This month, the residents and business owners of Talbot County's tiny, tony St. Michaels may be seeing a bit more of one of their more important part-time residents—former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Rumsfeld, 74, isn't the only Bush administration VIP with a 21663 ZIP code: Vice President Dick Cheney and White House Press Secretary Tony Snow both have homes in the town. Why is this hamlet so popular with the D.C. power crowd? "Well, it's close, but yet once you come across the [Chesapeake] Bay Bridge, it's like you've gone into another world," explains Easton Mayor Robert Willey. "There are still a lot of secluded, but not out-of-the-way, places in Talbot county where their privacy can be protected. We're really only maybe an hour and 15 minutes from downtown D.C."
Rumsfeld—who resigned from his post on November 8, 2006, the day after the GOP lost control of Congress following national elections—has had a home in St. Michaels since 2003. A charming little birdhouse stands at the end of the drive leading up to the house—though inside the birdhouse is a less-charming surveillance camera lens (according to a June 2006 story in The New York Times).
Over the years, the Rumsfelds (Donald and wife Joyce) have been shopping and dining at local establishments like Mason's, an upscale restaurant in nearby Easton.
"We're always delighted to see him," says owner Mary Mason. "Whenever he is either entertained or he is entertaining, they are always a delight and they do not expect special service, which you almost have to give to them because of the secret service. But they don't expect it."
And yet . . . maybe Rumsfeld will want to spend time elsewhere. You see, there are more than a few not-so-subtle reminders of last year's disastrous election results, which many attributed to the Iraq war policy that Rumsfeld enacted.
Just look at some of the stores around town: there's Broken Rudder sportswear, A Snowball's Chance ice cream shop, and a restaurant the Rumsfelds have dined at called Out of the Fire.
Then there's the Rumsfeld home. Built in 1804, the four-acre, five-bedroom home sits on Rolles Creek. The home has something of an unpleasant provenance: It was once owned by a farmer known for his ability to break slaves (though a young Frederick Douglass didn't stay around to let him prove it; he fled). If that's not enough to depress a person, there's the house's name.
It's called Mount Misery.