The President-Elect's First 76 Days

Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first 100 days in the White House has lately been the focus of renewed media interest. During that period, FDR offered a record amount of legislation -- all of which passed -- and created the New Deal.

Now, some 75 year later, the U.S. is facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and fighting a war in two countries. The transition between the current Bush administration and the next administration can't wait until Jan. 20, 2009. It has to start on Nov. 5 with a full team of economic advisers working on ways to fix the economy and a military transition to combat terrorism.

There are 76 days between Nov. 5 and Jan. 20. Both presidential candidates have to be ready to hit the ground running the day after the election.

However, a recent report in The Wall Street Journal suggests that Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) refuses to take the task seriously. According to the Journal, a senior aide has said McCain doesn't want to set up a domestic transition team, though he has focused somewhat on intelligence and terrorism.

For his part, Sen. Barack Obama (D., Ill.) has reportedly put former President Bill Clinton's chief of staff, John Podesta, in charge and fully staffed the transition team.

Weighing the priorities, the economy should get much more attention than the war in Iraq. A cratering global economy could cause much more damage than terrorists in either Iraq or Afghanistan as consumers fear losing their jobs and watch their wealth crumble in declining real estate and stock markets.

President Bush has already announced a meeting with the G-20 nations on Nov. 11. The G-20 includes most industrialized nations and many of the new emerging industrial countries, such as Brazil, China and India. The White House commented on the agenda in a press release, saying:
"The leaders will review progress being made to address the current financial crisis, advance a common understanding of its causes, and, in order to avoid a repetition, agree on a common set of principles for reform of the regulatory and institutional regimes for the world's financial sectors."

This type of global coordination of the financial system hasn't happened since the Bretton Woods conference took place in 1944. That conference was responsible for several global financial institutions still in place today, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and International Bank for Development and Reconstruction, part of the present World Bank. The 44 countries agreed upon the gold standard and the IMF as arbiter of temporary currency crisis.

Given the increased globalization in the last 64 years, it would make sense to have a representative from the newly elected president to have a seat at the table. Any wide-reaching agreement would have huge repercussions for their administration.

The president-elect also has to be heavily involved with the present negotiations in Iraq. The U.N. mandate for the U.S. to occupy Iraq expires on Dec. 31. The U.S. and Iraq have to come to some agreement before that date or U.S. forces may face charges of war crimes if they remain.

President Bush remains confident an agreement will be reached. However, the U.S. has been negotiating a so-called status of forces agreement for U.S. troops in Iraq for months, and new stumbling blocks arise almost daily. Last week, U.S. helicopters attacked a terrorist stronghold inside Syria. The Iraqis expressed anger over the U.S. attacking other sovereign nations from their soil. Furthermore, the Iraqi parliament appears split over the issue and nobody is certain an agreement would pass.

Obviously, we don't find ourselves in extraordinary times. Both presidential candidates and the current administration have to be ready for a strong and steady transition. The future of the world depends upon it.

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