Obama's Transition: As Tough As Lincoln's?

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President Bush and President-elect Barack Obama meet in the Oval Office of the White House. i

In a photo released by the White House, President Bush and President-elect Barack Obama meet in the Oval Office of the White House. Eric Draper/White House Photo hide caption

itoggle caption Eric Draper/White House Photo
President Bush and President-elect Barack Obama meet in the Oval Office of the White House.

In a photo released by the White House, President Bush and President-elect Barack Obama meet in the Oval Office of the White House.

Eric Draper/White House Photo

Only a week has passed since the election, and President-elect Barack Obama's transition team is already immersed in preparations for the handoff of power.

The transition from the Bush administration to an Obama administration, with his own Cabinet and staff, will be the toughest since President Lincoln entered office, according to professor Paul Light of New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

The Obama team has been working on the transition plan for months, Light tells Ari Shapiro. "They have very detailed plans for taking the reins of power."

Still, Light cautions against reading too much into the cooperation between the Obama camp and the Bush administration — or the reports that many Bush staffers would like a smooth, cordial transition to be part of their legacy.

"At the end of the day, this is not a tea party," Light said.

"The Bush people are working on all sorts of directives and regulations that they want to see promulgated within the next few weeks," he said. "And the Obama people want to find out what's coming — so they can stop it."

The central issue, Light says, is that Obama's group does not like the direction the Bush team has taken the country.

"They are going to reverse course very rapidly," Light said.

Even though Democrats hold advantages in the House and Senate, Light predicts there will be some struggles for the incoming Obama administration as it tries to fill staffing holes in the government.

"There are enough Republicans in the Senate to place legislative holds on nominations," Light said.

And no one should expect the nomination process to be a quick one, he added. "Every administration since 1961 — since the Kennedy administration — has been slower in moving nominees forward than its predecessors," Light said.

"Obama will be lucky to have his Cabinet in place by his first anniversary in office," Light said.

But he notes that Obama won't face one crisis that confronted Lincoln: the secession of several states in the weeks between his election and inauguration.

"We still don't know what will happen when Palin goes back to Alaska, but I suspect that we're not going to have quite that kind of tension," Light said.

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