Island Issues

Famed Local Pundit Shares His Eye Witness Accounts Of American Politics In New Book

Famed Local Pundit Shares His Eye Witness Accounts Of American Politics In New Book

Amelia Island resident Neal B. Freeman’s new Book “Skirmishes” is one that I defy readers to pick up, open to any page, and stop reading. The book is broken down into six subject chapters, each rich with this fascinating man’s insight, wit, eye-witness historical perspective, thought-provoking commentary, and more.

The 320-page tome consists of Mr. Freeman’s riveting commentary, columns, speeches, essays, humor, and thoughts, in a breezy literary style he has been sharing with the American public for more than  50 years.

Neal Freeman is not only one of America’s most impressive conservative commentators, but one who was present at the creation of modern conservatism. If you have progressive tendencies don’t let his credentials frighten you away, as no matter your political persuasion, there’ s much to be gained from this extraordinary gentleman’s insights and first-hand historical observations. Hey, this guy’s wit and ability to entertainingly describe American politics are just too much fun to pass up because of ideology.

Mr. Freeman is the writer we all wish we were, particularly when you come across a phrase like this one describing former Florida Governor Charlie Crist’s jump from Republican to independent to Democrat: “Democrats across the state have welcomed the former governor with all the enthusiasm reserved for the news that your mother-in-law has just arrived, not for a nice long visit. There she is on the front porch, not clutching a bouquet for the dining table but flanked by two bulging suitcases.”

Neal B. Freeman

His credentials are impressive indeed. He worked side-by-side with the late William F. Buckley for many years, acting as a director of National Review for 38 years; served as that magazine’s Washington editor from 1978-1981; instigated WFB’s notorious TV show Firing Line; produced more than 1,000 nationally televised shows; was an executive with the Hearst Corporation; wrote for The American Spectator, The Weekly Standard, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Forbes, among others; founded a chain of weekly newspapers; and was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as Director of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. He has won a variety of awards for journalistic excellence, including the George Foster Peabody Award, the Emmy and, for three consecutive years, the documentary medal of the International Film and Television Festival. He has also produced more than one hundred Presidential television appearances from the White House. He is currently chairman of The Blackwell Corporation, an advisory firm that serves clients in the communications. defense and wealth management businesses. His son, James Freeman, is assistant editor of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page.

His book, released in September, provides illuminating and unknown — at least to me — nuggets covering everything from behind the scenes peeks at WFB’s Firing Line (the longest running TV show with a single host in the history of TV 1966-1999), a candid no-holds barred piece: “What Trump and Trumpism Really Mean”, a hilarious look at the NFL, and even an argument against ever having the Olympics run by a totalitarian government again like the ones in 1936 Nazi Germany. And there is more, much, much more.

Following are a few enlightening excerpts:

On the NFL following the NY Giants 2012 20-17 Super Bowl win over New England: “Football is an atavistically binary game. There is, at the end of every contest a winner and a loser. That’s it. No runner-up, no armful of plaques for most improved or best effort or some muffled recognition of process at the expense of result. The winner gets the ink, the endorsements, the bonuses. The loser gets nothing, save for a multimedia opportunity to explain his manifold inadequacies. (‘Briefly please. We’re cutting to the winner’s locker room in 30 seconds.’)”

On Barack Obama in a speech to the Philadelphia Society, May, 2014: “We all know who Obama’s heroes are. He displays them as if in a trophy case in the First Lady’s Box at the State of the Union. There’s the witness to the venality of corporate America. There’s the pioneer in some exotic form of separatism. There’s the victim whose plight could have been averted by higher government spending. And there’s the rich guy who thinks he isn’t taxed enough. I am tempted to say, that’s the Obama coalition — the resentful, the aggrieved, the dependent, and the guilt stricken.”

On arriving in Las Vegas for the December 1992 Evander Holyfield-Riddick Bowe heavyweight fight: “Your white stretch limo awaits you. Don’t get too excited. Stretch limos await everybody. Indeed, Las Vegas has become a cashless society, with everybody drinking, gambling and carrying on as a ‘guest’ of somebody else. I’m not quite sure how this comes out black at the bottom line, but I think it has to do with the speed with which the pea moves around under the shell. Or if you’re given to political metaphors, think of it this way: We’re in for a weekend during which the rich will get richer, the middle class will get the shaft, and the bill will be presented to our children’s children. At any rate, it should be fun.”

