McKay the better way

“What do we do now?” Redford’s character in the Candidate, a young newly elected candidate, is barely audible in the swell of supporters. Around the day of the election, nytimes.com published an online video featuring Times film critic A.O. Scott discusses “The Candidate”. It was hard not to see the analogy. Longtime observer Stephen Hess has even written a book entitled, What Do We Do Now? A Workbook for the President-Elect (2008) outlining the challenges greeting presidential transitions. The Obama transition team promised “deliberate haste” and, given the pace with which chief cabinet nominees seem to have fallen into place, it’s hard to believe election day was less thn three weeks ago. An exchange November 11th press conference exchange between a reporter and Obama transition co-chair John Podesta offers some context (Federal News Service, 11/11/08):

Q Can you give us some kind of light on just when Treasury secretary and a couple of the big Cabinet folks — the earliest and the latest time frame for when you think you — (off mike)?

MR. PODESTA: I think, as I — as I said last Sunday, I would note that no president other than President Herbert — George Herbert Walker Bush, President Bush 41, has named a cabinet appointment before December, going back to the Kennedy administration. We’re going to try to accelerate that, but we’ll make announcements when we’re ready to make them. But — and the president-elect and the vice president-elect are hard at work in trying to select their team and I think that we’ve obviously — are concentrating, because of the circumstances that we face today, on trying to make selections, particularly of the economic team and the national security team. But we’re looking at — across the board, at the entire cabinet level and even beyond that into the independent agencies.

Q And another follow-up, are you expecting — (off mike)?

MR. PODESTA: Well, the — again, traditionally, certain Cabinet officers have been confirmed within a day or two. That was our experience during the Clinton administration in 1993. I think it was the experience that President Bush had in 2001. But what ends up happening is that those Cabinet secretaries go into the agencies and they’re — they’re sort of home alone. They — the process stops on about January 21st. I think that the most Cabinet and sub-Cabinet officials that were — that have been confirmed through March was 24. And that is simply inadequate to meet the needs, I think, of the country…”

Podesta went on to cite what may be the biggest reason the Obama administration expects a quicker pace than past administrations: emphasis by the Bush administration and expressed in the 9/11 Commission on the importance of filling out the national security team in the early months of the administration.

Aside #1: The Times also has a useful page profiling members of the new Obama administration team.

Aside #2: The Brookings page publicizing Stephen Hess’s book has posted a table from the book listing the initial cabinet secretaries for the administrations of President Eisenhower through George W. Bush, which includes some biographical details like age, race, sex, and home state.

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