After the All Star game, all hell breaks loose

Federal managers need to brace for a few weeks of nuttiness. Like listening to mommy and daddy scream at one another, career people will find it hard to tune out the coming noise

Before that we have the fun of this week’s All Star break. Tuesday evening Major League Baseball will indulge in its annual orgy of nostalgia and self-worship. It’s a great spectacle. Teams mainly hope none of the players they send gets injured in a game with no real importance.

Then things get interesting. Next week’s big spectacle will take place in Cleveland, when the Republican National Convention gets underway. The Democratic party convention starts a week later in Philadelphia. Perhaps the GOP event will produce something approximating drama, given the range of feelings Republicans have about Donald Trump. The outcome of the Democrats’ shindig is more certain.

One thing for sure. the rhetoric coming out of either city won’t be pretty. It’ll present wildly differing visions of how you’re likely to spend your next four years.

In truth, the rhetoric has always included the bitter. Charges of corruption, softness on communism or overly persecuting suspected communists, putting America first or trying to be a good citizen among nations — it all sounded loudly in the 1940s and 1950s. Back then, it envisioned widespread self-dealing , deceit or betrayal happening deep in the ranks of people populating federal agencies.

Today people are less restrained.

Interesting that even Supreme Court justices are making their opinions of candidates known. At least one did, anyhow: Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a New York Times interview. She talks more about sociology and politics than about the Constitution, but maybe that’s a sign of the age we live in.

Maybe people are more hardened in their party positions, I don’t know. I remember the secretary in the audio-visual department of my high school. Always ready to talk politics, she had a bumper sticker on her Beetle supporting Angolan independence.  A lifelong Democrat, she surprised me by recalling how she’d voted for Republican Wendell Willkie in 1940 against Franklin Roosevelt, even though she agreed more with Roosevelt’s views. Why? “I thought two terms was enough.”

Oddly, Willkie and the far-seeing Roosevelt became allies in the Lend-Lease movement as the Nazi threat in Europe increased. It’s hard to see how a Hillary or Donald would find a way to make use of, or be useful to, one another. But you never know

Writing in Politico this week, Jeff Greenfield has an essay recounting the nomination of Harry Truman to be Roosevelt’s 1944 running mate. People close to a visibly declining Roosevelt were certain — and correct — FDR wouldn’t survive his fourth term. Whether the convention rooms were actually filled with smoke is conjecture. But in those days people really went into a convention not knowing for certain what would happen, and party elders held a lot of sway.

Nowadays no one seems to leave elected office poor. Or if they need money, it comes showering down on them from law firms, corporate boards, consultancies, speeches and book advances. Presidents didn’t get any kind of pension until after a law passed in 1958. This week, President Barack Obama can sign a bipartisan bill upping the modest presidential pension to $200,000 — minus, dollar for dollar, any earnings former presidents make above $400,000. The Roll Call explains, if a future former president earns $435,000 in, say, speaking fees, he or she would only receive $165,000 in pension.

Truman had to take out loans to make ends meet after he left office. He was saved financially by the advance on his memoirs. An old photograph shows Truman putting a penny in a parking meter in Independence, Missouri after becoming a private citizen once again. He drove himself around.

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