- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

President-elect Barack Obama began preparing months ago for his transition. To critics, he was considered presumptuous — one more glimpse into the “political” gamesmanship of the then nominee.

A lot can be said for the art of graciousness, especially in politics. Consider the transition process itself. Having the infrastructure and necessary procedures in place to ensure a smooth turnover by the next commander-in-chief can speak volumes about character and dignity. It wasn’t a lesson Bill Clinton learned.

When Mr. Clinton handed over the reins to George W. Bush in 2000, it wasn’t the best environment from the start. The election decision was a month late (hanging chads ring a bell?), and the General Services Administration handed the Bush team another setback when it refused to allow transition funding until there was a clear winner in the presidential contest. Afterward, chaos ensued when the Clinton administration vandalized offices by removing all the “W” keys from computer keyboards, cutting wiring and taking official government signs.

There have been no signs of such disrespect this time around. In fact, the complete opposite is occurring. The Bush administration issued an executive order weeks ago, charging the Transition Coordinating Council with oversight of the process. President Bush has directed his cabinet and staff “to be forward-leaning in all efforts to ensure a smooth and effective transition.” Reacting to Tuesday night’s presidential election results, Mr. Bush said: “Americans can be proud of the history made. … We chose a president whose triumph is a testimony to the American story.” In reference to the transition, Mr. Bush said the country can count on complete cooperation from his administration to “now move forward as one nation.” Secretary Condoleezza Rice offered that the State Department would do all it could to make the transition smooth. And a gracious Sen. John McCain said of Mr. Obama: “his success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance. But that he managed to do so by inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving.” That is patriotic grace.

Mr. Clinton and Vice President Al Gore were never half as gracious to Mr. Bush. In fact, since Democrats have gleefully taken control of Congress, leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have resorted to name-calling. Why should we expect them to play fair now?

Mr. Obama is moving quickly. He has reportedly named “hyper-partisan” Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff. This contrasts with his acceptance remarks on election night, when Mr. Obama spoke on a theme of bipartisanship: “And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn — I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your president too.”

Democrats may argue, why should Obama play fair? He’s earned the office, Democrats rule now and Republicans be damned. But we would remind them and Mr. Obama that this is still a center-right country. Mr. Obama, despite his liberal record, now represents all Americans — including the independents, Republicans and Democrats who voted against him.

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