On the conservative movement’s future and Donald Trump: “…..the game has changed, thanks in large part to the inadvertent contribution of Donald J. Trump. He has identified and at least semi-organized a large constituency previously unreachable by Conservatism, Inc. — soft Democrats, fallen Republicans, distracted moms, disheartened vets, category-averse minorities, regulation-strangled business people, country-class patriots, and more, many more. The only common denominator among these disparate groups is their values. They’re pro-family, pro-enterprise, and pro-American–pretty much the kinds of people our movement has claimed to represent these many years.”

Miss Sible, my 7th grade English teacher would be horrified to see the condition of my copy of his book with its numerous dog-eared page corners, underlined sentences, and notes and asterisks in the margins everywhere. It will get pulled off the shelf many times in the future but never loaned out. Buy your own.

Currently if you want a copy you can order it at for $25, which includes handling and shipping.

If you want to meet Neal Freeman, he will be a guest Monday, December 4, at a We the People event, 5-7 p.m. at Walker’s Landing, 11 Beach Lagoon Road. To attend the event RSVP to Deb Boelkes, at 904/310-9602 or There is a $5.00 per person fee. I’ll see you there.


Amelia Island’s Literary Legends: While Amelia Island boasts a number of prominent theatrical, sports, military and corporate personalities, it’s also home to a number of celebrated literary residents whose works have received world-wide acclaim in addition to Neal Freeman, including John Grisham, David Baldacci, Ed Kosner, and Julie Baumgold (aka Mrs. Kosner).

Ed Kosner is a journalist and author who served as the top editor of Newsweek, New York and Esquire magazines and the New York Daily News during a 45-year career. His book “It’s News to Me” is a fascinating look at the newspaper and magazine industry he was part of for so many years. Kosner’s book reviews, which appear often in the Wall Street Journal, are many times more fascinating than the book itself. His wife, Julie Baumgold, has penned at least five novels, the last I’m aware of, in 2010 being “The Diamond”, a historical novel about a famous diamond – that passed from the hands of William Pitt’s grandfather to the French kings and Napoleon, linking many of the famous personalities. She is a former contributing editor of New York, Esquire, and Vogue and columnist for New York and Esquire.

Best selling author John Grisham’s latest thriller, “The Rooster Bar”, takes place inside a law school that’s on shaky ground and three of its students, who take matters into their own hands when they realize they have been duped. His novel before that was “Camino Island”, a narrative with street names and locales that are very descriptive of Amelia Island. It’s about a bookstore owner in the fictitious sleepy resort town of Santa Rosa on Camino Island in Florida, who makes his real money as a prominent dealer in rare books and black market manuscripts.

Baldacci’s just out latest thriller, “End Game” is set in a small Colorado town with the action revolving around government agents, home grown terrorists, and more.


Hilton Honors Vets: Local resident Deb Boelkes (see above), whose various titles range from President-elect of the Newcomers Club of Amelia Island and Founder of We the People to State Coalitions Director (Florida) for the Convention of States and District Captain for House District 11, Convention of States, wrote to tell me about a program Hilton has initiated for veterans.

It appears that one of her sons, Major Kenneth Nelson, based in Beaufort, SC is a fighter pilot in the US Marines who is now looking at career options outside the military, said Ms. Boelkes. He forwarded his mom an email he received from Hilton Hotels. Here’s what Major Nelson said:

“Mom,  I’ve been extremely impressed with Hilton lately and I’ve only heard good things about them regarding their relationship with the military. They always offer hotels at the military per diem rates for travel and I’ve heard stories of them giving free nights to families of fallen military members who are traveling for funerals.

Additionally, as part of their military honors donation program, they give out points to transitioning military veterans who are attending civilian job training out of their local areas.  I just received 100,000 points today after letting them know I would be attending job training in NC for my air transport pilot license.  This is worth about 5-7 nights and is extremely helpful!

Please pass the word that their points donation program goes to good use!  I’m definitely taking advantage of it.”

