Anyone who wants to know how a proper presidential transition works, or how a proper presidency operates, must read President Obama’s latest book, “A Promised Land.”
In addition to describing his relationship with his predecessor, George W. Bush, Obama takes the reader through what it was like to run for the Senate, how he handled being a family man and a senator at the same time, and how he made the tough decision to run for president as a young Black man in a country that was not quite sure it was ready for such a person to be in charge.
Reading the book, which my wife bought me for Christmas after a considerable amount of nagging by me (“maybe I should read his book,” was heard quite a bit around our house in November and December), has made quarantining ourselves a much more pleasant endeavor.
And reading it during our current political circus raised natural comparisons to Joe Biden and Donald Trump and what The Donald is putting his successor through.
Obama’s discussion of his transition from the Bush presidency was particularly interesting and eye-opening.
Here, read it for yourself:
“Whether because of his respect for the institution, lessons from his father, bad memories of his own transition (there were rumors that some Clinton staffers had removed the W key from the White House computers on their way out the door), or just basic decency, President Bush would end up doing all he could to make the eleven weeks between my election and his departure go smoothly. Every office in the White House provided my team with detailed “how to” manuals. His staffers made themselves available to meet with their successors, answer questions, and even be shadowed as they carried out their duties. The Bush daughters, Barbara and Jenna, by that time young adults, rearranged their schedules to give Malia and Sasha a tour of the “fun” parts of the White House. I promised myself that when the time came, I would treat my successor the same way.”
I’m sure Obama did just that, and I’m also sure that Trump didn’t appreciate it one bit. I find it very interesting, and humanizing, that Obama regularly refers in the book to his wife, Michelle, and his daughters, Malia and Sasha.
I was never a big fan of Bush, neither his policies nor his actions. But, as this excerpt and what he has done since leaving office proves, he is a decent person. For example, whenever he sees Michelle, he greets her with a hug and a piece of candy. I cannot imagine Trump doing anything like this.
In our current situation, remember, Trump has neither conceded to Biden nor even admitted that he lost. Nor has he invited Biden to the White House to bring him up to speed on world and national events, which is traditional among outgoing presidents.
As I write this, Trump is moping around the White House following never-before-seen violence at the Capitol by his supporters, which he instigated, that resulted in the deaths of numerous people, and he is planning to leave Washington the morning of Biden’s inauguration as a military band plays him out of town after a march down a red carpet.
In addition, our government is under siege with about 25,000 National Guard troops and thousands of law enforcement officers staked out in Washington to protect against similar violence during Biden’s inauguration.
Making the transition even harder, Trump also has instructed his staff not to cooperate with Biden or his staff. Imagine starting a new job with no training, no exposure to how the company works and not knowing where things are. Under normal circumstances, and with a normal boss, it would never happen.
Trump also has refused to give Biden the obligatory tour of the White House. Fortunately, Biden doesn’t need it, having spent eight years there as Obama’s vice president. After all that time, he knows where all the nooks and crannies are, can find his way around the place and is even able locate the bathrooms, something a 78-year-old man really needs to know.
But what is really troubling about Trump’s lack of decency is that we are not only in the midst of a pandemic, but an economic crisis as well. Add these problems to everything else going on in the world and it is obvious why an incoming president really needs to have a running head start come Jan. 20.
And while Biden himself is familiar with the White House and its trappings, many of his staff are new to the executive branch and could have used some coaching from their predecessors. This kind of nonsense will make for a slow start to the new administration and can do the country no good.
Unlike Obama, who came to the presidency after one term as a senator, Biden has spent more than 40 years in the government so he knows what’s what, which will make up for some of Trump’s selfishness and idiocy.
As I plow through the book’s 701 pages, excluding acknowledgements and index, I learn more and more about the federal bureaucracy as well as about Obama, the man.
For example, he talks about how much he loved his elderly grandmother, Toot, who died during the presidential campaign. (Toot was short for Tutu, or grandma in Hawaiian; Obama was born in Hawaii. Her real name was Madelyn Lee Payne Dunham.)
One thing she told him, with which I can identify as I age, is, “The thing about getting older, Bar, is that you are the same person inside. … You’re trapped in this doggone contraption that starts falling apart. But it’s still you.”
The book is filled with these kinds of insights into his past, which explains why he is the person he is.
I look forward to more such revelations and plan to chronicle some of them here, in my blog. So stand by…..