Friday, Oct 31, 2008
A transition team has been working in secrecy in Washington, preparing the ground for a smooth ascent to power by Barack Obama, should he be elected next Tuesday.
John Podesta, a former chief of staff to Bill Clinton, is heading the team and has been tasked with supplying names which are being vetted for a high level of security clearance by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, for inclusion in a new Democratic administration. Secrecy surrounding the arrangements governing the 11-week transition from election to inauguration is such that it is described as “a black box” by one individual familiar with the arrangements.
Mr Podesta, who is also the head of a Washington-based think-tank, the Centre for American Progress, has already distributed a 26-page document to top campaign aides. It describes in fine detail everything the last five presidents did on each day of the transition period from election day to the inauguration on 20 January 2009. Democrats are anxious to avoid a repeat of the Bill Clinton transition in 1992 which did not begin properly until after the election and resulted in a difficult first 100 days.
John McCain has been mocking his opponent for prematurely engaging in a “victory lap”, after reports emerged that a draft speech has already been written by Mr Podesta for his inauguration. But Mr McCain also has a transition team in place which is led by the former Navy secretary John Lehman.
(Article continues below)
Whoever becomes president will face an unprecedented set of challenges ranging from containing the fallout from the global economic mayhem to the war in Iraq, halting Iran’s race for nuclear weapons, and the increasingly worrying situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. All that is without an unexpected domestic crisis rearing up.
Democrats worry also that George Bush could use the transition period to try to secure his own legacy by handcuffing his successor with policy changes forced through by executive order. Political appointees considered ideologically questionable by Democrats are also “burrowing in” to secure career appointments in the federal bureaucracy. Among those lining up to secure high-profile jobs in an Obama administration are many dinosaurs familiar from Bill Clinton’s second term, including Mr Podesta himself, and Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of state.
But there is also much to suggest that Mr Obama wants a fresh start. For the past two years he has been surrounded by a tightly knit group of advisers. These include Mark Lippert, his longest-serving foreign policy adviser, who is also an Iraq war veteran. Though hardly a household name, diplomats do not discount the possibility that Mr Lippert could emerge at the head of Mr Obama’s team of 300 foreign affairs advisers to be named secretary of state.
This article was posted: Friday, October 31, 2008 at 5:22 am