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Conflicting Views of the Civil Service

Sen. Barack Obama's campaign expressed concerns about contracting out government work.
Sen. Barack Obama's campaign expressed concerns about contracting out government work. (Joe Raedle - Getty Images)
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Apparently they don't want to appear overconfident. After it was reported that Obama has begun transition planning, Republicans blasted him.

But good-government types say both candidates should be making transition plans now, because after the election is too late to start. Don Kettl, a University of Pennsylvania professor who studies government, said both President Bush and former president Bill Clinton had talked about management issues by this stage of their first presidential campaigns.

"The material that they provided was pretty vague," Kettl complained. "It certainly was not a clear road map or a clear theme on how they would proceed as president."

Perhaps the candidates would have been less vague if this question-and-answer process allowed me to press for clarity. The questions were e-mailed to the campaigns, and the answers came back the same way. There was no opportunity for follow-ups, as in-person interviews provide. In addition to ignoring the transition question, McCain also did not respond to a query about the IRS using private bill collectors. The Obama statement called that "a demonstrated waste of taxpayer money."

Curiously, Obama staffers chose to respond for him in the third person. Frequently in situations like this, campaign officials authorized to speak for the candidate will write responses in the candidate's name, in the first person. The third-person format does not allow us to quote Obama directly.

The candidates did agree on the need to expedite the process that places almost 4,000 presidential appointees in top positions. With that in common, they should work together immediately on improving this one way government functions, Light said.

Obama and McCain could "work to streamline the process right now -- they're still sitting senators," Light said. "If they came together on a bill to do so, it'd pass in a nanosecond. Why not get on it now? You don't have to wait until January 20 to fix the system."

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