Presidential transitions can be problematic. The candidate is utterly exhausted. Supporters have unattainable expectations and unrealistic personal hopes. The ease of making campaign pledges has given way to the obstinate process of legislating them. And Barack Obama is the first president-elect since Richard Nixon without executive experience. What are some of his transition challenges so far?
One of Mr. Obama's first decisions was to make Rahm Emanuel his chief of staff. This smart, aggressive Chicago pol may turn out to be a wise pick. But first he must decide what his role is. Will he be the opinionated enforcer who ran the Clinton White House political office? Or will Mr. Emanuel fashion himself into a more traditional chief of staff?
The phrase former chiefs, Republican and Democrat, seem to prize is "honest broker." President Ronald Reagan's chief, James A. Baker III, once cautioned, "Don't use the process to impose your policy views." Effective chiefs of staff don't short circuit the decision-making process. Instead, they strive to impartially present the views of others and become a trusted channel of communication to the president for leaders on both sides of the aisle.
Being an impartial manager who constructively encourages individuals to marshal data, strengthen arguments and shape options is hard for anyone. It will be particularly hard for a combative advocate like Mr. Emanuel. His success may depend on his ability to submerge lifetime habits and offer his opinion sparingly.
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