Avoiding Power

09Nov08

In Barack’s presser on Friday, he mentioned a couple of times that there can only one president at a time. Was he pressuring for the Bush administration to move toward a co-presidency during transition, or was he trying to create distance from Bush – to make it clear to Americans that there would be no collaboration?

In an earlier conflict, when the country was on the brink of civil war, Lincoln took a hands-off approach during a four-month lag between his election and inauguration, staying mum so as not to inflame tensions in the North or the South… Lincoln maintained what became known as an attitude of “masterly inactivity,” said Harold Holzer, who recently wrote the book “Lincoln President-Elect.”

FDR took the same approach.

Roosevelt, who picked members of the opposing party for Cabinet spots, was as noncommittal as Lincoln as he was about to be sworn into office amid a banking crisis. When Herbert Hoover asked him to sign on to a bank holiday — a temporary closure of banks — three days before inauguration, Roosevelt famously looked up and said, “The drapes look very pretty. I’m sure Eleanor will want to keep these just as they are.”

That made Hoover furious. Soon after taking the oath of office, Roosevelt declared the banking holiday on his own.

We may see Barack borrowing more moves from his predecessors once he assumes office.

In his first fireside chat in March 1933, FDR said: “We had a bad banking situation. Some of our bankers had shown themselves either incompetent or dishonest in their handling of the people’s funds. They had used the money entrusted to them in speculations and unwise loans. … It was the government’s job to straighten out this situation and do it as quickly as possible, and the job is being performed.”

Sound familiar?

“He wanted to do it himself. A clean slate is what Lincoln wanted. It’s what Roosevelt wanted,” Holzer said. “The lessons of history are there. The most successful transformative presidencies were patient between the election and the inauguration.”

Maybe history is repeating itself in that regard. When President Bush announced before the election that he was hosting a global economic summit in Washington on Nov. 15, the Obama camp said the presidential hopeful wouldn’t be there. “He understands there is only one president,” an Obama adviser said.

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One Response to “Avoiding Power”

  1. 1 Anonymous

    so, history repeats itself. Things are so bad (or at least perceived to be so bad) that any mistep is amplified and any movement from the opposite side is perceived to be hopeful.
    I have no doubts that corporate USA will vote up or down as they see fit and Obama will be in or out accordingly.


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