Because the election outcome remained "unclear and un-apparent" due to the battle for Florida's 25 electoral votes, official transition activities were put on hold for over a month. Not until December 15, 2000 did Thurman Davis, the Deputy Administrator of the General Services Administration, hand Vice President Elect Dick Cheney the electronic key card to the official transition offices. The handover represented access to ninety thousand square feet of office space in a building just a couple of blocks from the White House, and $5.3 million in federal funds for the transition effort.
However, the Bush team had not been resting during the thirty six days of uncertainty. Gov. Bush formally began his transition on November 26, 2000, the day Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris certified him as the winner of the state's 25 electoral votes. He named running mate Dick Cheney to head the transition and established a Texas nonprofit corporation, the 2000 Bush-Cheney Presidential Transition Foundation, Inc., to raise private funds to support the transition. Some personnel were announced, offices opened in McLean, Virginia, and a website was launched complete with job application forms.
By mid-December about a hundred staff and volunteers were working out of the McLean offices. The transition had raised $3 million in private funds. Thousands of resumes had been processed. Transition press secretary Ari Fleischer said the Bush team used the period of electoral limbo to "quietly and privately get a lot of work done."
Nonetheless, Vice President Gore's challenge did put a crimp in the transition. The McLean office did not open until November 30. Due to the challenge situation it was impossible for Bush's people to interface with personnel in the various departments. For a time there were actuually two transitions in progress. Vice President Gore, whose path to the presidency appeared more problematic than Bush's, initiated his own transition under the direction of Roy Neel, a close, long-time aide on leave from his position as president of the U.S. Telephone Association.
the election finally decided in Bush's favor, the task of assembling
new administration came into full focus. Speculation on various
was the order of the day; in addition to the different names bandied
observers wondered whether President-Elect Bush would be able to find a
willing Democrat. By Christmas, Bush had announced about half of
his Cabinet, and on January 2 he named his final three picks for
secretaries. However, on January 9 Labor Secretary-designate
Chavez withdrew from consideration due to a controversy over her help
an illegal immigrant; Bush named Elaine Chao as his new choice for the
position on January 11. The fourteen Secretary-designees thus
three women, two blacks, one Hispanic, two Asian-Americans, two sitting
governors, two recently defeated U.S. Senators, and, yes, one
2000 Bush-Cheney Presidential Transition Foundation, Inc.
The Transition to
(AEI, Brookings and Hoover)
|Transition Nuts and Bolts:
Supposed to Work
After the excitement of Election Night, or in the case of 2000, Election Month, it is time to turn attention to building a new administration. In fact, preparation for the transition will have been underway, quietly, for some time. During the latter part of the campaign, major candidates will have set up transition advisory boards or committees.
Now, however, it's the real thing. Amid euphoria and exhaustion, responsibility looms. Expectations are high. The one-time candidate must assume a "presidential aura." The president-elect and his transition team must make effective use of the time so as to "hit the ground running."
Charles Jones, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, has an interesting way of describing the process. He notes that the campaign is centered around one person, the candidate. After the campaign, the challenge is "attaching that person to the government."
If the incumbent has been re-elected the transition period is relatively straightforward; likely there will be some turnover in the cabinet and sub-cabinet positions. If control remains within the same party, the new man or woman will want to bring in his own people. And, if the White House changes party, the transition becomes a major undertaking, requiring skilled management.
A certain amount of tension in this period is inevitable. People who have worked hard on the campaign now see others being brought in to manage the transition. There is much jockeying for position, various constituencies make their cases, and resumes proliferate.
The president-elect's cabinet selections make headlines, but in the transition office the focus is on the nitty gritty of building a new administration. Careful attention to selecting sub-cabinet personnel, learning about the pending issues in various agencies, and figuring out what policy initiatives to advance can minimize the likelihood of early flaps which will undercut the fledgling administration's effectiveness and support.
|GSA-prepared transition offices in downtown Washington (shown in Nov. 20 photograph) remained empty for over a month due to the electoral uncertainty, causing the Bush team to open its own privately-funded offices in McLean, VA.|
No Shortage of Advice
James J. Schiro, ed. 2000. Memos to the President: Management Advice from the Nation's Top CEOs. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Center for the Study of the Presidency. 2000. Triumphs and Tragedies of the Modern Presidency. Westport, CT: Praeger.
Stuart M. Butler and Kim R. Holmes, eds. 2000. Priorities for the President. Washington, DC: Heritage Foundation.
Copyright 1998, 1999,
2001 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.