Inside Media: Presidential To Do's with Stephen Hess

January 17, 2009

Guest: Stephen Hess

By Maureen Freeman, programs coordinator

What does the president-elect need to do, and when does he need to do it?

Stephen Hess, author of "What Do We Do Now?: A Workbook for the President-Elect," discussed the numerous choices an incoming president faces in the months between being elected and taking office.

Decisions include selecting a press secretary, speechwriters, Cabinet members and other White House staff. Making the transition, said Hess, has not always gone smoothly.

"It is an interesting question — why these terribly smart people that we elect have so much trouble putting their governments together," Hess said.

He praised President-elect Barack Obama’s transition.

"Barack Obama has done it better than any other one in my lifetime, with the possible exception of Ronald Reagan. And I would put Obama first, in this case, because the times are tougher and the government is bigger."

Hess also complimented President George W. Bush’s administration for its contribution to Obama’s smooth transition.

"George W. Bush probably gets the greatest credit of any outgoing president, certainly of the opposition party that I’ve come in contact with, in creating a seamless transition," he said.  "He has been more helpful throughout his administration to the incoming people than I have seen before."

Hess served as adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter and on the White House staffs of Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. He is a senior fellow emeritus in governance studies at the Brookings Institution and has written numerous books on the presidency, government and the news media.

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