DANIEL SCHORR: Hard to imagine, but in the horse and buggy days of our republic, the president was not inaugurated until March the 4th.
LIANE HANSEN, host:
NPR senior news analyst, Daniel Schorr.
SCHORR: Then, during the Depression of the 1930s, Congress changed the Constitution to advance the inaugural date to January 20th. And now the question arises whether that leaves too long a vacuum in a world full of challenges to the new president. There are wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that call for quick decisions that may not be honored coming from a lame-duck president. There is the likelihood that a Status of Forces Agreement covering American troops in Iraq may not have been reached by year's end when the current United Nations mandate expires. And unless it's renewed, American forces are left without a legal basis for operation.
There is Iran, enriching uranium and sowing the seeds of trouble throughout the Middle East and reportedly willing to talk, but not to the outgoing president. There is the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, unlikely to yield the agreement that George Bush would like for his legacy. There is the financial crisis, requiring massive and swift action and stimulus that a soon-to-be retired president will find it hard to deliver. And perhaps most mystifying of all, there is a 20-nation summit conference that President Bush has convened in Washington for November 15th to discuss coordinated actions to stave off further financial disasters.
What long-range programs can be worked out with an outgoing president who is at odds with several foreign countries about how much regulation of the economy is needed? Or should Mr. Bush have the president-elect in the room with him? Moving up the inauguration date to January 20th may have sufficed for President Franklin Roosevelt. Maybe it's time to consider yet another change. Inaugurating our president, say, on November 10th. This is Daniel Schorr.