Time to speed up Presidential transitions?

Is it too soon for George W. Bush to leave the White House?

Sure, Barack Obama’s inauguration isn’t scheduled until Jan. 20. But as America’s economy continues to falter, some commentators have suggested that Bush should resign immediately — and, through a series of constitutional contortions, allow Obama to take office immediately.

Should Bush stay or should he go? Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, just have to let you know.

 Joel Mathis:

It’s probably too late to speed up the transition from George W. Bush to Barack Obama without making a mess of things. But American leaders should start thinking now about the future.

During America’s early days, the election was held in November and the inauguration followed in March. The advent of train and plane travel made it sensible, during the Great Depression, to move the president’s start date to January. In our BlackBerry-dominated 21st century, there’s no reason we can’t speed that process even more.

Liberal blogger Matt Yglesias has suggested emulating European parliamentary democracies, where candidates for prime minister form "shadow governments" ready to take office as soon as the election is over. In America, this could mean that presidential candidates would announce Cabinet choices during the early fall — on the campaign trail. Not only could new presidents take office more quickly, but voters would get a better sense of how candidates intend to govern. Think a few votes might have been swayed if Obama had announced Hillary Rodham Clinton as his secretary of state in September?

The meandering and listless final days of the Bush presidency aren’t doing this country any favors. America will only benefit from a shorter transition to a new president.

Ben Boychuk:

George W. Bush can’t leave quickly enough for some Americans. Fine. Many people felt the same about Bill Clinton, and George H.W. Bush before him, and Ronald Reagan before him, and Jimmy Carter before him. Why can’t this president just do the decent thing, like Richard Nixon, and get off the stage already?

Here are a few reasons why this early-transition talk is nothing more than liberal fantasy. Government is big (regrettably) and the presidency is bigger than one man (thankfully). Transitions are complicated. There are thousands of positions to fill. Vetting takes time. The Washington Post notes that nearly 300,000 job hunters have submitted resumes for about 8,000 jobs since Election Day. And the president-elect also deserves time to get up to speed before having the full responsibilities of office thrust upon him.

Also, you can’t cherry pick parliamentary government’s more salutary features without distorting the government we already have. The Constitution — remember that? — wasn’t written to accommodate shadow secretaries or destabilizing changes in government spurred by votes of no-confidence. For every Great Britain, there is an Italy. Our Constitution still requires the Electoral College to meet in December and elect Barack Obama officially.

Leave it to America’s constitutional system of deliberative democracy to foil the ambitions of do-gooders eager to embark upon "bold, persistent experimentation," as the New Dealers put it. Barack Obama will have at least four years to deliver on his promises of hope and change. His supporters can wait a couple of months for an orderly transition to run its course.


(Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis blog daily at www.infinitemonkeysblog.com and joelmathis.blogspot.com.)