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.

OCTOBER 19, 2020 | 53 MINUTES

EPISODE 37

Planning Transitions During Unprecedented Times: A Virtual Conference

On October 2, the Center for Presidential Transition, the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, and several presidential foundations and libraries hosted a virtual conference called “Talking Transitions: Perspectives for First-term and Second-term Administrations.” The event included former government officials, journalists and scholars to discuss managing presidential transitions during national crises.  

This week’s episode of Transition Lab features one panel discussion from this conference. Participants included a who’s who of former federal leaders and transition experts: Stephen Hadley, a longtime foreign policy specialist who served as George W. Bush’s national security advisor; Lisa Monaco, President Obama’s second-term homeland security advisor; Barbara Perry, a renowned historian and the director of presidential studies at the Miller Center; and John Podesta, a chief of staff for President Clinton who later chaired the 2008 Obama transition. Melody Barnes, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council from 2009 to 2012, moderated the discussion. Conversation topics included how administrations address national security threats, share intelligence and enunciate long-term policy goals during presidential transitions. They also discussed the role of Congress in facilitating smooth transfers of power and how COVID-19 will affect the 2020 transition. Read the highlights here.

OCTOBER 12, 2020 | 35 MINUTES

EPISODE 36

Steve Hadley and Kurt Campbell on National Security Transitions

Stephen Hadley held key national security positions in three Republican administrations before working on the George W. Bush transition in 2000-2001 and serving as Bush’s national security advisor. Kurt Campbell is an expert on East Asian affairs who served in the Clinton and Obama administrations, and co-authored, “Difficult Transitions: Foreign Policy Troubles at the Outset of Presidential Power.” In this episode of Transition Lab, Hadley and Campbell join host David Marchick to discuss their experiences during presidential transitions and their concerns about the potential fallout from 2020 election. They also offer advice to Joe Biden’s transition team and those planning for a second term for President Trump. Read the highlights here.

OCTOBER 05, 2020 | 32 MINUTES

EPISODE 35

Michael Froman on selecting a president-elect’s Cabinet

Michael Froman has had an extraordinary career. After serving in the Department of the Treasury under President Clinton, he became the head of personnel for the 2008 Obama-Biden transition team and later served as a White House deputy national security advisor and as the U.S. Trade Representative. In this episode of Transition Lab, host David Marchick asks Froman for an inside look at the world of vetting, selecting and appointing key presidential personnel. They discuss how Froman got involved in transition planning, the lessons his experience holds for future administrations and President Obama’s personnel strategy. Read the highlights here.

SEPTEMBER 28, 2020 | 29 MINUTES

EPISODE 34

Famed journalist John Dickerson on “the hardest job in the world”

John Dickerson has covered Washington politics for more than two decades as a reporter for Time, Slate Magazine and CBS News. He previously hosted Face the Nation, currently works as a correspondent for 60 Minutes and is the recent author of “The Hardest Job in the World: The American Presidency,” which examines the complex challenges faced by our nation’s chief executives throughout history. In this episode of Transition Lab, host David Marchick spoke with Dickerson about his experience covering presidents, why presidents often struggle with their transition to the White House, how we should view the presidency and how Joe Biden and Donald Trump would govern if elected in November. Read the highlights here.

SEPTEMBER 21, 2020 | 33 MINUTES

EPISODE 33

The art of agency review during a presidential transition

Agency review—the process of informing new administrations about the work of the federal government’s various departments—is a critical aspect of presidential transition planning. In this episode of Transition Lab, host David Marchick speaks to Lisa Brown, co-chair of agency review for the 2008 Obama-Biden transition team. Marchick and Brown discuss how this process works, why it is so important and the critical role played by career staff. Read the highlights here.

SEPTEMBER 14, 2020 | 53 MINUTES

EPISODE 32

The Best of Transition Lab

Since launching in January 2020, Transition Lab has offered a close look at the world of presidential transition planning, featuring in-depth interviews with those who have organized, led and written about some of the most notable transfers of power in U.S. history. In this episode, host David Marchick shares the most important takeaways, poignant stories and surprising moments from these interviews. Utilizing episode highlights, presidential recordings and historical news clips, Marchick takes us back in time–from the 1930s to the present–to illustrate how transitions work, why they are important and the lessons they hold for both today and tomorrow. Read the highlights here.

SEPTEMBER 8, 2020 | 30 MINUTES

EPISODE 31

Two transition planners reflect on the 2016 election

Ed Meier and Richard Bagger ran the presidential transition teams for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, respectively, during the run up to the 2016 election. In this Transition Lab episode, host David Marchick spoke with Meier and Bagger about preparing to lead presidential transition teams, navigating strategic differences with campaign staff, shaping the public’s perception of transition planning and the results of the 2016 election. Read the highlights here.