The major received a note from Hiltons Redemption earlier this month telling him that they were going to donate 100,000 Honor Points to him to be used for stays associated with a job interview, and are available in his Honors account. They went on to add that “Hilton has been strongly committed to supporting military veterans and their families since our founding nearly a century ago by Conrad Hilton, a U.S. Army veteran who served in World War I.”

An impressive example of exemplary corporate citizenship.


Was A Laxative Included In The Price? Whoever was in charge of the Atlantic Recreation Center sign at Main Beach promoting the annual Barnabas Empty “Bowel” fundraiser either can’t spell worth a lick or really understands the power of marketing gimmicks. Despite the intended or unintended glitch in the sign, the “Empty Bowl” event sold out with nearly 400 paid participants attending a fund raiser to increase awareness about hunger in the area. Special sponsors were Ritz Carlton Amelia Island and Baptist Medical Center Nassau. Generous folks emptied their wallets said Marketing Manager Jeffrey McDowell, who spotted the erroneous sign and had it quickly corrected.


Things I Wish I’d Said: “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But I’m afraid this wasn’t it.” — Groucho Marx.


Pajama Party Today: Today (Friday, Nov. 24, 2017) from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Pajamadave Voorhees (who else?) will spearhead a downtown 2nd Street Black Friday pajama party that coincides with the merchants of Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach’s Annual Downtown Fernandina event. PJ Dave’s popular 2nd Street shindig features miniature golf and face painting for kids, live music starting at 9 a.m. with Jim Barcaro; Sean McCarthy, HotShot Carter & Ernie Ealum at 11 p.m.; Dan Voll & Michele at 1 p.m. and Larry LeMeir at 2 p.m. At 11 a.m. a quartet of judges will determine the winner of the best pajama outfits in front of the old train station with prizes awarded for best individual, best group and most creative outfits. Merchants all over town will be handing out treats to shoppers as well as featuring discounts. Businesses helping host the 2nd Street scenario are: Mac Graphics Printing, Kayak Amelia, Hola Cuban Cafe, Hampton Inn, Marlin & Barrel, PJD’s Beer & Wine Garden, Pajama Life, Joe’s 2nd Street Bistro, Collie’s Clothing & Gifts and Villa Villekulia Toy Store. I’ve heard rumblings that this may be the last year Pajama Dave will sponsor the iconic 2nd Street event, so don’t miss what may be the last of a very special occasion.


Drinking, Dining & Dancing: Donna Kaufman tells me that her planned Story & Song Neighborhood Bookstore Bistro planned for 1430 Park Avenue in Amelia Park Town Center, just off 14th Street South should be ready to open in late January if all the renovations go as planned. In addition to music and books, the bistro will feature wine, soups, salads, chicken pot pies, bagels from the Bronx, and desserts, plus much more she says. Want wings? A hungry group of Tuesday evening regulars at 12 South 2nd Street’s Pajama Dave’s Beer & Wine Garden have discovered that not only are the chicken wings at the Sadler Road Publix the tastiest on the island, they are also the best priced. While most eateries hereabouts are charging a buck or more per wing, Publix serves up big fat spicy, Buffalo, or hot ones for between 50 and 57 cents a flapper with 50 going for $25.00 and 20 for $11.39. So, if you’re thinking about ordering breaded or un-breaded wings for a party, a group of friends or any other event, check out the deli section at Publix. Call ahead at 904/277-4911 and they’ll be waiting for you when you arrive. You won’t be disappointed as they are really, really good and I can’t find a place on the island that can compete with these prices or quality. Anybody looking for Christmas activities on Amelia Island need look no further than, an Ashley Hart Logan site that includes more in one place than any other blog, newspaper or magazine I’ve seen anywhere. This young lady does a terrific job.


Don Howard - 30. Nov, 2017 -


George Clements - 26. Nov, 2017 -

You really have changed since you left Atlanta, Dave, because none of us here ever remember you reading a book.

PETER EDGETTE - 25. Nov, 2017 -


CHUCK HALL - 24. Nov, 2017 -

YEs! Please attend all the great events downtown today, and support our local businesses. IT will be a wonderful day.