The president we elect in 2020 will have to rebuild a chaotic government (Ted Kaufman)

With a year to go, I have worried about the next presidential transition process because the Democratic nominee, if elected, “will be taking over a government that in many ways will look something like Berlin in 1945.”

The writer served on the Obama transition team in 2008. He says that the team “did a decent job,” but “much of what we did was flying by the seat of our pants.” Later, after getting to the Senate, Kaufman authored a bill to fix some of the problems that was enacted in 2010. And there was a second bill that made further improvements, sponsored by Sen. Tom Carper, enacted in early 2016.

In November 2016, however, “over 100 days of work by a capable transition team led by [NJ] Governor [Chris] Christie was literally cast aside by President Trump right after he was elected. The new team “never caught up,” which arguably helps to explain “the chaos we have witnessed for the past three years.”

“I don’t think comparing the state of many of the agencies and departments of the federal government today with the rubble of Berlin 1945 is that much of an exaggeration.”

Politicization of the Justice Department – EPA turned into direct threat to the environment – in State Department, important positions and ambassadorships vacant for years - morale at an all-time low in departments from Agriculture to Interior. “No one even pretends any longer that anyone within the White House but the president has any power or influence.”

Current campaign: Debate formats have elevated entertainment value over substance – can anything meaningful be said about climate change or healthcare in 90 seconds – and the media coverage has been “even worse.”

Back to the transition, the Bush administration was very helpful in 2008 but I’m not sure how things will go in 2020. “Certainly, what President Trump has said or threatened about the transfer of power is disturbing. And it is hard to imagine people in his administration who have been actively trying to weaken or even destroy their departments cooperating with a new administration that wants to reinvigorate them.”

Challenges for the new administration: Restore foreign relationships that are in tatters, and domestically find ways to “unite us.” To which end, let’s hope for a president-elect ”who knows how our government should work, and has the knowledge and experience to ensure it begins to do that from Day One.”

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