I was working out on Tuesday morning when I got the call from my mom. She doesn’t usually call in the morning unless something is happening.
She said, “Hey. So just a heads up. Your dad is leaving a bit early. There’s something breaking on Twitter right now.”
I got off the phone and thought, “Here we go.”
Three years ago, my dad took the job as the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence. He oversaw a number of big agencies. The heads of the National Security Agency (NSA), The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and others, reported directly to him. That all ended on Tuesday night at midnight.
I wanted to clear up a few things because my world has been blowing up over the past few days.
The context because it matters
A military career is very much a family experience. When a soldier takes new jobs and promotions, that almost always means lots of change and moves (for us, 12 moves before I turned 18).
Consequently, you are always pushing reset. Your dad’s career becomes particularly relevant in your own life. You are primed to pay attention, even after you leave the nest.
We never thought it would go this far. Back when dad was a junior officer, he planned on doing his 20+ years. Then he was going to take a quiet job as a high school math teacher. He went on this great run, but it wasn’t without merit.
Dad finally got out of the military and landed a good corporate job. He was building his finances back up. Having two screw-off kids and constantly moving wasn’t good for my parent’s retirement account.
He got the call to serve as undersecretary. I was actually apprehensive about him taking the job. He already had a job and a boss he liked. The president was already churning through employees with an unceremonious and troubling velocity.
Dad has always felt a strong calling to serve the country. He saw this job as an opportunity to help improve national security. He moved forward. I had the unique experience of watching him get grilled during his confirmation hearings on C-SPAN.
Watching John McCain question your dad on national television is totally surreal. I would equate it to those Olympic videos of parents squirming as they watch their kids on the balance beams. Only, instead of “don’t fall, don’t fall”, it is “don’t say anything stupid”.
“I heard your dad got fired!”
After I got off the phone with my mom, I went on Twitter and it was right there in my feed:
Author via Twitter
I’ll admit I had a moment of rage, “Really?”
Dad was leaving this job anyway. He’d been planning it for months. And this was to be his last month, as planned.
Monday’ firing of the Defense Secretary, Mark Esper, was completely unexpected. It had the entire Pentagon on edge. But then it got worse. Trump knows the election is slipping away. His court cases aren’t going well. Pentagon officials were worried he’d act out. And, sure enough, he did.
Dad’s resignation letter was already waiting for weeks. The new Secretary of Defense iterated the White House might be wanting him to leave early. Then, they realized early meant that very day.
An aide came to my dad and said, “I saved you for last because you’re one of the nicest ones I’ve dealt with.”
The aide then said, “The White House wants your resignation letter by 4 PM or you’ll be fired.”
It was certainly one of those moments where you don’t want to miss your deadline.
Author via CNN
Job security where there truly is none
Outside of an initial irritation on my part, I’m actually good with it all. The whole family is.
Trump has mistreated other family friends who worked for him. Joe Maguire was his Director of National Intelligence and got pushed out for having the audacity to do his job.
Dad, Me, Joe Maguire
Trump’s Chief of Staff, John Kelly, got tossed around while trying to wrangle the chaos.
We’d seen the cycle. The president treats his new employees like his favorite pet. Then, everything changes.
Sure, it would have been nice if Trump acted a little classier about the whole thing. But nobody is surprised. This is just history repeating itself. Dad didn’t take this job for the money or the glory. But he still deserved more respect on his way out.
For the record, he doesn’t actually like it when I write about him, so I try not to. But we’ll chalk this up as a special occasion.
The conclusion of this tenure
Whether we call it ‘fired’, ‘resignation’, or ‘forced resignation’ is a bit of a moot point at this stage.
After all, getting canned by Trump has become a club of sorts. There’s a long list of incredible people who have gotten the boot. Trump has come to symbolize the ultimate bad boss. You can be the highest performer, turning figurative water into wine, and you still aren’t safe.
Dad’s tenure is complete. They’ve already updated his Wikipedia. I was a bit sad to hear his security driver gave him his last ride home from work on Tuesday night. There are lots of interesting bonds that form during jobs like this.
I wrote this piece to hopefully clear the air. I’ve been getting a flurry of questions from all directions. Two journalists have called as well. There’s a lot of concern about what is going on at the Pentagon. I can’t speak to any of them. But hopefully, this answers the other questions.
My family is fine. We aren’t salty. I’m the only one who raged about it. Dad did his job right, as he always has, and will go on to his next green pasture. He’s just another casualty of a tantruming president who is being shown the door by democracy.