When George W. Bush came to office in 2000, it was under very difficult circumstances due to the Florida recount. In fact, his transition was delayed almost a month. It would have been somewhat understandable if he had gotten off to a rocky start. But he didn’t. His transition into power was one of the smoothest ever, and there’s a reason for that. He was prepared:
While president-elect George W. Bush’s transition was delayed almost a month because of the uncertainty of the election outcome, historian John P. Burke rates his transition as probably one of the most effective in modern times.This was not only because of effective prior planning by the president-elect and the relative absence of infighting among the president-elect’s transition and campaign staffs, but also the supporting materials developed and contributed by many think tanks. In fact Roy Neel, the head of Al Gore’s nascent transition effort, called it “breathtakingly successful.”
You can read more about Bush’s transition, here.
On Bill Clinton’s last day, he hastily issued 140 pardons including the fugitive financier Marc Rich:
The media frenzy over the pardon was heightened by reports that the Clintons had filched furniture from the White House. The reports turned out to be exaggerated, although the Clintons did return $28,000 worth of furniture, lamps, and rugs from the White House collection. Next came reports that on the flight to Chappaqua, the Clintons and their friends had stripped the plane bare. Those reports too were eventually debunked. Finally came the stories of the trashing of government offices and equipment—pulling the “W’s” off computer keyboards–also mostly exaggerated.
Five days after Clinton left office, the late Mary McGrory, a liberal Washington Post columnist wrote that “The Clinton exit was …a script that would have made `Saturday Night Live’ blush.” University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato, who has made a specialty of writing about political scandals, told me that it hardly mattered whether these reports were true, false, or exaggerated: “Those last scandalous developments….just underlined some of the worst parts of the Clinton presidency.”
President Bush, on the other hand intended to leave office with as much dignity as he had entered it, and he promised to take steps to ensure a smooth transition for Obama, shortly after the November election as was widely reported:
“For the next 75 days, all of us must ensure that the next president and his team can hit the ground running,” an emotional Bush told the 1,000 staff assembled on the White House lawn.
“This peaceful transfer of power is one of the hallmarks of a true democracy. And ensuring that this transition is as smooth as possible is a priority for the rest of my presidency,” Bush said.
Although his transition period has been hailed as one of the smoothest and best organized ever, Obama is having problems filling key positions:
•The nominee for deputy in the United States Treasury Department withdrew herself from consideration after weeks of intensive vetting.
Annette Nazareth, a former senior staffer and commissioner with the Securities and Exchange Commission, was said to have made “a personal decision” to pull out.
•Mr Obama also suffered another setback when Dr Sanjay Gupta, the high-profile CNN medical correspondent who had agreed in principle to become Surgeon General, took himself out of the running, saying: “It really came down to a sense of timing more than anything else. You know, I have two daughters. Our third daughter is now imminent.”
Others suggested that Dr Gupta had been dismayed when Tom Daschle’s bid to become Health Secretary and health care reform tsar was derailed over his failure to pay $128,000 in taxes on a chauffeur and limousine. After this, the health job was split in two, a move that would have left Dr Gupta with two bosses.
•He has lost two Commerce Secretary nominees – Governor Bill Richardson, who became embroiled in a corruption scandal and Senator Judd Gregg, a Republican who turned against Mr Obama’s spending plans.
•Nancy Killefer, chosen to be “chief performance officer”, pulled out over unpaid taxes while General Anthony Zinni was told he would be ambassador to Baghdad only to learn that a diplomat had been appointed to fill the slot but no one had bothered to tell him.
The latest appointee to step down was Obama’s disastrous choice to the post of National Intelligence Council chief, Chas Freeman.
“Charles Freeman was the wrong guy for this position. His statements against Israel were way over the top and severely out of step with the administration. I repeatedly urged the White House to reject him, and I am glad they did the right thing.”
At Hot Air, Ed Morrissey opines:
President Barack Obama’s handy excuse for all sorts of goofs and missteps is that he’s too busy working on fixing the economy. In order to do that, one might expect that Obama would concentrate on building his economic team at the Department of the Treasury, where most of those efforts would originate and get managed. Instead, as noted earlier today, phones go unanswered at Treasury — and our allies and trading partners have begun complaining about the lack of effort in the White House.
Compounding the strain on the Treasury, almost all the top posts beneath Mr. Geithner are still vacant. Though he has hired about 50 senior advisers — about half the number he hopes to recruit — the White House has become so worried about potential tax problems and other issues in the backgrounds of candidates that it has nominated only a handful of people.
About those unanswered phone calls: While Britain is still trying to get over the snubs from Gordon Brown’s visit to Washington, last week, a British senior civil servant, this week expressed his frustration at the difficulties in getting through to the Obama administration:
… Sir Gus O’Donnell, Britain’s most senior civil servant, exposed transatlantic tension when he protested that Downing Street was finding it “unbelievably difficult” to plan for next month’s G20 summit in London because of problems tracking down senior figures in the US administration. “There is nobody there. You cannot believe how difficult it is,” the Cabinet Secretary told a civil service conference in Gateshead.
At the very least, you’d think they’d be able hire a receptionist to pick up the phone.
Well, this is just sad. Another high level appointment crashed and burned, today.
After losing Annette Nazareth to potential criticism of her regulation efforts at the SEC and Caroline Atkinson to more tax problems, H. Rodgin Cohen has now departed as the designee for Deputy Treasury Secretary.
People are wondering if there are any Democrats out there without tax problems, or if this is a case of nominees not wanting to go down with Obama’s ship.
Obama Tech Appointee office raided in bribery sting:
If Barack Obama thought the nomination nightmare would end soon, an FBI raid today extended and deepened the REM cycle. Obama announced the appointment of Vivek Kundra as the Chief Information Officer of the Obama White House last week, but today Kundra has search warrants rather than Google searches on his mind:
Federal agents this morning are searching the Judiciary Square office of Washington, D.C.’s Chief Technology Officer.
The search is part of “an ongoing investigation,” said a spokeswoman for the FBI’s D.C. Field Office, Lindsay Gotwin, said. She declined to comment further.
The outgoing Chief Technology Officer, Vivek Kundra, was appointed last week Chief Information Officer by the Obama administration.
Don Surber lists Obama’s 52 mistakes in 52 days.