Transition Times

/ September 22, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The New York Times today takes a good look at what the two campaigns are doing to get ready for a transition of power should they win. It's not all about defense, but it's worth a read.

To wit:

Democrats said that John D. Podesta, a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, was leading the transition preparations for Mr. Obama. Mr. Podesta, who founded a lobbying firm with his brother in 1988, is president of the Center for American Progress, a sort of government-in-exile waiting for Democrats to regain power. At the McCain campaign, Republicans said, transition work is being coordinated by William E. Timmons, a longtime Washington lobbyist whose clients have included the American Petroleum Institute and the mortgage company Freddie Mac.

If Mr. McCain wins, Republicans said, his transition team will probably be led by Mr. Timmons and John F. Lehman, a McCain fund-raiser who was secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan. . . .

Clay Johnson III, deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said "the White House staff has met with transition representatives" for Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama.

"Both campaigns are doing what they need to do to be prepared to govern on Jan. 20 at noon," said Mr. Johnson, who was executive director of the Bush transition team in 2000-1. "The amount of work being done before the election, formal and informal, is the most ever."

One more excerpt, this one more on-target for our purposes:

Experts on national security worry that America's opponents will try to take advantage of the uncertainty surrounding the transition, the first since the terrorist attacks of 2001.

"In every transition, there's a total vacuum for anywhere from three months to a year," Mr. Lehman said. "It's appalling. On 9/11, President Bush had only 30 percent of his national security appointees in place, and that was eight months after the inauguration."

Elaine C. Duke, an under secretary of homeland security, said her department was "poised and ready" to work with the McCain and Obama campaigns on transition planning before the Nov. 4 election. But she said, "We have not been contacted by either campaign."

Planning is essential, Ms. Duke said, because "terrorists perceive government transitions to be periods of increased vulnerability." She cited the bombing of the World Trade Center five weeks after Mr. Clinton took office in 1993; the Madrid train bombings in 2004, three days before national elections in Spain; and the car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow just days after a new British prime minister took office in 2007.

-- Dan Dupont

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