Presidential Transitions: From Politics to Practice

Presidential Transitions: From Politics to Practice

Presidential Transitions: From Politics to Practice

Presidential Transitions: From Politics to Practice

Synopsis

A detailed & comprehensive account of the four presidential transitions from Jimmy Carter to Bill Clinton.

Excerpt

The idea for this project began with an article in the Sunday Los Angeles Times Magazine on August 1, 1993. Entitled “Educating Bill” and written by two veteran White House correspondents, Jack Nelson and Robert J. Donovan, it detailed the travails of Clinton’s first six months in office. in the piece, Nelson and Donovan quote a senior White House aide who acknowledged that during the transition little systematic study had been undertaken of the organization and operations of the White House staff. Although several Clinton transition teams laboriously examined many agencies and departments, no team had been crafted to look at the White House. It was, in the words of the senior aide, “an insane decision. We knew more about fema [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] and the Tuna Commission than we did about the White House. We arrived not knowing what was here, had never worked together, had never worked in these positions.”

It was a startling admission. Clinton’s activities during the transition period were widely reported, particularly his cabinet selection process and his economic “summit” (an event that was carried live on C-SPAN). By most accounts, it seemed to be a very active, well-publicized transition. It was headed by two well-known political “insiders,” Warren Christopher and Vernon Jordan. Signals were clearly being sent about an activist presidency-to-be, one committed to a “New Democrat” political agenda and with “putting people first.”

Yet Clinton had not, in fact, devoted much attention to the White House staff or, more broadly, to what the decisionmaking processes of his presidency would look like. After further research and interviews with some of the participants, I was to discover the situation was more . . .

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