WASHINGTON: We all know Defense Secretary Mark Esper has said a great deal of things recently that directly contradict what President Donald Trump has said. And we all know that Trump really doesn’t like people who disagree with him in public, and often dumps them.

So, when rumors that Esper might be on the way out were reported yesterday it did catch our ears. We reached out to a number of sources, the kind our readers can guess — former senior officials, folks on Capitol Hill and a few people in the Pentagon.

So far, we’ve not heard a whisper that it’s probably true in the short term. Of course, in this administration the usual sources that worked in every past one don’t always work because the president relies so much on a network of people outside the government for advice and to bounce ideas off of. So, we’re not dismissing it out of hand.

Our colleagues at Reuters, in fact, said that while one source did confirm Trump may get rid of Esper, it won’t be until after the Nov. 3 election. For those with a long memory, you may remember that although Donald Rumsfeld had long lost his magic touch, President George Bush back in 2006 publicly said the defense secretary could stick around for a second term if he won. One week later, Bush accepted Rumsfeld’s resignation.

This close to the possible end of an administration — hopefully on or very soon after Nov. 3 — we are likely to see more and more people in senior positions leaving to spend more time with their families, recharge their batteries, make enough money to send kids to college or just to get some well deserved sleep.

In fact, Will Roper, the head of Air Force acquisition, made a passing reference to this the other day:

“And you know I’m aware, because as everyone knows [with a chuckle], these political positions they can, they can turn quickly on the other side of the election. I have to think about my own tenure in this position not being guaranteed for a definite longer period of time,” Roper told reporters. “But I couldn’t be prouder of the innovation that I see in our teams, and it’s examples like this that make me very excited to be part of this team to see its future.”

We don’t think Roper is leaving forthwith, but he makes an important point. Political appointments are not forever, and people often leave around the time of an election — regardless of whether their candidate wins or loses. It can be exhausting work at the upper reaches of what remains the world’s most powerful military.

If you’re plugged in, and you hear something solid about Esper’s fate, let us know first! (R.A.).


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