A Presidential Transition from Three Perspectives

The Transition Affects a Lot and Says a Lot, Over 3 Timelines. They All Count


A Tale of Trifocals

A long time ago, I went for my flight physical just before my 40th birthday (I told you it was a long time ago). The young solider gave me my vision test, with the usual 20/20 results. Then he told me, “Sir, you know this will probably be your last 20/20 exam.” I chucked. I doubted it. Eagle eyes were part of my DNA.

About six months later, I got into the cockpit of a helicopter, strapped in, and began the start-up check list. I looked up to check the overhead circuit breaker panel and found I could not focus on any of them. Damn. The kid was right. Glasses became a part of my existence.

But the flight surgeon offered me neat little trick. I had heard of bifocals, but he offered something else. He set me up with trifocals – a third layer of magnification at the top of the lens. These were to look at those overhead circuit breakers. Worked like a champ.

Tell Me Again- Why I Am Reading This?

As fascinating as my medical history might be, there is another reason I mention all this. We need that same three focal lengths approach to evaluate the presidential transition. The transition, like the First 100 Days of an administration, has outsized importance.

The transition is only partly under the control of the incoming administration. How will they use that time and those resources? How will they handle the parts out of their control? All this will tell us much about our collective future.

The three “lenses” are: Immediate/Current Administration, the Dead Zone, and the Early Biden Administration. Let’s take a look and see what we can learn.

Immediate/Current Administration

This transition formally started with almost 20% of the allotted time gone before any cooperation started. This is a serious deficit, especially with all the new administration is facing. It is a net loss, period. But some good news in here as well.

First, the Biden team made the best use possible of the time while waiting for reality to catch up with Team Trump. They organized a lot and nominated a lot. A ton of processes are in review. They consulted with the best they could find not in the current administration.

The best news is that the behind-the-scenes team making things happen appears to be first rate. Kudos to the newlyappointed Chief of Staff and his team (which is about 50% female, by the way). This bodes well for the future. Watch for an innovative inauguration as one very visible sign of capacity to do the work that needs to be done.

Second, it appears a heck of a lot of people working in the government today are eager to work with the new team. They have reached out and responded well. Over 20 meetings were set up for the first week, with more being addedeven now. This is encouraging and helpful. Not universal, certainly not at the senior levels. But the civil servants and the professionals are clearly looking forward to a new day.

The Dead Zone

This is the period between the election and the inauguration. Any decent administration uses this time to carry out a smooth transition. To help take care of its people as they lose their jobs. A time to clean up loose ends. Then there is Trump & Company. This is what industrial strength pouting looks like. It is ugly and embarrassing as an American

For the Trumpsters, this seems a time to put land mines in front of the new Administration. A time to specifically designed to hurt the new team. That the country gets hurt as collateral damage does not seem to matter. A few examples:

  • New appointments and dismissals are ongoing at a blistering pace. The new administration has ways to clean this up, but it wastes time and energy. People who could not get confirmed even by this Senate are getting late appointments. Appointments complete with temporary security clearances.
  • We have quit the Open Skies treaty. The aircraft that perform this function are being dismantled. The decision was made with no consultation with allies or the Congress. The only rationale is as a gift to Putin. Hopefully, some smart people will slow roll destroying the aircraft and we can get back on track. Kudos to Rachel Maddow for world-class coverage on this travesty.
  • Mike Flynn has a pardon. No surprise, but still a disgusting flaunt of the rule of law. Count on more like this, right up until the end. Trump is not the first to abuse this absolute power (talking to you, Bill Clinton). But he is the worst and most arbitrary. It’s in the constitution, but surely some barriers can be erected.

One to watch – how soon will the Senate schedule and conduct confirmation hearings. If a number go forward and go smoothly in the lame duck session, that is a good sign on several fronts. Small men like Marco Rubio have already made snorts of outrage. Ted Cruz and others will surely join him. Let’s hope the adults move on.

Early Biden Administration

This is into the First 100 Days, but the transition conclusion is more behind the scenes. Look for clues as to how much the new team hits the ground on Day 1. New guidelines for departments, for example. Look at new executive orders (mostly cancelling someone else’s executive orders). Check how many legislative proposals are issued in the early days.

There is a serious security aspect to this period. One hopes not but should be prepared for a real foreign security challenge to hit literally on the first day. Doing something like this is not risk free for the aggressor. If the new US administration is up to the fight, they will react quickly, surely, and forcefully.

The aggressor could pay a price and our allies would feel reinvigorated. But if an adversary thinks the risk is acceptable, trouble could arrive early. I expect the Biden team is steeped in this and would be ready to go. How the Dead Zone time was used by the good guys and the government professionals will tell the tale.

Here We Go

We are on the transition roller coaster. Put on your metaphorical trifocals (or progressive lenses these days) and watch it. Let us see how it all goes.

Now, go have a turkey sandwich, reflect on what we can be grateful for, and wish our new government your best.

               Bill Clontz

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1 reply to A Presidential Transition from Three Perspectives

  1. Always thought-provoking and right on target. Thanks once again. He finally acknowledged he would leave the White House Jan 20, if electoral college certified the election of Joe Biden.

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