Now that the national media has largely run out of fuel for complaining about the possibility of President Trump winning a second term they’ve had to find something else to carp about. The new topic of choice seems to be Trump’s refusal to leap into the process of transitioning to an anticipated Biden administration. The Washington Post breathlessly describes the administration’s recent moves as something that “threatens to impede the transfer of power” in one of their less-newsy pieces in recent memory. All that’s missing is a demand for Seal Team 6 to land on the White House lawn and drag Trump out by his heels.
The Trump White House on Monday instructed senior government leaders to block cooperation with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team, escalating a standoff that threatens to impede the transfer of power and prompting the Biden team to consider legal action.
Officials at agencies across the government who had prepared briefing books and carved out office space for the incoming Biden team to use as soon as this week were told instead that the transition would not be recognized until the Democrat’s election was confirmed by the General Services Administration, the low-profile agency that officially starts the transition.
While media outlets on Saturday projected Biden as the winner, President Trump has not conceded the election.
Let me just start by saying that I tend to disagree with Trump’s decision to stonewall on this matter. Even if he truly believes he’s going to prevail, it’s still far from a sure thing. If he winds up having to leave, a transition will need to take place. And even if he turns this battle around and winds up winning a second term, there is no damage done by engaging with a transition team that winds up not being needed. The refusal just makes the President appear rather petty in my opinion.
But with that said, the drama and arm-waving going on over this question is obviously far over the top. We’re barely a week out from the election. There are more than two months to go before Biden would be required or even able to take his first official action. Are any of these media mavens old enough to remember the election of 2000? That race wasn’t even decided until December 12 when the Supreme Court ruled in Bush v. Gore in favor of George W. Bush. There wasn’t much in the way of “transition” work going on with the Clinton White House prior to that and the country still somehow managed to soldier on and usher in the next president.
Besides, there’s still a lot that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris can be doing without the full cooperation of the General Services Administration. He’s going to need to interview a lot of people for cabinet positions in the coming months and that can be done anywhere without the need of temporary office space at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. (You’ll recall that Trump did a lot of this sort of work from his hotel in New York after his victory in 2016.) Biden will be bringing in his own staff of advisors when he takes office since he’s unlikely to keep Trump’s family on. They can be gathering information and briefing him, assuming he stays awake for the prep sessions. Joe Biden has already declared his intention to issue a flurry of executive orders on his first day in office to undo much of the progress made by Donald Trump. (This despite his many complaints about Trump issuing executive orders.) He should probably be using this time to have some of his aides begin drafting and reviewing those so they can be run past a team of attorneys.
How long does anyone really expect these challenges and recounts to drag on for? Any petition in the courts that’s taken even remotely seriously will almost certainly be sent directly to the Supreme Court for an emergency review and decision. And we don’t have to wait for every one of the disputed states to be formally declared to be in Biden’s column before this is over. Just losing Pennsylvania (assuming it happens) would put Biden over the top. At that point, Trump really won’t have any other options and the transition will have to begin.
I think what we’re seeing in the press this week is just a last gasp of Trump Derangement Syndrome. They’ve been hounding the President since before he was sworn into office and they won’t be able to break that addiction until he flies off for his last ride on Marine One in January if everything plays out the way his detractors hope. But win or lose, the country will stumble through this like we always do and the next administration, be it Biden’s first or Trump’s second, will begin on schedule.