We have a question and answer, a slight edit, below.
What if he loses?
Why do we wait months for a president to be installed and how Trump came
CNN: We hold presidential elections on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. But the new president does not take office until January. What is the reason for this gap and is it still necessary?
KAB: The reason for this gap is the provision of a peaceful transfer of power and very necessary. Maybe now more than ever.
I interviewed more than twenty people who worked with Barack Obama and George W. Bush and were told by both sides that they had a smooth transition that was important at a time when the country was going through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Michelle Obama, first chief of staff, Jackie Norris, told me that she “will never forget the intimate friendship and loyalty that first ladies and members of the first female crew have for each other.” The same is true for the West Wing.
The haphazard manner in which the Trump campaign approached the transition phase is dangerous. Part of that, of course, was that no one on his campaign team had taken the time to prepare an acceptance letter. They did not think they would win.
Trump won the election in part by saying he would “drain the swamp” but there are primary responsibilities for the federal government that would have been better equipped to manage it if he had a certain level of institutional knowledge (Joe Biden is exactly the opposite). This takes time which means it takes a few months to make appointments and learn how things work.
I wrote in my book “Team Five” that Obama’s aides were told to prepare drafts of thick guidebooks on how their offices work, including small details such as voicemail passwords.
This is from the book:
But Obama’s aides had no one to hand carefully curated briefing books to them.
Professional government officials waited at the Ministry of Energy, the Ministry of Commerce, and throughout the sprawling bureaucracy. They wanted direction – they wanted to know who their new bosses were and how their Trump presidency jobs would change – but they got nothing. Indeed, some high-ranking employees waited and waited until after weeks of silence, assuming they were no longer working, and they packed their offices.
How can Trump get out
CNN: After seeing Trump’s first period, what should we look for in a post-defeat period?
CNN: The United States is known for its peaceful transfer of power. Is there a precedent for a losing president or his administration to wreak havoc upon exit?
KAB: Historically, there have certainly been some bitter defeats (see John Adams and Thomas Jefferson) but in modern times both parties have promoted their ability to transfer power peacefully. During the 2008 campaign, Bush’s director of national intelligence, John Michael McConnell, arranged for Obama and his Republican rival, Senator John McCain, to obtain a report with the 13 most important national security issues. Once upon a time, during the last two months of the 2008 campaign, Obama and McCain found themselves sitting at the same table in Roosevelt’s room, and Bush was sitting between them, discussing the $ 700 billion congressional mandate to save the battered market.
Bush and Obama had real respect for each other. In unveiling the official photos of George W. and Laura Bush at the White House in May 2012, Obama said, “President Bush understood that saving our economy was not just a democratic or Republican issue, but rather an American priority. I will always be grateful for that.” By contrast, President Trump reportedly did not invite President Obama to his image, which was revealed in the White House.
Trump is unlikely to somehow refuse to go
CNN: Trump is not the type to simply go quietly. What can he do if he wants to throw a machine in the government machine?
KAB: He can refuse to leave, but I don’t see it happening. There was discussion on the left, especially Bill Maher, so it is something in people’s minds. I have difficulty visualizing
Trump sits on the stairs of the Capitol with hundreds of thousands of fans cheering for his departure.
Former presidents have always had terrible admiration for each other, even after being forced out of office. After Ronald Reagan spoke at the opening of Jimmy Carter’s Library, Carter said: “I understand now more clearly than I was before why I won.”
Jimmy Carter apologized to George W. Bush for his dedication to the Bush Library for being too cruel to him, especially for his outspoken criticism of the war in Iraq. Bush replied, “Oh, shut up.” Can you imagine happening with Trump and his successors, whenever this happens?
What if he won?
Encourage the puppy
CNN: No president has been removed, acquitted or re-elected. You can imagine if he won, Trump would feel more audacious than anyone else in history. How can Trump treat the office in a second term as the final winner?
KAB: I think he will feel the audacity to take whatever actions he wants. When I interviewed my book, it was shortly after Muller’s report was published and he feels innocent. He was outspoken and eager to talk about how he thought he had done more than any president in history. So I can only imagine his reaction to his re-election after his dismissal. Much of what he spends his time doing is judging only with his supporters in mind, and if he is re-elected, this will prove the tremendous power of the electorate. I think he will criticize reporters and the so-called “deep state” more than he criticizes today. It wouldn’t be a good sight.
Trump has no historical precedent
CNN: Is there another president who came to the White House unpopular and then received an unpopular re-election? Is there another president for two divisive states like Trump?
KAB: I think George W. Bush was incredibly divisive but not that far. His approval ratings have risen since he left office. Like Trump, he was elected without a popular vote. Bush has followed in his father’s footsteps and has mostly remained on the sidelines. He saw high acceptance rates because absence makes the heart grow more fond. I can’t expect Trump to stay on the sidelines.
Unloved bosses and second periods
CNN: What can we learn from the second term of presidents who were not crazy popular at the time of their re-election and won against expectations (think of Harry Truman here or Richard Nixon)?
KAB: If you look at Nixon and Watergate, winning a thin margin made him even more mad and rational and led to his resignation. This example does not bode well.
Trump and his successor, the Republican Party
CNN: We dig into guessing here, but I wondered, if Trump wins, how would Mike Pence, who was a loyal soldier during this first period, be treated. It’s hard to imagine someone with Trump’s true sensibilities sensing the truth just handing the wand to someone like Pence, who undoubtedly lacks Trump’s tendency to drama, as a logical candidate for the Republican Party. What does history tell us?
KAB: Trump is not loyal to people just because they are loyal to him. I think Mike Pence will be treated well if re-elected because it makes sense for Pence to help him convince the evangelical voters to stay with him. But I don’t think loyalty will last long, and Trump could support someone else if Pence continues in 2024. And he will not translate into long-term support unless he benefits him in one way or another.