How much transition is there for an incumbent President who has been reelected? After all, he’s already there, his staff is essentially in place, and he knows his way around the White House. In terms of process and basics, how does the first term differ from the second, and is there anything similar to the honeymoon accorded a first-term President?
We took these questions and more to Martha Joynt Kumar, a professor of political science at Towson State University. She is a presidency scholar who focuses in particular on the issues of transition, as well as the relationship between administration officials and the White House press corps*. She is currently working on a new book, Mapping the Glide Path to Power: The 2008-2009 Presidential Transition.
The presidential debate season is upon us, with three scheduled for President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney and one for Vice President Joe Biden and GOP VP nominee Paul Ryan. If four years ago is any measure, tens of millions of potential voters will tune in. Many will have made up their minds in advance, but not all; regardless, according to experts, most will watch mainly to affirm their choice. That affirmation comes not only in the substance of answers but also in how the candidates stand, sit, talk, make eye contact, listen, smile, answer, assert, doodle, and avoid, to the best of their ability, eye-rolling, sighing, looking bored, or checking the clock.
No candidate wants to repeat anything remotely similar to one of the most memorable gaffes in presidential debate history, when President George H. W. Bush glanced at his wristwatch while Bill Clinton was answering a question. Or when Al Gore walked into George W. Bush’s personal space, or when Senator John McCain wandered the stage in a manner that inspired instant mockery on Saturday Night Live.
“The vast majority of voters have [already] made up their minds,” says Aileen Pincus, who specializes in training people to speak in public forums. Her company, the Pincus Group, is based in Silver Spring. “The debate is about how comfortable each man is in his own skin. This is why they are powerful, because we are human and we believe our own eyes and want to judge for ourselves. We know it is not really a debate in the traditional sense. It is highly rehearsed.” For that reason, she says, people look for the spontaneous moments—“something that will [show] us the authentic person.”
From June through October of a presidential election year, a small group of experts serve as trainers, coaches, and writers for the gladiatorial spectacles that are the presidential and vice-presidential debates. This year’s face-offs—the first in Denver on October 3—offer one of the last chances to change the race’s dynamics before the November 6 election.
Debate preppers must create a comprehensive and hard-to-debunk yet readable compilation of all policy issues the candidate might get asked about. When I worked on debate prep for the Bush/Cheney campaign in 2004, I mused that this universe might be as large as 40,000 questions. Gary Edson, who had also done debate work for the 2000 Bush campaign, added: “Forty thousand potential questions, but there are only 40 answers.”
Wednesday morning on Politico, Mike Allen reported that “beloved” Redskins owner Dan Snyder plans to host a fundraiser for Mitt Romney at the Snyder manse in Potomac, Maryland.
Not much later, Dan Steinberg tweeted, “Despite Politico report, both the Redskins and the Romney campaign say Snyder is not hosting a Romney fundraiser.”
If you were planning the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, where would you place the delegates from the District of Columbia? How would they look on the national stage?
You have a city council chairman who decided to resign rather than face bank fraud charges. And a city council member serving jail time for stealing $350,000 in public funds meant to help poor kids. And a mayor whose campaign is under investigation for a variety of misdeeds, from paying off another candidate to harass the incumbent to running a “shadow campaign” with upward of $600,000 off the books.
And you have Marion Barry. The former mayor and current council member took to the microphone Monday before the convention even began to tell the Daily Caller that President Obama has “not done everything I wanted him to do, but he’s done more than anyone else has done.”
If Mitt Romney loses the race for the White House, could he be TV’s next reality-show host? Illustration by Antony Hare.
It’s pilot season for the TV networks, which means everyone is hoping to land the next big reality series. After Sarah Palin’s Alaska teamed the former John McCain running mate with producer Mark Burnett, the inventor of Survivor, there’s no shortage of possibilities for the genre. We got our hands on one network’s pitch sheet.
The Bachelor: 9-9-9
It's The Bachelor meets America’s Next Top Model. Herman Cain and two other judges rate possible new companions. The perfect score? 9-9-9, of course.
Celebrity Gay Rehab With Marcus and Michele
It’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy flipped on its head—a straight guy, Dr. Marcus Bachmann, and his congresswoman wife, Michele, make over the lifestyles of gay celebrities and rid them of unwanted homosexual tendencies.
