The Plank

Obama Preparing To Govern? Good!

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Barack Obama is already planning for the presidential transition. Reports the Atlantic's Marc Ambinder:

"Barack is well aware of the complexity and the organizational
challenge involved in the transition process and he has tasked s small
group to begin thinking through the process,” a senior campaign adviser
said. “Barack has made his expectations clear about what he wants from
such a process, how he wants it to move forward, and the establishment
and execution of his timeline is proceeding apace.”

This comes on the heels of news that Obama's campaign has already contacted John Podesta about getting involved. Via the Washington Post's Shailagh Murray and Michael D. Shear, earlier this month:

Now the presumptive nominee hopes to snag John Podesta, Bill Clinton's former White House chief of staff and founding head of the Center for American Progress. According to several Obama sources, the campaign wants Podesta to run the transition operation if Obama wins in November.

Podesta kept a low profile during the primary season, although he was a
staunch Clinton supporter. He is one of the most seasoned Democratic
operatives in Washington, a quintessential insider with a rare grasp of
both politics and policy. Before his White House years, when he
weathered the impeachment scandal and many other crises, Podesta served
as a staff counsel in the Senate, and one of his bosses was then-Sen. Tom Daschle, now a key member of Obama's inner circle.

Speaking of Daschle, I hear that his role in the transition will likely involve a heavy focus on health care. That makes sense, and not just because he just published a book on the subject. The primary challenge in passing health care were be getting it through the U.S. Senate. That's where Daschle, still highly regarded on the Hill from his days leading the Senate Democrats, would be particularly effective.

But let's cut to the topic most likely to generate controversy: As my colleague Nicole Allan observes below, this news could spell political trouble because it will create a perception that Obama is--here's that word again--presumptuous. I fear that she is right, which why it's important to realize how absurd that perception is.

If Obama wins, on the morning of November 5th he will wake up with less than eleven weeks to prepare for grappling with two wars and a severely troubled economy. People will likely be clamoring for help with falling housing values and increasingly scarce jobs, making it tough, among other things, to pay high gas prices. If it's Obama, he'll have been elected to slow skyrocketing medical costs and enact universal health care, something the country desperately needs but that will likely require speedy legislative action (plus some difficult budget arithmetic) to accomplish. And that's not to mention climate change, for which every day of delayed action worsens the crisis.

Oh, and he'll inherit a government full of politically appointed positions to fill and a bureacratic infrastructure in deperate need of repair, thanks to eight years in which the Bush Administration systematically gutted key agencies and made a shambles of oversight

No, the scandal is not that Obama is making transition plans early. The scandal would be if he weren't. (The same goes for McCain, who, apparently, has already acknowledged he has plans in the works.) 

"What do we now?" is funny and poignant at the end of Robert Redford movies. In real life, not so much.  

--Jonathan Cohn 

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