Trump is AWOL, Biden isn't here yet, and the White House is working hard to make the transition a mess. It's a terrible time for a leadership vacuum.


During each presidential transition period, incoming presidents-elect are often reminded that we have only one president at a time. But this is a presidential transition like no other. For the first time in the 244-year history of the United States, we have no president at all.

Since Election Day, Donald Trump has done virtually nothing. His schedule on most days has been empty. For tweeting. But if golfing and tweeting had anything to do with presidenting, Trump would have been the best president in our history instead of the worst.

This is, of course, an exceptionally bad time for us to have no president. There is a massive pandemic that is entering its deadliest, costliest, most debilitating period.  Sometime in the next few weeks we will pass 300,000 dead. There are the economic and social consequences of that pandemic. And the world keeps turning: Global and domestic threats and challenges are emerging, to say nothing of the opportunities we miss by having a disconnected outgoing president tweeting conspiracy theories from a golf cart he has parked on some green somewhere.

Salting the earth for Biden

The outgoing president typically takes active steps to ensure a smooth transition to his successor’s government. But this administration obstructed the transition for two weeks and now, at agency after agency, there are signs that Team Trump is trying to salt the earth ahead of the arrival of the Biden administration — changing regulations, embedding Trump staffers, reclaiming COVID relief funds so Biden can’t use them, and more. The shredding of files and the pardoning of Trump cronies and perhaps even Trump before he leaves office seem inevitable.

So, America, there’s no one at the wheel.  What’s a country to do?

Well, as it turns out, there is plenty we can do.

Some is being done by President-elect Joe Biden. This week, he has begun receiving the intelligence briefings Trump has so often ignored. He is meeting with scientists and planning a COVID recovery that will begin when he takes office Jan. 20. He is the one who gave the Thanksgiving address we expect from a leader and have never gotten from Trump. His team is preparing to re-engage with the world and undo the damage Trump has done. He has already determined who will fill many of the top jobs in the next administration. 

And all this sends an immediate message to the world. The Trump debacle is over. Only a handful of world leaders — among them Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and Mexico’s Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador — have failed to acknowledge Biden’s victory. The others, including many once reputedly close to Trump, are already sending messages of welcome and promised cooperation to the incoming government.

VP could smooth the way: inadequate given the need, and while McConnell rejected it almost immediately, it would be a mistake to give up on COVID relief. As Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said Tuesday, "The risk of overdoing it is less than the risk of under-doing it."  

Help neighbors, be cautious on COVID 

We are about to enter a holiday season darkened with the unspeakable pain of countless of our neighbors. Failure to act or simply waiting until we have a president again will be too late for those who lose their 真人百家家乐官网网站homes, their jobs or their family members.  It doesn’t even take GOP leadership in the Senate to do this. The Democrats plus a handful of Republicans can make it happen. 

At the same time, if the federal government will not act as it should in the face of the crisis, once again our governors are going to have to lead. They can collaborate among themselves as they did in the spring and this time, they can even @djrothkopf) is host of "Deep State Radio," CEO of the Rothkopf Group media and podcasting company, and a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors. His latest book is "Traitor: A History of American Betrayal from Benedict Arnold to Donald Trump." Bernard L. Schwartz is the CEO of BLS Investments, former CEO of Loral Corp. and publisher of the quarterly "Democracy" journal. 

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