The Romney transition team has been quietly meeting in recent weeks with General Services Administration officials to talk about planning for a Romney White House.
Stop! Do not start tweeting “He’s measuring the drapes!” and other such nonsense. Early transition planning is essential. And the Obama team also has touched base with GSA, we’re hearing.
The Presidential Transition Act of 2010, in play now for the first time, encourages, almost mandates, that candidates begin transition plans in earnest starting right after the conventions at the end of August and early September.
Congress passed the law because, especially in a post-9/11 world, presidential transitions, with hundreds of staff members and massive policy, personnel and other tasks to be completed in a limited time, have become too important to wait until the dust settles in November.
Under the law, GSA is going to do pretty much what it would normally do after the election — provide office space, secure communications, printing and binding, furniture and equipment and other assistance, said former senator Ted Kaufman, author of the 2010 law.
What it doesn’t do is pay for staff salaries, consultants, mail, travel, and so forth. The campaigns have to raise money for that.
Obviously, Obama would have an easier time in transition.
“They can talk to people and ask them to stay in their jobs for a while longer,” said Clay Johnson, who ran George W. Bush 2000 transition. “There is less ‘new’ that has to be dealt with and fewer incoming job-seekers and advice-givers, he added “and more time to deal with it.”
John Podesta, who worked on the Clinton administration’s 1996 transition and headed the huge 2008 Obama transition, recalled the 1996 operation was “not a far-flung effort,” though there was plenty to do.
“There’s some continuity in personnel,” he said, but you have to decide ”who to keep, who to walk to the exits, who you beg to stay. And you have to do this in the context of a lame duck session” and the possible fiscal cliff. “It’s also a time to set the priorities and tee up the strategies for the key policy initiatives of the second term,” he said.
In contrast, Romney’s transition, headed by former Utah governor and Bush II Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, would bring in a new Cabinet and thousands of political appointees, plus a new budget.
They can’t really do all that needs to be done in the 75 days from election to inauguration, Johnson said, “so they have to start early, doing more work and early work to be really prepared. This [jump start] is a very good thing.”
Both sides “believe in their hearts that they are going to be elected,” he noted, so “they should be working very hard to be ready — or we shouldn’t take them seriously as candidates.”