WASHINGTON (AFP) – Months before Tuesday’s election, Barack Obama were secretly planning for a job only one of them will face — transitioning their political campaigns into a governing machine.and
The new president will have a transition of just 77 days from his election to his inuguration to slow the ship of state, replace thousands of government officials and chart a new course.
Since the first transition, in 1797, from president George Washington to John Adams, the peaceful handover of power has become ever more choreographed with each successive administration, especially since World War II.
But the 2009 cycle, fromto his successor will be more fraught than usual, with the United States mired in a financial crisis and with more than 150,000 soliders in combat abroad.
“You have to go back to 1933 to find a transition as equally challenging as this one,” said Darrell West, director of Governance Studies at the Franklin D. Roosevelt during a banking crisis., citing the transfer of power to
“We have a bad economy, we have two wars, basically there is no money for the new president to address the major problems.”
Unlike nations which have a permanent civil service, many top positions in the US government are political appointments, meaning that whole ranks of staff are flushed out by an incoming president.
Tales are legion of aides showing up to work at the White House after the inuguration to find computers stripped of hard discs, offices with no files and no idea how to do their jobs.
President Harry Truman famously knew nothing about the nascent US atomic weapons program when he assumed power after the death of Roosevelt in 1945.
Whoever wins in Tuesday’s election will move quickly to put the key elements of their governing team in place.
“Right after the election, you would expect, particularly if it is Barack Obama, a decision making team in place,” said Martha Kumar, a political science professor at Towson University, who has studied presidential transitions.
That would include a White House chief of staff, personnel director, a presidential legal counsel, a press team, national security advisors, National Economic Council officials and a budget director, she said.
It is thought likely that Obama would also act quickly to appoint a Secretary of Defense — Bush’s Pentagon chief Robert Gates has been mentioned as a candidate — and Treasury Secretary.
Given the financial turmoil McCain would also be expected to put together an economic team quickly to calm roiled stockmarkets.
In all, president-elects have the power to appoint around 7,000 people to serve in their administration — but tend to concentrate at first on just a few hundred crucial posts.
If Obama wins, he is likely to find it easier to get key officials quickly cleared through Senate confirmation, with Democrats in control on Capitol Hill than McCain who could see key personel challenged by the rival party.
Such is the complicated nature of presidential transitions that both candidates have been preparing for months — though in secrecy so as not to appear to be prejudging the election.
president Bill Clinton heads the Obama transition team, sketching transition plans and vetting potential candidates for top government jobs., once for
Democrats have bad memories of the chaotic Clinton transition in 1992-93, which left the administration floundering in its first few months in office.
McCain’s transition pointman is former Reagan administration Navy secretary, John Lehman, who may seek to emulate the highly efficient Bush effort during the 2000-2001 transition which was truncated by the Florida recount debacle.
US government departments have also been getting ready for months — for the first wartime change of presidents for 40 years, which has sparked fears that US enemies might try to exploit the situation.
Gates has spoken of the need for a smooth handover, and to find a way to get top national security nominees security clearances as quickly as possible.
Bush requested 8.5 million dollars in funding from his 2009 budget for the transition, which will see the president elect’s team given office space in Washington DC.
Soon after White House will offer briefings and other help to the top aides of the president-elect and members of the winner’s press operation have been invited to shadow members of Bush’s spokespeople., the