This year in politics is often accompanied by statements about how much The West Wing as a TV show lived in the real life quest of the presidency in the 2008 campaign. Rahm loved the show so much he actually has an on camera extra spot in the episode, The Wedding. While Rahm may have inspired the creation of the Josh character, the actual job he will take is the one Leo McGarry played to much acclaim on the show, knuckle brawling super-smart marine, former alcoholic and Cabinet Secretary divorcée, Leo Thomas McGarry. The McGarry & Bartlet families were long time friends as are the Obamas & the Emanuels.
Others say the take-no-prisoners partisan nicknamed Rahmbo is a perfect fit for the him if he is to push through the radical changes he seeks.
The inspiration for The West Wing’s fictional deputy chief-of-staff, Josh Lyman, the most unlikely moments in the character’s story are plucked straight out of Mr. Emanuel’s reality.
When Lyman reads a Washington Post profile of him which tells how he sent a congressman a rotting fish in the post, he asks his assistant, Donna, if she was the source. In fact, it was Mr Emanuel – who reportedly once sent a pollster he had fallen out with the same gift – as a warning never to cross him again.A man who is a cross between a practical yet politically savvy George Washington and a hip, edgy to the max Chris Rock is going into the White House. But first, one has to prepare to be the head of state. Up until 1936, elections happened in November and ascendancies and transfers of power came about on March 4. In one of the rare historical facts The West Wing show ever got wrong is in a scene in the East Room with Jed and his wife Abbey as they say goodbye to such a grand old house the morning of his successor's inauguration, stating why elections and the date happened. The subsequent versions of The West Wing have that error edited out.
Staff work will make or break a presidency. Presidential transitions require minute attention to detail while drinking water from a thousand freely flowing water hoses all at once in public. Mistakes are magnified and have world wide implications. Secrets must be kept for the Common Good while remaining open to deserved criticisms. During chaotic transitions like Bill Clinton, the culture of DC seeped in to taint the cabinet picks. In the middle of his 1992 transition, President-elect Clinton and the future First Lady, held a two day US economic summit with a wide diversity of guests. President-Elect Obama will send emissaries to the global economic summit next weekend held by the current president in deference of the immutable fact that there is only one president at a time.
In West Wing episodes, the amount of staff and advance work to create the right presidential look and feel and the detailed policy positions is done by a security clearance staff, known since 1939 as the Executive Office of the President of the United States (EOP), knowing what is needed. So far Barack Obama has only three direct reports, a VP, a Chief of Staff and his campaign strategist turned Senior Adviser, David Axelrod, with over a thousand left to hire to cram into a small amount of space in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. We are awaiting Michelle Obama's staff choices for the East Wing. The staff work on The West Wing delivers a great description of balancing multiple burning clouds of toilet paper in a public windstorm that has to be explained every day to the co-equal partners in Government - the Judicial branch, the Legislative branch and most of all the American people. Sausage making is much cuter.
The beneficiary of this year's election are regular people who believed they have a stake in the outcome. It was a Children's Crusade amped up 21st century style for a member of my generation, Generation Jones or Gen X, to become president by engaging the young. Without the young as partners, no major changes take place. But the young have to be determined, persistent and knowledgeable. It was not an accident that Boomer parents became introduced to the intensity of this election through their GenX or GenY children. What is a tremendous change is the amount of intellectual firepower the young packed in understanding the issues, the candidates, but most importantly the civic responsibility of service. It was noted by the entire world as a 180 change in direction from the eight year dictatorship of George W. Bush who plundered and pillaged
One of Al Gore's laments was the number of minds that were blank blackboards on basic facts about how the machinery of the
Jonathan Alter, roving senior editor for Newsweek, wrote his book, The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope, about the heralded first hundred days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidency. That has been the measure the press obsesses about ever since to see if brand new presidencies can sparkle like FDR's. Barack Obama is planning on an accomplished first 100 days, but not one presidency has been successful without a planned focused transition. Mr. Obama sees this book as required reading.
This post is part of The Transition Series to the presidency of Barack Obama
(Please note, posts listed by date)