Tag Archives: presidential transition

Looking ahead to a brighter day

I like playing a mind game that enables me to look ahead to the short- or the medium-term future. I don’t have a name for it … but what the hey!

The game I am playing at the moment involves the moment when Donald Trump walks away from the presidency. It could happen Jan. 20, 2021 or (gulp!) on Jan. 20, 2025. Oh, how I want it to be the first date.

But still, Donald Trump has become — in addition to being the most unqualified, unfit and uninformed person ever elected president — a first-class, top-tier boor. His treatment of others has become almost legendary in its crassness.

So what might happen at the moment the new president takes over from Trump? The transition from one president to another is filled with niceties, photo opportunities, pro forma courtesies. Let’s assume for a moment that the new president will be Joseph R. Biden Jr., the 2020 Democratic nominee-in-waiting.

In a normal political environment, Joseph Biden and his wife, Jill, would go to the White House. The first couple, Donald and Melania Trump, would greet them. They would exchange some small talk, pose for pictures, then go inside for some more chatter, perhaps have a meal.

This campaign, though, will be far from “normal.” It will be as abnormal as it can get. Trump will sling epithets and baseless accusations at Biden. The former vice president will fire back with his own attacks. Trump won’t like the things Biden says about him and he’ll ratchet up the rhetoric.

How low it stoops is anyone’s guess.

Then there will be the inaugural ceremony. The new vice president and the president take their oaths of office, then the president — and I do hope it’s Biden — will begin his remarks. In a more genteel time, the new president would turn to the outgoing president and thank him for his service to the country. My favorite moment of that nature occurred in 1977 when President Carter turned to President Ford — whom he had defeated in a bruising campaign — and thanked “my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land” after Watergate.

It is difficult for me to believe we will witness any of that kind of dignity and decorum whenever Donald Trump’s time as president has expired. This individual has poisoned the atmosphere.


How do ex-presidents cope with it all?

Try putting yourself into a spot that most of us — at least everyone within my sphere of friends and acquaintances — will never experience.

That would be transferring oneself instantaneously from being the most powerful human being on Earth to being just another ordinary guy.

My mind does tend to wander into strange places at times. This is one of them.

After the election of a new president, I try to transport myself into the shoes of the individual who goes from being Somebody to a relative Nobody. How does that feel? Is there a palpable, discernible sense of great weight being lifted from one’s shoulders? Is there a temptation to thumb one’s nose at the successor or offer a snarky “Take it away, pal”?

Or is there a temptation to worry oneself silly over this or that crisis?

Barack Obama might be feeling a little weird today as he continues his transition to husband, father, son-in-law, friend, next-door neighbor.

MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews — who in a previous life served as a speechwriter for President Carter and was on hand to watch his boss hand it over to President Reagan in 1981 — offered an observation the other day I found so very fascinating.

He said the Secret Service presidential detail keeps its eyes riveted on the commander in chief and his immediate surroundings at all times. On Inauguration Day, their attention shifts dramatically at the instant the chief justice of the Supreme Court says, “Congratulations, Mr. President” to the new head of state.

It’s a ritual repeated with utmost precision and without the slightest impact on the event that’s taking place. It happened this past Friday as Barack Obama passed the baton to Donald Trump.

We’ve been focused, quite naturally, on the new president’s activities — and the protests that have greeted his arrival on center stage.

For reasons, though, that have little to do with my affection for the most recent former president, I will hope he adjusts as smoothly to a “normal life” as he did when he became the focus of billions of us living on Planet Earth.

Transition from Somebody to Nobody

I don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about these things, but the thought has crossed my mind: What is it like for someone to transition from being the most powerful man in the world to, oh, just another Ordinary Joe?

That is what awaits Barack H. Obama, his wife Michelle and their daughters Malia and Sasha.

At noon Friday, President Obama becomes just another guy, a citizen who will get to drive his own car, open his own doors, sleep in if he wants and relax with his family.

He follows a tradition set by dozens of other men who’ve had the good fortune to survive their presidencies and transition to a new life … that resembles the way it used to be before they became the planet’s most powerful figure.

I don’t know how President Obama feels about all this. His body language, though, tells me he’s ready to get out of Dodge. He’ll fly to California on that big blue jet that’s called Air Force One when the president is on board. He’ll play some golf, eat some relaxing meals with his wife and daughters, read, write and relax.

It might be arguably a little more of an adjustment for Barack Obama than he’ll be willing to admit. You see, I’ve long noticed one thing about this president: From the very beginning of his two terms, he seemed to own the office he occupied.

