McCain Not Fit for Transition, Let Alone Presidency
Posted by Adam Blickstein
Sam Stein at Huffington Post has an interesting look at the transition plans of both campaigns. It's critical to remember that this has nothing to do with presumptuousness about being elected president on November 4 and everything about the smooth transition between administrations. More importantly, having a transition operation in queue allows for a continuity in governance that prevents destructive gaps in tackling our nation's most pressing challenges. From Iraq to Afghanistan to Pakistan to Russia to the threat of terrorism to the economic crisis to global warming to unforeseen challenges, the plate for the next president is overflowing. But...
As the 2008 campaign nears its conclusion, the presidential transition efforts of the two major candidates have become a study in contrasts: Sen. Barack Obama has organized an elaborate well-staffed network to prepare for his possible ascension to the White House, while Sen. John McCain has all but put off such work until after the election.
The Democratic nominee has enlisted the assistance of dozens of individuals -- divided into working groups for particular federal agencies -- to produce policy agendas and lists of recommended appointees. As evidence of their advanced preparations, officials provided a copy of the strict ethics guidelines that individuals working on the transition effort are required to sign.
John McCain, by contrast, has done little. Campaign spokespersons did not respond to requests for elaboration. But one official with direct knowledge, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, expressed concern with McCain's approach. The Arizona Senator has instructed his team to not spend time on the transition effort, according to the source, both out of a desire to have complete focus on winning the election as well as a superstitious belief that the campaign shouldn't put the cart before the horse.
This is completely irresponsible and unpresidential of Sen. McCain. By choosing an unqualified running mate, he ensured that he had no acceptable contingency plan for the country in case he was no longer capable of continuing as President. But by not having a transition plan in place, he is ensuring that he and his administration would be completely unprepared for the Presidency and the current challenges we face before he would even take office. It's not one of those "I'll cross that bridge when it comes" situations. Simply put, we are in the midst of so many critical crises both at home and overseas, to the current and future direction of the country, that the President has to be prepared not on day one in January, but literally, on November 5. Being superstitious is not any sort of justifiable excuse. It should not prevent a serious politician from being sensible and responsible, and dare I say presidential. Take the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, for example:
As the U.S. presidential election approaches, senior officials have expressed worry that the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan is so tenuous that it may fall apart while a new set of U.S. policymakers settles in. Others believe a more comprehensive, airtight road map for the way ahead would limit the new president's options.
To the degree that John McCain has ignored Afghanistan in the past, and now has ignored his duty to his nation to formulate an effective transition plan, means that if he were to be elected, his tenure as both President-elect and President would start at a severe organizational deficit with a dangerous dearth of strategic planning that would leave us vulnerable. The deteriorating situation Afghanistan is too critical for the the next potential president to neglect. By having no transition plans in place, McCain would be neglecting it in two layers if elected.
Remember, McCain had to (artificially) suspend his campaign to (incompetently) deal with the financial crisis. Imagine if he had to simultaneously decide how to fill thousands of federal positions, plan on how the executive branch would operate, fill in his National Security Council, figure out his cabinet, choose curtains for the West Wing, work with the Bush administration on transition with critical national security briefings, while having to deal with a complete collapse in Afghanistan as the Taliban regain tangential power, a failed nuclear state of Pakistan as radicals seize control, a continued deterioration in our nation's economy, amongst with the other various challenges a President-elect faces without any pre-planning in place? What, exactly, would John McCain suspend then, except maybe time so he could go back and learn how to become a competent politician and effective leader.
By putting superstition, not country, first, he simply risks putting America in a precarious and dangerous place.