AUGUST 31, 2020 | 35 MINUTES

EPISODE 30

All-star reporters discuss covering presidential transitions

Nancy Cook and Andrew Restuccia know all about presidential transitions. They currently write about transition planning and presidential politics for Politico and the Wall Street Journal, respectively, and previously collaborated on several transition stories during the 2016 election. In this Transition Lab episode, host David Marchick asked Cook and Restuccia about their experiences covering presidential transitions, the 2020 candidates’ current plans, the big transition storylines to expect in the coming months and the ways in which a sound transition strategy can make governing easier. Read the highlights here.

AUGUST 24, 2020 | 41 MINUTES

EPISODE 29

Key transition lessons from two former White House chiefs of staff

Josh Bolten and Denis McDonough are well-versed in presidential transitions. As former White House chiefs of staff for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, respectively, they helped usher new administrations into office and prepare presidents for their second terms. In this Transition Lab episode, host David Marchick spoke with Bolten and McDonough about how they helped orchestrate successful transfers of power, fostered bipartisanship during those difficult times and helped set the standard for successful transitions today. Read the highlights here.

Title card of the podcast with pictures of Michael Morell and David Marchick

AUGUST 17, 2020 | 37 MINUTES

EPISODE 28

Intelligence briefings during presidential transitions

Michael Morell is a leading intelligence analyst with over 30 years of experience at the CIA, including running the agency. Before retiring from the CIA in 2013, Morell worked for six different presidents and served as former President George W. Bush’s daily intelligence briefer, including on 9/11. In this Transition Lab episode, host David Marchick joined Morell for a wide-ranging discussion about intelligence-sharing during presidential elections and transitions, foreign interference during presidential elections, and how the 2020 candidates can build strong relationships with the intelligence community. Read the highlights here.

AUGUST 10, 2020 | 24 MINUTES

EPISODE 27

Preparing the government for a presidential transition

Mary Gibert has one of the most important jobs in Washington today, preparing the federal government for a possible presidential transition. As the federal transition coordinator at the General Services Administration, Gibert and her team are working closely with the White House, the campaign of Democrat Joseph Biden and the federal agencies. In this Transition Lab episode, host David Marchick speaks to Gibert about GSA’s responsibilities in the transition process, the support it will provide to the incumbent president and the challenger, and how the coronavirus pandemic has affected transition planning. Read the highlights here.

AUGUST 3, 2020 | 35 MINUTES

EPISODE 26

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. Read the highlights here.

JULY 27, 2020 | 40 MINUTES

EPISODE 25

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. Read the highlights here.

JULY 20, 2020 | 40 MINUTES

EPISODE 24

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. Read the highlights here.

JULY 13, 2020 | 45 MINUTES

EPISODE 23

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. Read the highlights here.

JULY 6, 2020 | 25 MINUTES

EPISODE 22

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. Read the highlights here.

JUNE 29, 2020 | 41 MINUTES

EPISODE 21

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. Read the highlights here.

JUNE 21, 2020 | 35 MINUTES

EPISODE 20

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. Read the highlights here.

JUNE 14, 2020 | 33 MINUTES

EPISODE 19

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. Read the highlights here.

JUNE 8, 2020 | 33 MINUTES

EPISODE 18

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. Read the highlights here.

JUNE 1, 2020 | 33 MINUTES

EPISODE 17

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. Read the highlights here.

MAY 25, 2020 | 38 MINUTES

EPISODE 16

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. Read the highlights here.

MAY 18, 2020 | 27 MINUTES

EPISODE 15

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. Read the highlights here.

MAY 11, 2020 | 23 MINUTES

EPISODE 14

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. Read the highlights here.

APRIL 27, 2020 | 33 MINUTES

EPISODE 13

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. Read the highlights here.

APRIL 20, 2020 | 31 MINUTES

EPISODE 12

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. Read the highlights here.

APRIL 13, 2020 | 24 MINUTES

EPISODE 11

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. Read the highlights here.

MARCH 30, 2020 | 25 MINUTES

EPISODE 10

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. Read the highlights here.

MARCH 27, 2020 | 17 MINUTES

EPISODE 9

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. Read the highlights here.

MARCH 26, 2020 | 11 MINUTES

EPISODE 8

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. Read the highlights here.

MARCH 16, 2020 | 26 MINUTES

EPISODE 7

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. Read the highlights here.

MARCH 2, 2020 | 32 MINUTES

EPISODE 6

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. Read the highlights here.

FEBRUARY 24, 2020 | 36 MINUTES

EPISODE 5

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. Read the highlights here.

FEBRUARY 17, 2020 | 30 MINUTES

EPISODE 4

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. Read the highlights here.

FEBRUARY 3, 2020 | 27 MINUTES

EPISODE 3

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. Read the highlights here.

JANUARY 21, 2020 | 40 MINUTES

EPISODE 2

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.  Read the highlights here.

JANUARY 21, 2020 | 29 MINUTES

EPISODE 1

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.  Read the highlights here.