The Better Side of Columnist George Will

I can’t remember now if the tip came in first to Howie Kurtz  or to me when we were both reporters at The Washington Post. But one of us heard that members of the Reagan Administration were taking part in a nifty little boondoggle that Charles Z. Wick had approved at the United States Information Agency.  Here was the scam. If a high-ranking government employee was willing to drop by the U.S. Embassy when he and his family jetted off to London, Paris, or some other exotic city on vacation, the government would pick up the cost of his airfare. All he had to do was give an hour long “briefing” to embassy employees to qualify for the taxpayer paid ticket.

Wick was furious when we confronted him and during our exchange he blurted out that Reagan staffers were not the only Washingtonians who were getting free airfare courtesy of Uncle Sam.

Journalists were too.

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A Liar, a Murderer and Events that Give Us Pause

Janet Cooke and David Gore

Sometimes events in your life give you pause.  Last week marked two such events for me.  One was from the past and the other was current.

First, the past.

I was hired in 1980 by legendary journalist Bob Woodward at The Washington Post to work on what was unofficially called “The Holy SH*T” squad. We were a young, eager team of reporters who were supposed to write stories that made our readers exclaim “HOLY SH*T” when they picked up their morning newspaper.

It was a great time to work at The Post because the newsroom was run by Ben Bradlee, one of the finest editors in history and a wonderful boss. I also made two life long friends while assigned to the squad:  Mike Sager and Walt Harrington. Walt had an influential career at the Post before leaving to write several critically acclaimed books and become a professor and dean at the University of Illinois. Mike works today as one of the nation’s top magazine reporters on staff at ESQUIRE and also has authored several highly reviewed books. Both are skilled writers.

Mike and I were reporters on the squad, Walt was an editor, but the most infamous reporter was Janet Cooke, a beautiful, talented and determined writer who wanted desperately to get promoted to either the national or foreign staffs, which were considered the ultimate jobs at the paper.  Some of you might remember what happened next.

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Russ Lemmon: Hero For Victims’ Families

(Click  on picture above to see video)

Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers columnist Russ Lemmon wasn’t looking for a crusade to lead two years ago when he happened upon a memorial notice in the newspaper placed by a grieving mother named Jeanne Elliott.

But when he telephoned her to ask about the tribute in honor of her deceased daughter, the veteran writer not only found a compelling story, but also a cause to champion.

Carl Elliott Jr., and Jeanne Elliott told Lemmon that their 17 year old daughter, Lynn, had been abducted, raped and murdered by Florida Serial Killer David Gore.  She was one of his six victims, all of whom suffered horrible deaths. Only one brave girl, who was only 14 years old at the time,  survived after he abducted her.

Lemmon began tracking down other family members. He listened to their stories and, more importantly, he began writing a series of columns about them. He became especially close to the Elliotts. 

Gore had been sentenced to death nearly thirty years ago, but no one seemed to care.

Why? Lemmon asked. 

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My Juneau Alaska Experience

I flew to Alaska last week at the invitation of the Juneau chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and spent four days giving speeches and meeting with public officials and mental health advocates. Going to Alaska checked-off one more state on my advocacy list. I have now spoken in every state except for Mississippi, Arkansas and Hawaii.
Of course, saying that I saw Alaska because I visited Juneau is a bit like saying that I saw the entire lower 48 states because I spent a week in Boston. Geography has never been one of my strong suits. Even so, I always knew Alaska was huge.  You really don’t have any idea how massive or beautiful it is, however, until you see — even small parts of – it.
My hostesses, NAMI Juneau Executive Director Kathryn “Katie” Chapman and community activist Sharon Gaiptman, kept me running. Literally. I was interviewed on four radio shows and by local newspaper reporter Amanda Compton. I gave five speeches in a four day period. I met with local and state mental health officials at a private dinner with the NAMI board and was able to chat with Walter L. Carpeneti, the chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court.  In addition, I met with District Court Judge Keith Levy who is launching a Mental Health Court in Juneau. Whew!

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My Father’s Fall: A Reminder of What’s Important

My father fell recently. I was out-of-town so Patti rushed him to an emergency room. Fortunately, he  hadn’t broken anything, but it turns out that a bone bruise is equally as painful as a broken bone. It takes time to heal, especially when you are 91 years old.

Doctors think he fell because he got out of his favorite living room chair too quickly. This caused him to black out. He insists that he was only unconscious for a few seconds. My mother says it was several terrifying minutes.

My father is from the “old school.” Even today when we go to lunch, he insists on paying the check. He is a loving and kind father, but he has always been a tough taskmaster. He expected his three children when they were young to do what he asked without question.

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Wearing Two Hats in Vero Beach, One Comfortable, One Not

With tears in his eyes and his voice showing emotion, Carl Elliott Jr., told me last week that he hoped my book, The Serial Killer Whisperer, would finally be enough to get Florida’s governor to schedule the execution of serial killer David Gore. 

Gore abducted, raped, and murdered Elliott’s daughter, Lynn, age 17, in Vero Beach. He has been on death row for nearly thirty years. 

I certainly did not write my book to prompt the death of anyone, including Gore. But my book has re-ignited interest in his case and is stirring strong emotions in Vero Beach.

The book describes the plight of Tony Ciaglia, who was hit in the skull by a speeding jet ski when he was 15 years old. He died three times en route to the hospital but was revived. After several weeks in a coma, Ciaglia awoke much different from the carefree, happy, and popular teen he had been. Filled with rage, often uncontrollable, and suffering from damage to the front lobe of his brain, Ciaglia spent much of the next several years under a self-imposed house arrest.  At times, he was suicidal. Bored and aimless, he needed a hobby and by chance he began writing serial killers. His psychiatric problems mimicked those of the killers and he was able to befriend many of them and get them to share their inner-most thoughts with him. Today, he tries to help the police with his ability to communicate with killers.

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