President with the party out of power normally picking up some seats in the House and, at times, the Senate. Just over a year ago, about 1/3rd of registered voters voted for President Trump, and 1/3rd voted for his opponent, Hillary Clinton. There was 1/3rd of eligible voters who did not vote. In this upcoming election, the question is who will be more motivated to send a message…those who voted for President Trump or those who voted against him or not at all?

International conflict – sadly, we’ve grown all too accustomed to world conflict involving Americans. There seems to be an almost growing acceptance that this is the way it will be. That said, a dramatic rise in tensions where Americans are involved would most likely cause strong reactions at home and abroad. Perhaps the most important question is whether we come out of any serious event stronger or weaker than when we entered. In the context of our scenario planning, what is more likely – do we see our nation as stronger or weaker at the end of 2018?

What-Matters-Most Factor – I keep observing more and more people who seek and find relevant and meaningful activities in more and more creative ways. Time was when, if you had a passion for flying, it was hard to have time for boating and camping. But, now there are places where you can do “all of the above.” And, if travel is a challenge, you can go online and participate in thousands of forums for just about every and any interest someone could have. And, in communities, the churches, museums, schools and community centers offer programs that are of interest to more and more people. Maybe it’s the holidays or living in a smaller community, but family, friends and neighbors, just seem more important than the national media and our nation’s elected officials to many more people. So, when you think about the future, do you think that family and local concerns along with personal interests are going to matter more or less as we go forward?

Well, we could come up with more factors if we wished, but this should get us started on some scenarios.

Here’s my take….

The high expectations for current leadership scenario – this requires one to believe we can keep an already historically long period of economic growth going through 2018 and actually, we don’t really break the record until 2019. You would need, I think, to see a bit more collaboration between the President and Congress and even among the leadership in Congress to advance a national agenda. And, if the President and Republican party are to avoid a major political upset, more than a third of the voters are going to have to be motivated to turn out to vote for Trump-backed Republicans. Retaining control of Congress is pretty fundamental to having the ability to advance the agenda set by Trump through his first term. All of the above would be threatened by a major international upheaval; thus, I think this scenario requires the acceptance of tensions without the occurrence of a calamity. Lastly, if people are turning more inward, the leaders in Washington are going to have to look and sound relevant to more Americans.

The expectation of major change scenario – while seldom things are as good as some would wish or as bad as some see them, there are serious factors that could lead to a very difficult 2018. First, the economy could finally falter. A major stock market reset or crash would sharply change people’s expectation for continued prosperity. A more collaborative President seems less likely and the combative relationship with Congress seems more likely in an expectation of change scenario. It could also be argued that the leaders in Congress have less reason to get along and more reason to try and fight out their differences in the November elections, yielding little legislative activity for the year. A power shift in the House of Representatives and/or the United States Senate would send shock waves through the body politic. These changes actually sweep far more people out and then new ones in than the change of leadership at the White House. With or without a change, post-November 2018 will mark a point of major positioning for the next national election in 2020 making it very difficult to advance new initiatives. Voters seeking and getting a change in 2018 will arguably be highly motivated to continue the sweep right through 2020.

Is there a scenario in between? Well, there is, but as they say, “it’s complicated.” The economy and stock markets seem to have adjusted to the vagaries of Washington, thus insulating economic growth from some of the political machinations. And, consumers seem to remain optimistic which bodes well for economic growth, or at least not a serious downturn. While political upheaval feels very possible, it would be wrong to dismiss the angst many in the nation have for the ways of Washington. While even supporters may take exception with the way the President goes about governing, they remain perplexed that those holding national elected office just do not understand the voters’ concerns. Betting that some kind of legislative deadlock will turn out well for anyone seems foolish.

So, which path looks plausible. For me, as we enter 2018, it is one of slow economic expansion and greater antipathy towards policy makers in Washington. It’s a path where party politics in Washington will grow less relevant to more voters who will in turn hand a President an even smaller governing majority than he has now within the Republican party. Throughout this, I do believe people will look more inward and more locally for meaningful and fulfilling engagements. Whether the future then brings disengagement or a renaissance of sorts will be something to examine a year from now.

Watch the signals along the way to see if your favored scenario is becoming more likely or less likely!

Above all, have a Happy and Healthy New Year!!

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.

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.

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.