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.

Letters to Editor

  1. stephen slack says:

    This is getting old. Time to move on.

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