Why do I say that? I was struck for eight years how he would use the first-person singular pronoun when referencing the government he led. He would mention “my national security team,” “my vice president,” “my attorney general.”

I once wrote that the government didn’t belong to the president. It belongs to us — you and me. The president merely is our hired hand elected to the job by virtue of getting more electoral votes than anyone else.

In just a few hours, the 44th president will surrender that immense power to the 45th president. Then he becomes an average guy — so to speak.

Barack Obama is likely to prove me wrong by adjusting just fine to his new life. At least I hope he does.

Well done, Mr. President.

When guys like Frank are sweating it …

My friend Frank doesn’t get rattled too easily.

He’s in his early 60s. Frank has been around. He told me he has witnessed a lot of presidential transitions. None of them prior to what’s about to occur has him as concerned — even a bit frightened — as the one that’s coming up.

Barack H. Obama is going to hand the presidency over to Donald J. Trump.

Frank is deeply concerned. As am I.

We chatted for a bit and we agreed on at least one fundamental point: It’s that Trump’s absolute lack of public service experience has left him woefully ill-prepared for becoming president of the United States of America.

I reminded Frank that we’ve had a number of dramatic transitions in our respective lifetimes. I mentioned Ronald Reagan taking over from Jimmy Carter in 1981. Sure, some folks considered Reagan little more than a B-movie actor who starred in those films with a chimpanzee named Bonzo.

But as I told Frank, even Reagan had government experience. He had administrative experience at that, as a successful two-term California governor.

Trump? He has spent his entire adult life in pursuit of a single goal: personal enrichment. He got a head start with a healthy inheritance from his wealthy father and then parlayed that nest egg into a vast fortune.

Public service? None. Zero.

Frank wondered, “What kind of thing is he going to do? What in the world does he stand for?” I told him that we don’t know. The president-elect campaigned for this office espousing zero core values. He didn’t articulate an ideology. Instead, he boasted at seemingly every campaign stop about how rich he is and how he intended to use his business acumen to “Make America Great Again.”

We did agree on this point, too. We both want Trump to succeed. We’re hoping for the best. Failure, we reminded each other, is going to cost all Americans dearly. Therefore, neither Frank nor I will wish the kind of failure for Trump that many of Barack Obama’s foes wished for him when he became president eight years ago.

Frank has another thing quite right: Now is the time to pray real hard for our country.

I’m with him on that, too.

Troubled times — and thunder — recall memory of old friends

My mind has this way of wandering vast distances at the strangest times.

Today it did that. I thought of two old friends as I was pondering the state of political play in this country, and the presidential transition we’re all about to witness.

Their names are Buddy Seewald and Virgil Van Camp. They died within days of each other in September 2013 here in the Texas Panhandle. They came to my mind for two vastly different reasons.

One of them is the hostility that exists between individuals and groups of opposing points of view. I’ll get to the second reason momentarily.

Buddy and Virgil were total opposites politically. Buddy was a flaming liberal political activist; Virgil was a staunch conservative who wasn’t politically active, but who had strong views on the world … as did Buddy.

They were partners in a feature we used to publish at the Amarillo Globe-News. We called it Point/Counterpoint. They would argue opposing points of view on subjects we would select in advance.

They also were friends. They harbored no ill will toward each other. We’d meet for lunch every few weeks to discuss upcoming topics. They got along famously.

I think of them as I compare that relationship with the non-relationships that exist these days between liberals and conservatives. I think of them when I hear politicians on one side refer to those on the side as the “enemy.”

Buddy and Virgil would rise up out of their respective graves — if only they could.

I wrote about them in an earlier blog post, paying tribute to their civility and their collegiality. I wish they were around today to share that sense of decency with you all.

There goes another good man

Near the end of that earlier blog post, I mentioned something else that makes me think of them today.

We heard lots of thunder around here over the weekend. My thought in this Sept 17, 2013 post was that I would think of Buddy and Virgil the next time I heard a clap of thunder, as it likely signaled an argument between them from on high.

I recalled that earlier observation as I listened to the thunder roll across the High Plains.

That had to be Buddy and Virgil arguing — without a doubt — about the pros and cons of the upcoming presidential administration.

I am absolutely certain they threw their arms around each other when the storm passed.

I still miss these two friends terribly.

This prank won’t happen, however …

This tweet showed up on my Facebook news feed a little while ago. It speaks to a prank that someone believes President Obama should pull on his successor, Donald J. Trump.

It cracks me up. It’s damn funny. The prospect of someone putting something like this over on Mr. Insult/Innuendo/Showman/Reality TV Celebrity strikes me as seriously hilarious.

