Forner Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue gave an interview to Michel Martin, an NPR reporter, that was aired yesterday. Here are a couple of excerpts (emphasis added):
MARTIN: You've only recently stepped down from the Social Security Administration. Is there anything that you miss? Or is there anything you particularly don't miss now that you've left?There was no way the White House could force Astrue to submit to OMB editing of his remarks. The White House couldn't fire him. I wonder what carrot and/or stick persuaded Astrue to consent to this.
ASTRUE: Well, I think what I miss the most are the people of the agency. Unlike other government agencies, almost everybody at Social Security is a lifer. And they're very talented, they're very dedicated. And so when you leave you know that you're not going to have, you know, that experience again. And that's sad.
MARTIN: Anything you particularly don't miss?
ASTRUE: Sure. I mean, I don't miss having everything I say being cleared by a 28-year-old at OMB [Office of Management and Budget, part of the White House]. And I'm not critical of OMB for that. Don't get me wrong. I mean, I think the president needs to have some consistency of message. But it does get very frustrating. And particularly when you're trying to say something important and it's neutered down to a platitude. I always found it difficult to go out and just voice the platitudes.
So, you know, getting my First Amendment rights back and being able to say what I think, you know, you don't miss that until you've given it up. And I guess, you know, when you've given it up you appreciate it more when you get it back. So. ...
MARTIN: Secret is not quite right, right? I mean, because you're a published poet, but you kept your worlds very separate.
ASTRUE: I kept my worlds very separate and I think when I first started thinking about trying to publish poetry I realized that the business and government worlds that I was functioning in, in a fairly high level, didn't really respect people that engaged in the arts. And likewise, in artistic communities, people that have substantial jobs outside those artistic communities tend to be looked at with suspicion.
And so I explained it to one of my friends, the great local poet XJ Kennedy, is I didn't want to be a novelty act. You know, I wanted to sort of stand, particularly in the literary world, on my own merits. And I was pretty comfortable keeping it separate and was rather annoyed in 2010 when I was first outed in the trade press for Social Security.
And then later there was a very flattering article in First Things that went into a lot more detail, which made me feel a little better about it because the article was so nice. But I think down deep I still wish that I'd been able to keep my life separate ...