The transition of power between an outgoing and incoming president is not just a broad process with obvious political implications. It is also a massive movement of individuals into a new office and home.
When Barack Obama finishes taking the oath of office, he and his top aides will be inheriting all of the major geopolitical crises, responsibilities and decisions that come with the job. Twenty or so senior officials already have been given clearance to enter the White House on Tuesday. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel -- accompanied by his deputy Jim Messina, and chief strategist David Axelrod -- is expected to literally be handed national security papers upon entering the premises.
But the president-elect and his staff will also be confronted by a bevy of administrative issues that, if not handled right, could be a real distraction during the early days and weeks.
When Bill Clinton moved into 1600 Pennsylvania in 1993, one of the first obstacles his staff had to overcome was figuring out how to get a telephone line that could call a number outside of the White House, aides to the former president recall. In the days that followed, clerical issues like this would prove to be a major frustration for the president and his aides. Eight years later, George W. Bush's team would enter its new digs to discover it had suffered roughly $13,000 worth of vandalism and damages. Their predecessors had taken W keys off the computer keyboards at a replacement cost of $4,850, according to a GAO report on the mini-scandal.
Aides to Obama aren't prepping themselves to have desk drawers glued shut, but they are cognizant of some of the small-bore issues they'll have to confront. The computers at the White House are obsolete compared to the ones used during the campaign -- desktops v. laptops. Mainly, however, it is the process of knowing where things are and how the system works that will require an adjustment.
The first family, too, will be dealing with the hiccups and frustrations that come with moving into new digs. But in this task they will have plenty of help. Gary J. Walters, the White House butler from 1986 until 2007, told MSNBC on Monday that a maintenance staff of 60 people would literally transform the residence into Obama's home over the course of several hours on Tuesday. Bush's items won't be boxed up until that process begins.
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