Since Barack Obama first entered the political scene, we've been keeping an eye on him. Here's some of our coverage of the new president-elect from the past few years—and guesses as to what the next four could look like under him.
What If Obama Filled His Inner Circle With DC Outsiders?
One clear message President-elect Obama could send would be to appoint Cabinet officials who have never worked in Washington. Here is one way an outsider Cabinet could shape up. From December 2008.
Who'll Get the Big Jobs?
Will Kerry be Secretary of State? Who will Obama appoint as his Chief of Staff? We make our guesses. From October 2008.
The Legend of Barack Obama
From out of nowhere, he’s become DC’s brightest star. Will his charisma and sense of destiny propel him to the White House in 2008? From November 2006.
Chew on This: Tell us which restaurants the Obamas must dine at when they come to DC.
Will Malia and Sasha Go to a DC Public School? No—the inside betting is on Maret.
The Next Chapter of Obama From June 2008
Will Obama Kill Pleated Khakis?
Is Barack Obama the next DC fashion icon? He favors slim-cut suits and tapered ties in keeping with the new trends in men’s fashion. From May 2007.
Who Might be in an Obama Cabinet?
Obama has surrounded himself with strong and opinionated advisers, and odds are that his Cabinet appointments would be more than window-dressing. Here are our picks for who might make up his Cabinet. From May 2008.
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of dispatches that Washingtonian.com will be publishing in the months leading up to the inauguration. We’ll provide an insider’s look at how high-profile inaugural events come together—from food and decorations to entertainment and security. Our reporting will be focused on the inaugural activities at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel.
Inaugural balls have been part of the presidential rite of passage since George Washington. He danced two cotillions and a minuet at the first ball in New York City on May 7, 1789. James Madison celebrated the first official inaugural gala in Washington in 1809. John Quincy Adams, who attended, wasn’t impressed. “The crowd was excessive, the heat oppressive, and the entertainment bad,” he said.
A group of people are walking through the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. They’re here to scout the space for a blowout inaugural event. They clutch information packets outlining the hotel’s specs, including floor plans, parking, guest rooms, and outdoor event spaces. They have pencils, cameras, and cell phones in hand. Chris Otway is at the helm to answer their questions.
They’re standing in one of the executive suites, a guest room with living, dining, and meeting spaces.
“Do you know the square-footage of this room?” a man asks.
“About 600,” Otway replies.
“Are all the rooms the same size?” another chimes in.
“No, this is the smallest.”
“What about tissues?” says the first man. “I didn’t see any in the bathroom. We’ll need tissues.”
“I’ll check on that for you,” Otway replies as he jots something in his notebook.
This is a typical day for Otway. He’s the Wardman Park’s director of sales and catering. His job is to bag big-ticket events for the hotel, and that means being able to answer every question and assuage every concern a client might have—right down to tissues.
>>Read our profile on Barack Obama, The Legend of Barack Obama.
>>Since Obama entered the political scene, we've been keeping an eye on him. Who will be on his cabinet? What motivates him? Will he change the fashion of DC? We answer the important questions.
With Barack Obama possibly on his way to becoming the Democratic nominee for president, speculation abounds as to who might make up an Obama Cabinet.
While the role of the Cabinet has declined under President Bush—many department heads are virtually unknown inside and outside the Beltway—signs say Obama would take a different approach. Obama has surrounded himself with strong and opinionated advisers, and odds are that his Cabinet appointments would be more than window-dressing.
Secretary of State and national-security adviser? Obama has relied on four familiar Washington names: former national-security advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski (Jimmy Carter) and Anthony Lake (Bill Clinton), former Clinton assistant secretary of State Susan Rice, and former Navy secretary Richard Danzig. Obama has recently distanced himself from Brzezinski, a controversial figure in the Jewish community. Retired general Anthony Zinni, if he doesn’t end up on the ticket as vice president, could also be a player.
Greg Craig, the Williams & Connolly partner who defended President Clinton in his impeachment trial, has been a vocal Obama supporter. He has experience at the State Department and has been a defense and foreign-policy adviser to Senator Ted Kennedy.