White House transfer of power


President Bush and President-elect Barack Obama (Image: whitehouse.gov)

With President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration just days away, the transition team is hard at work behind the scenes with the aim of making the move to the White House as smooth as possible. But crisis abroad and the economy here at home seem to be making the stakes especially high this time around.

Martha Joynt Kumar, Director of the White House Transition Project talks to Tavis Smiley about the Obama transition compared to previous transfers of power.

Kumar says Barack Obama's transition began very quickly: "He moved very swiftly -- that weekend [after his election], his transition head ... signed a Memorandum of Understanding that is the kick-off for a transition. It's establishing what the ground rules are for the transition between the out-going and the in-coming administration. Usually that's signed weeks later, and it was signed that first week. And then he came to Washington and met with President Bush, all within the first week."

Kumar explains that 2004's Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act allowed for a clearance process for staff transitions that could start after the nominating conventions, not after election. So both John McCain and Barack Obama had submitted names of their transition staff, which speeded up the transition process.

Substantial preparation and planning goes into the transitions, says Kumar, because, "If you think about it, transitions are soft times where governments are vulnerable. For example, three days after Gordon Brown came in as Prime Minister in England, you had the attacks at the airport in Glasgow, and the failed attacks in London.

"People recognize within the government that there are vulnerabilities, and you have to make certain to do the crisis planning and then make sure with the new team coming in, that they're aware of what kind of planning there is, so they're actually doing some crisis preparations and exercises."

"The Tavis Smiley Show" is a weekly show offering a unique blend of news and newsmakers in expanded conversations, along with feature reports and regular commentators. "The Tavis Smiley Show" is produced by Tavis Smiley productions, and distributed nationwide by PRI. This piece is a part of the "Tavis Smiley Show’s" series "My America 2008" which profiles the challenges and triumphs of everyday Americans and how their lives will be affected by the plans and policies of the Presidential candidates.

More "Tavis Smiley Show"