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Posted by on Nov 17, 2008 in At TMV, Politics | 5 comments

What Kind Of Transition Will We Have?

As we move beyond Election Day and President-Elect Obama prepares his transition, the question remains what kind of transition it will be. A look at past history is not particularly encouraging. In 1993 when President-Elect Clinton came into office, the Republican leaders in Congress were marginally polite but did little to back up pledges of bipartisanship. Within a few weeks of the inauguration they were doing all they could to block nominees they didn’t like.

The party activists didn’t even bother with the perfunctory politeness, openly opposing his agenda within almost hours of his official victory. In 1997 with four years of history in place, things were no better, and in many things they were even worse.

If 1993 and 1997 were bad, then 2001 was probably the zenith of recent transitions. Obviously the controversy over the 2000 election contributed to this, but it was the first time since 1973 that you had protests bordering on riots in the streets as the Presidential motorcade drove by. Once again the party officials made a show of being bipartisan but immediately set in fighting the Bush cabinet nominations, perhaps as vengeance for 1993 but it was hardly helpful.

In 2005 it was much of the same, with both sides battling from the very start. Indeed it is hard to look back and find any recent example where bipartisanship truly ruled and a transition was carried out in a positive manner.

So this leads to the question of what kind of transition we will have this time around. With Senator McCain and President-Elect Obama meeting today I am hopeful we can have a little better of a transition this time around but I am not very hopeful. We have had sixteen years of ugly politics with the White House fighting Congress, Republicans fighting Democrats and so on.

At this time though I call on both parties to try and do their best to prove me wrong. It is worth remembering that while the bitter transitions were often the result of the out party battling the White House that the President’s party was rarely innocent. Often some members of the opposition tried to be bipartisan only to have things thrown in their face. After this happens a few times it is understandable why people are gun shy.

So Republicans, it’s time to move beyond the election, to accept the results and to treat the President with respect. It doesn’t matter if you think people failed to do this with Bush or if you have major issues with Obama, you have to set these things aside and move forward.

And Democrats, you have a job to do as well. For the last eight years you have talked about how the Republicans abused their position of power. Now you are in control and it is time for you to show the leadership you said was lacking. You cannot spend the next weeks and months ‘getting back’ at the other side. You need to show the same respect you would expect from the other side.

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  • Marlowecan

    The transition will clearly be much better than in either 2000 or 2004.

    Two reasons:

    (1) President Bush has gone FAR beyond any previous president in ensuring this will be seamless transition. Obama was talking yesterday about how he already has team members shadowing Paulson etc. Even before the election, the Bush administration had briefings with both contenders on security issues to get over the dangerous transition period. Contrary to the surliness — if not the myth of the removal of “W”s from WH keyboards — with which Bush was “welcomed” in 2000, Bush appears focused on ensuring a seamless and hospitable transition. Even the New York Times has given him credit for this.

    (2) A Democrat has won. This time, in 2004, Democratic blogs were wondering if they could turn electors so as to “elect” John Kerry…there was the “Not My President” meme, which was widespread among Democrats…as well as that bizarre series of online photographs apologizing to the world for the election of Bush. Classy!

    And, of course, who can forget the sheer hatred, and bile, directed at those Americans who had the nerve to vote for Bush over Kerry.

    Novelist Jane Smiley’s charming little 2004 essay – “Why Americans Hate Democrats – the unteachable ignorance of the red states” — is an example of how Democrats respond to Republican victories. How many of these pieces filled the newspapers in 2004? There has been none of that this time.

    I particularly enjoyed Smiley’s stereotyped smear of tens of millions of Americans: ” red state types, above all, do not want to be told what to do—they prefer to be ignorant. As a result, they are virtually unteachable…red state types love to cheat and intimidate…”

    (Beyond the bile, Smiley’s piece is clearly inaccurate. Obviously, Democrats are not hated in America…and millions of people in red states voted Democratic.)

    I must say, I particularly liked Smiley’s Freudian Slip, when she noted that “red state types, above all, do not want to be told what to do”. The implication, of course, is that blue state types DO want to be told want to do, and can be housetrained by their wise elders . . . such as Smiley? . . . to vote appropriately.

    Shades of Bob Hope, and this classic YouTube (from “The Ghost Breakers” I believe, great movie):

    So no, I don’t think this transition will see anything like that.

    President-elect Obama won. Republicans are focused on looking at their own faults, instead of conspiracy theories and ranting about the “ignorance” of those who do not share their views.

  • StockBoySF

    I think Obama is laying the groundwork (and not just saying so) for bipartisan agreement). Still the Republicans need to make the decision to be agreeable and on the Democratic side it would be helpful if Obama would name Republicans to his cabinet. Even George W. Bush had a couple Dems in his first cabinet.

  • rudi

    Komrad Marlow – You forget the partisan nature of Spencer Abraham, Clinton and the Sixth Circuit. I would LMAO if the Demonocrats resurrect the ‘nuclear option’ , maybe even go beyond judges.

  • Marlowecan

    Dear Komrade Rudi: Your comment “I would LMAO if the Demonocrats resurrect the ‘nuclear option’ , maybe even go beyond judges” is well-taken.

    I, too, will be very amused to see the epic flip-flop to come: the Republicans blathering about protecting the traditions of the Senate . . . and the Democrats talking about the need to eliminate obstruction.

    Will there be a new “Gang of 14” do you think?

    You know . . . this flip-flop makes matters very simple for those of us who observe politics.
    We just need to replace “Republican” with “Democrat” and vice versa at the header of most institutional-related Talking Points, and we are good to go.

    I also note that Obama has been condemned by some folks in the European press as a “war monger” (I can’t believe folks still use the term with a straight face, but they do) for his committment to Afghanistan.

    Everything old is new again.

  • AustinRoth

    As part of the transition watch, one of the top-level posters should start a ‘Bush pardons pool’. That is always an interesting part of the end of a Presidency, and more so in this case, between the expectations of the Left that he will pardon his entire administration, and his own actual tendency to be very stingy with pardons throughout his career.

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