Transitioning Between Obama And Trump Administrations Is An 'Enormous Job'
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
In his victory speech on Wednesday, Donald Trump was already looking ahead.
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DONALD TRUMP: And I can only say that while the campaign is over, our work on this movement is now really just beginning.
TRUMP: We're going to get to work immediately for the American people.
GREENE: Actually, some people had already gotten to work. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton had transition teams in place since last May so whoever won could dive right in. Utah's former Republican Governor Mike Leavitt was not involved with the Trump campaign, but he is advising the transition team as part of the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service.
Governor, good morning to you.
MIKE LEAVITT: Thank you.
GREENE: So last time you spoke to us on our program, you had some misgivings about then-candidate Donald Trump. You said, among other things, that he was a bit amateurish in his foreign policy expressions. Do you still have those misgivings?
LEAVITT: I think anyone who runs for office learns and improves. And the truth is no president goes into office knowing all. That's the process of the next 77 days, is to make certain that Donald Trump has preparation, has support and is prepared to assume the responsibility of leading the free world.
GREENE: But if there are people who share the doubts you had, how crucial is it for him, very quickly, to begin surrounding himself with people who can inspire confidence when it comes to policy and when it comes to some of the weaknesses that you've seen?
LEAVITT: Well, I suspect today their transition will begin the process of selecting the highest-priority staff. The first will be the chief of staff. The second will be the national security team. It's like a fuse that you light on election night, and it burns until the inauguration and the president-elect has his arm in the air to take the oath.
GREENE: That sounds very dramatic.
LEAVITT: Well, it is dramatic. It's an enormous job. When you begin to think about what it takes to transition a government of this size, it's not just a big job, it's a very important job. Those seams of transition are extraordinarily important.
GREENE: If I may add, I just want to play a very short piece of tape. I spoke in the hours after the election to the novelist Attica Locke. She's from California. She writes about black America. And this is a question I asked her.
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GREENE: Donald Trump, in his speech earlier this morning, said that he is going to be a president for all Americans. Are you open-minded? Are you prepared to look at him as your president?
ATTICA LOCKE: No, God, no. I think he was on some good drugs last night that calmed him down. But the real Donald Trump will show up in a few months. I mean, there's no evidence to suggest that the man is able to focus, engage in a way that isn't, you know, out of control, in a way that I wouldn't scold my 10-year-old daughter if she behaved that way.
GREENE: Do you recognize that he has some work to do to win over voters like her after some of the things he has - he's said and done during this process?
LEAVITT: There's no question that that's true. I think it's also true that he was chosen as the president because people wanted someone that might in fact inject some disquiet into the government. Now, I'm not able to sort through the complex omelet of emotions and cross currents of politics that ultimately resulted in the outcome of the election. And the obligation now is for those who plan the transition of power to the new president do the best job possible. Donald Trump will have a chance. And he'll either earn the respect and trust and, perhaps, break down some of the barriers that were created, or he won't. That will be a part of his legacy and part of his opportunity.
GREENE: Governor Mike Leavitt, thank you so much for talking to us. We really appreciate the time.
LEAVITT: My pleasure, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.