WASHINGTON – A piece of paper that President George W. Bush signed Thursday helps ease his way out of the White House when his term ends and clears the way for his successor.
For seven years and nearly nine months, Bush has signed virtually every memo or order or piece of legislation imaginable. He even vetoed a few bills, but the directive he put his name on Thursday was one that few talk very much about. It is the executive order that turns the keys to the White House over to whomever is elected president on Nov. 4.
A little publicized truth is that Washington can't wait until inauguration day next Jan. 20 to figure out the details of a transition to a new presidency. Both Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain already have designated officials to oversee such a transition once the outcome of the election is known. The transition team of the winning candidate will set up procedures for selecting key personnel and making policy decisions in the 11 weeks between the election and when the new president takes office.
Congress has appropriated $8 million to finance transition operations.
White House press secretary Dana Perino said Bush's order was designed to help coordinate efforts already under way to ensure a seamless transition. She said Bush wants to make sure the next president's team has everything it needs to hit the ground running.
"This is especially important as our nation is fighting a war, dealing with a financial crisis and working to protect ourselves from future terrorist attacks," Perino said.
Bush's order established a presidential transitional coordinating council whose members include top officials from the intelligence and national security community, as well as the White House budget office, the Justice Department, Homeland Security and other agencies. Even before the election, they will work with the Obama and McCain campaigns "on an equal basis and without regard for party affiliation," the order directs.
"The council shall assist the major party candidates and the president-elect by making every reasonable effort to facilitate the transition between administrations," Bush's order said.