Bush administration meticulous about power handoff

Published 23 December 2008

The transfer of power from the Bush administration to the Obama administration will be the first handoff since 9/11; the Bush administration is taking unprecedented measures to make sure the incoming administration is ready from day one

David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, noting that so many of the cabinet-, sub-cabinet, and White House appointments in the incoming Barack Obama administration have so far gone to Harvard and Yale graduates, that “If a foreign enemy attacks the United States during the Harvard-Yale game any time over the next four years, we’re screwed.” On a more serious note: What would happen if terrorists attacked the United States at the start of Barack Obama’s presidency? USA Today’s Richard Wolf writes that the Bush administration does not want to wait to find out, so it is planning to test the incoming government’s readiness next month in a series of tabletop exercises involving top Bush and Obama officials.

Concerned about the first handoff of presidential power since 9/11, the White House is also preparing briefing books and office manuals designed to bring the incoming Obama administration up to speed in a hurry. White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten, who is supervising the effort, told Wolf that “This is the first wartime transition in 40 years, and it’s probably the first transition in a couple of centuries in which our homeland itself has been under threat…. [The goal is to] make sure that those who are coming in are as well prepared as they can be to deal with an actual threat here in this country.”

Bolten added that “This … isn’t about good manners…. It’s about preparing the next administration to deal with the challenges that the country faces. It’s about our responsibility to the public more than it is about our responsibility to each other.”

Wolf writes that over the past month, federal agencies have hosted scores of meetings with members of Obama’s transition team and prepared reams of documents — manuals for key White House offices, briefing books for key federal agencies, and issue briefs on pending policy matters ranging from the threat of pandemic flu to relations with North Korea. “This is not intended as the administration’s attempt to dictate what the next administration does,” Bolten says. “It’s intended completely in the spirit of, ‘Here’s what we know, you take it from here.’”