Presidential Transitions in a Bipartisan Setting: Managing a Transition Crisis

Please note that the event described below will be held at the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service in College Station.

While crises occur throughout every president’s time in office, those that unfold early in the transition period prove especially challenging because they test the administration’s reputation for effectiveness.

This conference convenes thoughtful practitioners and academics to consider how a successful transfer of power from one president to the next shapes the new administration’s ability to respond to critical, unexpected situations. A broad range of participants from contingency planners to policymakers and academics will seek to inform the incoming administration about the challenges of a crisis in the president’s first 100 days. Such crises have included the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, the Waco siege and the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

The event, part of the Moody Series on Bipartisan Leadership at the Texas Presidential Libraries, is co-sponsored by The White House Transition Project, Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs, the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum and the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation.

To register to attend, please visit


9:00 am



Welcome Remarks

Andrew S. Natsios

Executive Professor and Director, Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs

Martha Joynt Kumar

Director, White House Transition Project

9:20 am



A Conversation on Crises and Transitions

The Honorable Andrew Card Jr.
Former Secretary of Transportation; Former White House Chief of Staff

Martha Joynt Kumar
Director, White House Transition Project

10:30 am




10:45 am    

Panel Discussion: A Transition Response to the Flashpoint at Fiery Cross

Moderator: Timothy Nichols, former Contingency Planner, U.S. Department of Defense; and Visiting Associate Professor in the Practice, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University

The Honorable Andrew Card Jr.
Former Secretary of Transportation; Former White House Chief of Staff

The Honorable Larry C. Napper
Former Ambassador to the Republic of Latvia and to Kazakhstan

Andrew S. Natsios
Executive Professor and Director, Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs    

Gen. Mark Welsh III (Ret.)
Former Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force; and Dean, Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University

12:05 pm    

Question and Answer Session

Lunch will follow the program in Room 1011B


About the Series

Following his decision to not run for re-election in 1952, President Harry S. Truman began preparations for a presidential transition. After the national party nominating conventions, Truman invited both candidates to the White House. “We will have a luncheon with the Cabinet and after that, if you like, I’ll have my entire staff report to you on the situation in the White House, and in that way, you will be entirely briefed on what takes place,” he told them. Dwight Eisenhower turned down the invitation in part because he was running against Truman’s policies. In a handwritten letter to Eisenhower, Truman said, “I am extremely sorry that you have allowed a bunch of screwballs to come between us. You have made a bad mistake and I’m hoping it won’t injure this great Republic.” In 2008, President George W. Bush achieved what Truman could not.

During the summer of 2008, representatives of the two major presidential candidates came to the White House at the request of Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and under the direction of President Bush. With the United States engaged in two wars, the president believed the country was in danger and that bipartisanship was the key to a successful handoff of power. The preparations he oversaw paid off, even allowing the two presidential teams to work together to deal with a terrorist threat on the day of President Barack Obama’s inauguration.

As partisan wrangling has increased in Washington, a counter-trend has gradually taken hold over presidential transitions, where members of the two parties agree to act in unison. In 2008, 2012 and even in this election year, competing campaign staffs have met together with academics and experienced practitioners in and out of government to learn how to plan an effective transfer of power. Government officials from different parties have pulled together to assure a smooth change of government.

Can this island of bipartisanship expand to include additional areas of government action and further develop the cooperation between parties and campaigns into more than occasional cooperation? This bipartisanship in presidential transitions is the focus of a new series of public discussions sponsored by the Moody Foundation of Galveston, Texas, and carried out by the joint efforts of the White House Transition Project and Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.



Tue, Oct. 18, 2016
9 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
(GMT-0500) US/Central


Annenberg Presidential Conference Center
1002 George Bush Drive W.
College Station, Texas 77843
United States of America

Texas A&M University