Monday, January 19, 2009



The first presidential transition I remember was 1974. We had just been on our family vacation, five hour drives with the news at the top of every hour on every station back in those days, and even at age 10 I could tell something big was going on. Nixon was the only president I had ever known; I remember vaguely Ike's death in 1969 but I don't remember Johnson ever being president.

The day we got home was the night of the speech, and I watchedit live. I don't remember if I watched Ford getting sworn in but I remember the line "Our long national nightmare is over." Words that Obama could say tomorrow as well.

Compared to that high constitutional drama, Ford to Carter didn't seem like such a big deal. All I really remember was the very pointed walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. And the dueling pardons: Tokyo Rose in the dying hours of Ford, the draft resisters in the first moments of Carter. (Pardons... I'm still sweating that one. Then again, I'm not going to believe it's real until I hear the Hussein tomorrow. Cheney may still have a secret martial law plan or something...)

Carter to Reagan is a vivid memory: senior year of high school and my overwhelming fear that I was going to get drafted and blown up. The split-screen news updates of exactly where the hostage plane was, the mean-spiritedness of the release just minutes after the oath, after the Carter team had done all the work.

Reagan to HW doesn't even count. I was still in Wisconsin, in grad school, and distracted by other things. There was just that easily parodied "thousand points of light" line and continuity.

Bush to Clinton, I felt like I had a stake in it. There was so much hope in the air, and we had no idea how badly it was going to be dashed, the death of a thousand Harry and Louise ads. We had an awful ice storm here in Iowa City and locally, it was another split screen news day, with the weather reports and the car-plow crash death of Hawkeye hoopster Chris Street.

I boycotted the Clinton to W transition. No matter how you cut the hanging chads, Gore had more votes. Longtime readers of the blog may recall that I refered to W as "President" (sic) Bush through the 2004 election. Go ahead, look, hit the Archives button on the right.

Which brings me to my point. The Republican spinsters are complaining that Obama is getting better press that W did 8 years ago. Well, wingers, that's because Obama's win was clear and undisputed, and while we certainly have serious problems, we're not in the midst of a 24 hour coverage news crisis. Indeed, in my memory, only 1976, 1992 and 2008 qualify as both legitimate and non-crisis:

  • 1974 - crisis (Watergate)
  • 1977 - routine
  • 1981 - crisis (hostage release)
  • 1989 - non-transition (incumbent VP takes over)
  • 1993 - routine
  • 2001 - crisis and/or questioned legitimacy (2000 election)
  • 2009 - siginficant issues, but not 24/7 crisis

    I wonder what it says that the non-crisis transitions were all Republican to Democratic?
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