I was working on a tight turn around tasker this afternoon when The NY Times published the op-ed by the anonymous senior administration official that has everybody all abuzz. A couple of you emailed me about it – one of these actually alerted me to its publication because I was working and had no idea what was going on. Several of you, including the initial emailer, also asked if I had any idea who it was. Simply I have no idea at all. I know there’s now some speculation that the author has either tried to set up Vice President Pence or is, perhaps, Vice President Pence’s speechwriter based on the curious use of the word lodestar.
— James Downie (@jamescdownie) September 5, 2018
Worth remembering: "'To cover my tracks, I usually pay attention to other staffers' idioms and use that in my background quotes. That throws the scent off me,' the current White House official added." https://t.co/7NRvLg0ljB
— James Downie (@jamescdownie) September 5, 2018
In my personal and professional opinion, if these knuckleheads destroy themselves trying to either fix or deflect the blame for writing this op-ed, that is still to good for them. And there’s a reason for that. I’ve been in the position of working for toxic leaders and/or feeling I was being professionally compromised. In both cases I resigned rather than compromise my professional ethics, violate Federal law, regulations, and/or DOD guidelines.
I’m not going to go into the specific details of either of these, but I’ve been in a position where I believed in the overall mission where I was assigned, but felt professionally compromised. In this, the second case, I tried to work the problem internally. And to be honest, the violations had been ongoing for a considerable amount of time before I started and were completely unintentional. The only reason I actually caught the problem is that it was something I’d worked in two previous assignments for the Army and, as a result, I had recent, relevant subject matter expertise regarding the issue. So I pulled the relevant Federal law, Federal regulation, and the DOD policy for my director, deputy director, and colleagues and put it all in a memo explaining the problem. The memo included an attached proposal to both retroactively fix as much of the immediate problem as possible and then establish the appropriate procedures so we’d be right going forward.
I initially thought I was gaining some traction, but within about three or four days it became clear that my director didn’t want to deal with the problem. He was a nice guy, personable, in many ways a good boss, but he was also very passive-aggressive, especially when stressed. And this had him completely stressed. When he came back to me and asked me to get back to the assignment that was in violation of Federal law, Federal regulations, and DOD policy I resigned. The leadership at my company was very supportive, which is why I’m still with them. Unfortunately, the prime contractor’s on site rep had me blacklisted with his company, which has cost me a couple of assignments over the years as my boss can’t put me forward on projects where he’s a subcontractor to this company. No good deed goes unpunished.
Four months after I resigned I received an email from my former deputy director. He wanted to let me know that my resignation threw the entire issue into the spotlight. That the senior leadership brought in the appropriate folks from the headquarters to consult, they verified everything I had delineated, and when shown my proposal for how to both retroactively fix the problem and to establish new processes and procedures for going forward, they signed off on them as the correct way forward. He just wanted me to know that I’d been right and this had led to the right change happening. I was not offered my position back. No good deed goes unpunished.
The people that needed to know the details of what happened and where they happened were informed. My senior references were notified so they could respond appropriately if contacted for recommendations for other jobs. And that’s it. I cleared out my office, turned in all my gear, cleared outprocessing, signed the NDA to be read off of that command’s sensitive compartments, turned in my badges, cleared post, and drove home. And I sleep like a baby. A 275 lbs baby with an 18 inch neck who uses a CPAP and has two lab mixes sleeping on him, but a baby nonetheless.
I realize that the President is the most toxic of toxic leaders, but writing this op-ed wasn’t courageous. It wasn’t brave. It wasn’t heroic. You’re not saving the Republic. You’re not protecting the Constitution. And you’re not a professional. A brave professional who wanted to save the Republic and protect the Constitution wouldn’t be working to subvert the actual constitutional order and then writing an anonymous op-ed about it to both pat yourself on the back and let everyone else know how virtuous a person you are. Rather, a brave professional who wanted to save the Republic and protect the Constitution would have hired an attorney who specializes in national security and government whistle blower issues, met with them, and had them arrange for you to provide the detailed information that will save the Republic and protect the Constitution to the appropriate members of Congress and the Special Counsel. Having an anonymous op-ed published in The New York Times detailing your efforts in protecting the world in order to achieve an unnecessary tax cut for the richest Americans, repeatedly try to gut the health insurance and access to health care for millions of Americans, use the power of the presidency and the executive branch to turn undocumented immigrants into an existential threat so that Stephen Miller can have better self esteem and not be afraid of the dark, and pack a bunch of extremists onto the Federal courts so that Leonard Leo can feel safe in the 21st Century isn’t heroic. It isn’t professional. It is craven. It is cowardly. It is actually unconstitutional. And it isn’t actually helping. Whoever you are, you had the chance to actually do the right thing, to seek legal counsel, and to be a legitimate part of the solution to this problem, to safeguard the Republic, and to protect the Constitution. When faced with that test, you failed.
Making it look like Mike Pence wrote the thing was a nice touch though…