Introducing a new podcast series from the Center for Presidential Transition®

Transition Lab

Transition Lab is a behind-the-scenes look at presidential transitions. Join David Marchick, director of the Partnership for Public Service’s Center for Presidential Transition for candid discussions with former presidential chiefs of staff, transition team leads and other presidential transition experts. Transition Lab is a must-listen for anyone interested in developing a better understanding of what needs to happen before a president takes office or starts a second term.

AUGUST 3, 2020 | 35 MINUTES


Planning Presidential Conventions

Presidential nominating conventions are a major moment for any campaign. Reverend Leah Daughtry and Maria Cino served, respectively, as CEO’s of Democratic and Republican conventions, and join host David Marchick on Transition Lab to discuss their experiences. The two women talk about the role of conventions in political campaigns, whether they give a boost to the candidates, and how the coronavirus pandemic will change conventions this year and in the future. 

JULY 27, 2020 | 40 MINUTES


Breaking into a male-dominated national security arena

Women are vastly underrepresented in leadership roles within the federal government and in national security fields. In this Transition Lab episode, Jamie Jones Miller, a former principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs, and Nina Hachigian, a former U.S. ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, talk to host David Marchick about their own careers in government, how they handled uncomfortable situations and the importance of bringing more women into leadership positions. Both women are members of the Leadership Council for Women in National Security, an organization dedicated to improving gender diversity in the national security field. 

JULY 20, 2020 | 40 MINUTES


Chris Christie on Trump’s transition to power

Donald Trump’s 2016-17 presidential transition was famously bumpy in part because the president-elect made a change in transition leadership only days after the election. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was chairman of the Trump transition team from May 2016 until shortly after Election Day, but he had done extensive preparation to help the new president be ready to govern. On this episode of Transition Lab, Christie tells host David Marchick how he planned the transition and where it went wrong, offers some advice for 2020 and ponders his own future.

JULY 13, 2020 | 45 MINUTES


Help Wanted: The Critical Job of Selecting 4,000 Presidential Appointees

The Office of Presidential Personnel faces the herculean task of helping a president select about 4,000-political appointees at the beginning of a new administration and throughout a president’s four-year term. Jonathan McBride and Liza Wright, former directors of the PPO under Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, respectively, join host David Marchick on Transition Lab to share their advice on how to land a political appointment and some of the challenges they faced managing the personnel operation.

JULY 6, 2020 | 25 MINUTES


The George W. Bush Transition to Power 

George W. Bush had the shortest official transition in history at just 39 days, but secured more political appointees during his first year in office than any other modern president. Clay Johnson,who served as the executive director of Bush’s transition and later as director of the Office of Presidential Personnel, tells host Dave Marchick how Bush brought many of his personnel practices as Texas governor to Washington, how he started his transition early, solicited advice from seasoned Washington veterans and maintained a focus on planning for the new administration even the results of the 2000 election were in dispute

JUNE 29, 2020 | 41 MINUTES


The Man Who Ran Washington: James Baker 

James Baker worked on five transitions and served in four presidential administrations, including as White House chief of staff and Treasury secretary under President Ronald Reagan, and as secretary of State for President George H.W. Bush. Baker joined host David Marchick on Transition Lab to discuss his long and distinguished career on the national stage. 

JUNE 21, 2020 | 35 MINUTES


Navigating the screening process for high level political appointees 

The vetting process for individuals seeking a political appointment can be long and difficult. And the more senior the position, the more scrutiny appointees receive. Powerhouse attorneys Leslie Kiernan and Robert Rizzi have helped political appointees navigate the vetting process, and share their expertise with host David Marchick. They describe the appointment process, what might disqualify an individual and how the rules change with each administration. 

JUNE 14, 2020 | 33 MINUTES


The Worst Transition in U.S. History, with Ted Widmer 

Abraham Lincoln faced the worst circumstances in U.S. history during his presidential transition, with seven Southern states having seceded from the Union before he took the oath of office on March 4, 1861. Historian Ted Widmer tells host David Marchick about Lincoln’s two-week train ride from Illinois to Washington, D.C. in February 1861, how this journey helped him find his voice, build public support, and set the tone for his presidency. He also described how Lincoln navigated around a plot to assassinate him in Baltimore.

JUNE 8, 2020 | 33 MINUTES


The Rocky Transition from Hoover to FDR

President Herbert Hoover and President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt failed to cooperate in any matter during the four-month transition that occurred in the midst of the Great Depression. Eric Rauchway, an expert on the New Deal and the Progressive Era, shared his expertise on how Roosevelt utilized his time between the election and the inauguration to set in motion one of the most successful presidencies in American history despite Hoover’s unwillingness to ease the way.

JUNE 1, 2020 | 33 MINUTES


The Clinton Transition to Power

Former White House Chief of Staff Mack McLarty shared his insights with Translation Lab on Bill Clinton‘s 1992-93 presidential transition, his first year in office and the privilege of serving alongside his childhood friend.

MAY 25, 2020 | 38 MINUTES


Ken Burns on Presidential Leadership During American Crises

Filmmaker Ken Burns and historian Geoffrey Ward have captured American history by collaborating on documentaries like “The Civil War” and “The Roosevelts.” The two shared stories with Transition Lab about the biggest crises in our nation’s history – from the Civil War to the Great Depression to Vietnam – and how our past informs the present.

