Who moves Barney's water bowl on January 20th?
January 8, 2009 9:00 PM   Subscribe

How does the U.S. presidential transition at the White House actually occur? Who does what where, when and how?

We all know where Bush and Obama, as well as all of their various muckety-mucks will be at Noon on January 20th. But how do the actual mechanics of the transition work back at the White House? How does one president, his family, their stuff, their pets, etc.... get moved out of 1600 Penn. Avenue and the next first family get moved in the same day within a matters of hours? How does the president's staff and all of their stuff get moved, archived, preserved, etc...? Who does this? Do the carpets get cleaned and new towels/sheets/etc... put on the beds? Does Dana Perino's whitehouse.gov email get axed as of 11:59 a.m.? Who rearranges the Oval Office, who puts the little "B. Obama" and "J. Biden" on the phone speed dials? How long does this all take? What kinds of "get to know what you like" meetings do the White House butler/chef/support staff have with the incoming First Family? How do they coordinate all this coming and going so (apparently) seamlessly?

Is it like a grown-up version of the first day of the fall college semester with the incoming freshman, with people running around asking, "Hey, where's the bathroom? or "What time is lunch served?"
posted by webhund to Law & Government (6 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: As might be expected for government junkies, this C-SPAN page has some decent material, though not quite as big on the logistical detail as you'd like. However, there's also this page looking at LBJ's last day in office, with a video of him working from the private residence on Inauguration Day while the furniture gets moved out of the public spaces in the White House in preparation for Nixon's arrival.

The GSA is the lead agency when it comes to this sort of stuff, but there's also a book by Stephen Hess of Brookings that discusses the mundane stuff.

(While the blurb for that book says "the period from Election Day to Inauguration Day in America seems impossibly short.", it seems very long to those used to parliamentary transitions, where the moving van is usually outside the door before the last votes are counted.)
posted by holgate at 9:16 PM on January 8, 2009

A recent National Geographic article addresses some of your questions.
posted by fishtree at 9:23 PM on January 8, 2009

Article on logistics of moving day.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:49 PM on January 8, 2009

I was watching c-span while at home over christmas and they talked to the guy in charge (Head Page I believe?) who basically said that at 12pm on inauguration day he and as many people as possible pack up the old president and move him out and by that evening they have also moved in the new president. It all happens within a few hours and sounded like a nightmare to me. He talked about how when Bush moved in he wanted to pull up on one side of the White House and walk through it and out the other side to the Rose Garden to do press stuff, the guy had to call and talk to the first lady about it because the side he wanted to pull in on was going to be filled with all the moving trucks. Apparently if Laura hadn't been able to convince George to just pull up to the Rose Garden like a normal president their moving time would have been cut in half to acommodate him. The guy also has to coordinate with the secret service and dc police, etc. to get special roads opened for him to get the trucks through the city because , as you can imagine, it is a tad busy in DC on inauguration day.

Long story short, check c-span's coverage, over the christmas break they were showing this white-house special that was about 1.5 hours long and included this section in the middle-ish. They played it about 5 times in the two weeks i was home so they might still be playing it.
posted by magnetsphere at 8:15 AM on January 9, 2009

Best answer: Magnetsphere is referring to this special (the official is actually called the Chief Usher, not the Head Page -- also, I thought the anecdote was actually about the first Bushes, not the second, but I could be wrong). I watched lots of the weeklong special, and it was fascinating. The accompanying website has links to various interview clips, including some with members of the White House staff, including the Chief Usher.

Also, here's a clip from the final episode of "The West Wing" that shows the White House staff packing up President Bartlett's Oval Office while the next president is being inaugurated. I don't know if it's accurate, but it always gives me a thrill.
posted by Tin Man at 8:29 AM on January 9, 2009

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