Official Washington has finally yielded to the temper of the times: It has virtually shut down. In what may be a dream-come-true for Americans complaining about government "interference" in their lives, those who run Washington have all but forsaken the reins of government for the summer.
The President has gone fishing. He is vacationing this week on an island off the coast of Georgia.
Congress is taking a two-week break. Republican lawmakers are off to their party's presidential convention in Detroit, and Democrats are back home campaigning for reelection.
There is no Supreme Court. It is recessing until October. To be sure, the bureaucracy -- which takes no recess is -- still grinding out regulations and issuing grants. And congressional aides are still cranking out press releases for their absent bosses.
But the government is left almost leaderless.
Even Vice-President Walter F. Mondale flees the deserted capital this week, departing July 16 for an eight-day visit to Africa.
At the White House, so little is happening that the press secretary's office finds it has virtually nothing to report to the nation.
No daily press briefings are scheduled this week."There's no one here to give a briefing," a spokesman addS, noting that press secretary Jody Powell and much of his staff have joined the President in Georgia.
The current tape-recorded telephone message on the President's daily round of activities is dated July 8 -- a week old.
Even this week's barbed remarks on Mr. Carter's leadership from probable Republican presidential nominee Ronald Reagan drew no response from the vacationing President.
On Capitol Hill, the marble corridors echo the weary shuffle of tourist's feet rather than the frenzied ring of bells summoning lawmakers to the chamber for a vote.
Senators and representatives, who audience in Washington encompasses the nation and world, are at home delivering speeches in the more humbling confines of the local Lions Club of Farm Bureau.