U.S. President Obama greets President-elect Trump in the White House Oval Office in Washington.
(photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
In the United States, the transition from one president to the next is called the “interregnum.” The Latin expression has always been irksome. Literally, it translates as “between reigns,” an expression that smacks of monarchism rather than the democratic passing of the baton.
The transition from president to president was structured in a manner that would foster stability. Even in the event of crisis or catastrophe, the smooth transition of power is essential. The smooth transition of power reverberates not only in the United States but throughout the free world. Or so Americans always believed. This time around, the transition has been hitting a series of bumps in the road. It seems that the outgoing administration is doing its best to make the final path to the presidency as difficult as it can for President-elect Donald Trump.
In this transition the advantage is clearly on Trump’s side. And yet, it seems the Obama administration has tried to sabotage the transition, especially with regard to foreign policy, most glaringly with regard to the Middle East. Choosing not to veto the recent UN resolution on settlements is just one example. Secretary of State John Kerry’s farewell speech is another. Kerry’s involvement, his mere attendance, at the Paris Conference is a clear example of how the outgoing administration is trying to exert influence beyond its tenure in the White House.
Obama has cast aside a long-held tradition that dictated that outgoing administrations do not engage in any far-reaching moves during their last weeks in power.
The only accepted exception to the tradition is last-minute presidential pardons.
This is to allow the new president a running start in their “first 100 days” in office.
The “first 100 days” is another hallowed presidential transition tradition. It is the period during which the new president is spared most criticism by foes and the media, to promote the administration’s goals and agenda. It is a good will period.
The phrase was coined by Franklin Delano Roosevelt during a radio address on July 24, 1933. At the time FDR was referring to Congress, but the term and tradition quickly extended to the presidency.
President Donald Trump’s first 100 days will run out on April 29. That’s the week after Passover. It has been a very difficult transition so far and I predict it will be a very difficult 100 days, fraught with massive conflict, challenge and name calling.
I also predict that the administration will make massive headway regarding the Middle East and Israel. We can expect a change in policy toward Islamic State and Syria. We can expect a change in policy toward Iran. And we can expect a change in attitude toward Israel. Decisions made by the Trump administration will most certainly cause a series of ripple effects.
We might like the ripple effects of some of those decisions – and we may be disappointed by others, especially if they involve compromise. Those effects will be felt in the region for a long time. If there is one thing this election has taught us it is that Trump is not afraid to ruffle feathers.
The sage Rabbi Yishmael said that “all beginnings are difficult.” Perhaps that will give some comfort to Trump and his administration as they formally assume their place in American tradition and history.The author is a political commentator. He hosts the TV show Thinking Out Loud on JBS TV. Follow him on Twitter @Micah- Halpern.