Reagan’s Vendetta

Ronald Reagan is one of the most popular U.S. presidents of modern times. He has an approval rating of 72 percent, second only to that of John F. Kennedy, rated at 86 percent. But he is my least favorite president. In 1988, the last year of his presidency, he attacked me personally. Here’s the story:

I was an employee of the National Security Agency (NSA) but was on assignment to work in the office of the Director of National Intelligence as a budget specialist in preparing that year’s intelligence budget. President Reagan proposed a very large expenditure for a highly classified operation. But I refused to fund it because it violated U.S. law and contravened treaties we had with a large number of countries. Reagan was furious. He stripped me of my security clearances and assigned me to a warehouse in the slums of Anacostia with no work to do, hoping I would resign. He couldn’t fire me outright because I could then sue him for illegal dismissal.

I refused to quit. I used my time to work on a novel I was writing at the time. In November, George H. W. Bush was elected to replace Reagan. As soon as he was in office, he restored my security clearance and returned me to NSA where I resumed my career. I came away with the distinct impression that both Bush and NSA were embarrassed by Reagan’s treatment of me and wanted to quietly reinstate me so I wouldn’t make a ruckus.

I used the story of my bout with Reagan as the plot in my 2020 novel Secretocracy, but in the fictionalized version of my story I made the president Donald Trump—who had also attacked budgeteers who refused to do his illegal bidding.

So I’m no fan of Ronald Reagan. But his attack on me if anything ended up helping my career. I went on to be promoted to the top levels of the Senior Executive Service and retired with a handsome annuity. That’s allowed me to write fulltime with no money worries. I now have six books of fiction and 17 short stories in print.

Thanks, Gipper.

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