It won’t happen. You see, the current — for the next four days — president of the United States is far too classy, too gracious, too mindful of political consequence to even consider anything so sophomoric.

The president has pledged a smooth transition with Trump’s team. The two men — Obama and Trump — disagree on virtually every single policy issue one can imagine. The president clearly is dismayed that his candidate, Hillary Clinton, lost the presidential election to someone who’d never before sought a public office of any kind, at any level.

I don’t for a minute doubt that Barack Obama has been faithful to his pledge to seek a smooth transition. My concern, though, rests with the Trump team’s willingness to ask the right questions, seek the correct counsel, dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s required to understand all the nitty-gritty of running a government.

This all speaks to the absolute abandoning of tradition that Trump has demonstrated from the very moment he declared his presidential candidacy.

President Obama, though, believes in tradition and has committed to ensuring a smooth hand-off at noon Friday.

There’s something, though, sinisterly tempting about the notion of the president quitting his office on Thursday just to mess things up for the merchandising geniuses peddling Trump’s presidency.

Bush girls show class and grace in letter to Obama girls

The media have become consumed of late with all the anger, bitterness and sheer crap associated with the transition from one presidential administration to another.

Now we have a profound and beautiful demonstration of class from two young women toward two other young women.

Barbara Bush and Jenna Hager have been at ringside at an earlier transition. They took some time to share their own experiences and to offer congratulations and good wishes to Malia and Sasha Obama.

The daughters of President and Mrs. George W. Bush wrote a lovely note to the daughters of President and Mrs. Barack Obama. The Obama girls are about to enter “civilian life” after eight years in the White House. The Bush girls know what they experienced and felt compelled to offer them good wishes as they, too, look back on the years they spent living in the People’s House.


Take a few minutes to read the letter the Bush girls have written to their fellow soon-to-be-former first children.

I trust it will remind you, as it reminded me, of the inherent goodness that can be found even in this contentious and occasionally angry time.

You’ll feel better after you read it. Honestly!

Trump is ‘botching’ transition? Oh, brother!


Donald J. Trump boasted about his immense success in business, suggesting his business acumen was all he needed to take the reins of the federal government.

The president-elect might be learning that transitioning from private to public life is, um, quite a bit more complicated than he ever imagined.

Politico and other news outlets are reporting that Trump’s transition has turned into a “knife fight” among those closest to the president-elect.


Some questions have arisen about potential conflicts of interests involving his son-in-law Jaret Kushner, as well as his daughter Ivanka. He has hired a man believed to be a white supremacist as his chief political adviser.

Trump only today received his first full-scale national security briefing from the National Security Council.

The fellow he picked as his transition chief, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, has been pushed aside.

Rudy Giuliani, reported to be Trump’s top choice to become secretary of state, is now under investigation over work he did as a paid consultant for foreign governments, posing a tremendous potential conflict of interest. John Bolton — the neo-con who wanted to bomb Iran five years ago — is another possible secretary of state candidate who has drawn a threat from U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to filibuster his nomination if it comes to pass.

Oh, boy.

Some government experience ought to be considered an essential qualification for the president. Trump brought none of it into his winning campaign. He cited his business experience as Reason No. 1 to elect him.

I thought earlier today about another president who took office after having never been elected to another public position. I came up with Dwight Eisenhower. All he did, of course, was command Allied forces in the fight against the Nazis during World War II, which I surmise suffices as enough government experience to prepare him for the role of commander in chief.

The next president is now embarking on the steepest, most arduous learning curve imaginable as he prepares for this enormous challenge.

He’d better start figuring this out. In a major hurry.

Smooth transition under way

President Obama met the man who will succeed him in the Oval Office and said something I found most interesting — and revealing.

The president turned to Donald J. Trump and offered his full support during the transition. “If you succeed, the country succeeds,” the president said.

Imagine that. The man who called Trump “unfit to be president” now is wishing him success as he prepares to seize the levers of power.

Holy cow, man!

Why is that worthy of comment? Consider the kind of things that many conservatives said in 2009 as Barack Obama succeeded George W. Bush as president.

A lot of them — namely many of them talk-radio blowhards — were actually urging failure for the president. They didn’t care about the consequences of failure. They failed to connect the nation’s fate with the president’s performance. They didn’t understand — or refused willfully to understand — that the nation suffers if the president fails.

The Senate’s Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, declared that his No. 1 priority was to make Obama a one-term president. How does he do that? By ensuring failure at every step.

President Obama deserves high praise for insisting that Donald Trump’s success bodes well for the nation.