MAY 18, 2020 | 27 MINUTES


Planning for a President’s Second Term 

Professor Michael Nelson, an expert on the American presidency, joins Transition Lab to discuss the political dynamics that define a president’s first and second term. Nelson explains how new presidents can maximize their impact during their first year in office and outlines the challenges two-term presidents face during their fifth year.

MAY 11, 2020 | 23 MINUTES


The History of Presidential Transitions

Director of the White House Transition Project, Martha Kumar discusses the history of presidential transitions. Kumar outlines how the Presidential Transition Act changed transition planning, the importance of White House design for a successful first year in office and talks about the best—and worst—presidential transitions.

APRIL 27, 2020 | 33 MINUTES


The George H.W. Bush Transition to Power

Andrew Card, chief of staff to President George W. Bush and deputy chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush, shares his perspective on the surprisingly challenging “friendly” transition from President Reagan to President George H. W. Bush. Card shares insights from his distinguished career in the Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush Administrations.

APRIL 20, 2020 | 31 MINUTES


Leadership in Times of Turmoil

Four-Star Admiral James Stavridis and former General Motors CEO Dan Akerson distinguished themselves as exceptional leaders during times of crisis. Join us on Transition Lab to learn how effective leaders operate during times of uncertainty. Stavridis and Akerson discuss how public and private sector leaders can navigate the challenges posed by the coronavirus.

APRIL 13, 2020 | 24 MINUTES


Managing a Presidential Transition During a National Crisis

Stephanie Cutter, spokesperson for the Obama-Biden transition in 2008 and nationally recognized communications strategist, shares her perspective on managing the Obama-Biden transition during the global financial crisis. Cutter shares how the communications team positioned then president-elect Barack Obama in the public eye, how the team approached the economic crisis and how they managed the period from election to Inauguration Day.

MARCH 30, 2020 | 25 MINUTES


The Fifth Risk and Coronavirus, a Conversation with Michael Lewis

Author Michael Lewis shares insights on the coronavirus pandemic and stories from “The Fifth Risk.” Lewis discusses the critical role federal employees play in managing the crisis, and his advice for presidential transition teams. Lewis also outlines the importance of effective government management, both in times of crisis and times of normalcy, and why we need to rethink what we’re told about the career officials running our federal government.

MARCH 27, 2020 | 17 MINUTES


The Master of Disaster Planning, Thad Allen

Admiral Thad Allen talks about his experience leading the U.S. response to some of the most challenging modern crises. Named the “Master of Disaster” by TIME Magazine, Allen discusses the coronavirus pandemic and how to find calm in times of panic.

MARCH 26, 2020 | 11 MINUTES


The Master of Disaster Planning, Thad Allen

Former U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen led the U.S. response to some of the most challenging modern crises including Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Allen discusses how he kept morale high when communicating with the disaster response teams, media and the country during times of panic.

MARCH 16, 2020 | 26 MINUTES


The Romney Transition to Power Plan

Former governor of Utah and Romney Transition chairman, Mike Leavitt, shares how he planned the 2012 presidential transition had Mitt Romney won the election. Leavitt describes his experience leading the first transition to operate under the Presidential Transition Act of 2010, how the new guidelines changed the narrative around transition planning and how his team planned to follow the “gold standard” president Bush and Obama set in the 2008 transition.

MARCH 2, 2020 | 32 MINUTES


The First – Lady? Husband? Spouse?

Anita McBride, Laura Bush’s chief of staff, shares insights on the evolution of the first lady’s role throughout history, obstacles they face transitioning to the White House and how the role might change after this year’s election. McBride also explores the unique challenges first ladies have faced, the timeless pressures associated with the role and her personal experience working with first lady Laura Bush.

FEBRUARY 24, 2020 | 36 MINUTES


The Carter Transition to Power

Stuart Eizenstat and David Rubenstein discuss their experience working on the Carter campaign, the transition and their own work in the Carter administration. The two explain that while Carter had an enormously consequential one-term presidency, the flawed transition had a lasting, negative impact on Carter’s presidency.

FEBRUARY 17, 2020 | 30 MINUTES


The Obama Transition to Power

Head of Barack Obama’s 2008 transition, Chris Lu explains how the Obama team planned for effective governance on day one. In this conversation, Lu explains his role in the 2008 transition and the challenges he faced coordinating the biggest hand off of power in the world. He gives insights from his own experience and lays out the key elements for success in presidential transitions.



The Art of National Security Transitions

Former Undersecretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy shares insights from her experience running the Agency Review team for the Obama transition and serving as Undersecretary of Defense. Flournoy also discusses the challenges associated with transitioning during an ongoing conflict, and the underrepresentation of women in national security.

JANUARY 21, 2020 | 40 MINUTES


Peaceful Transition of Power

Few have served with more distinction than Josh Bolten and Denis McDonough, chiefs of staff for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. In this conversation, they talk about three types of transitions – into government, to a second term, and the handoff to the next administration.  

JANUARY 21, 2020 | 29 MINUTES


2016: The Tale of Two Transitions

The Clinton and Trump transition leaders share what happened during the 2016 election. In this conversation, Rich Bagger (Trump) and Ed Meier (Clinton) discuss how they became involved with the transition, the challenges they faced and what happened after Election Day 2016.