When Obama took office in 2008, replacing the nowadays amazingly well regarded disaster that was George W. Bush (Trump made him look like Jefferson), he inherited a country in the midst of an economic collapse and fighting two un-winnable wars started by his predecessor. It was so bad that one wondered why he even wanted the grief – the Onion headline that week was Black Man Given Worst Job in America – and we all thought that the situation facing the new President amounted to the biggest shitbucket that would ever be handed to an incoming administration in our lifetimes, probably as big a shitbucket as the one Hoover handed Roosevelt, and they don’t come any bigger than that, do they?
Oh, those happier innocent days of yore.
What Trump is leaving behind for Biden isn’t so much an unholy mess as a smoking hole where the now fondly missed unholy mess used to stand. Everything is broken. Everything. Every institution, every branch of government, every aspect of America’s domestic and foreign affairs, the lot. Pick your poison: the choices range from race relations at home to alliances abroad, from the federal budget to international trade relations, from the administration of the National Parks – no fooling, Donald even waged a little-noticed war on the National Parks – to the basic functional soundness of the Departments of State, Defence, Justice, Interior, Energy, and – well, look, all the Departments – right down to the frickin’ Post Office. Trump even broke the Post Office. The country’s finances are shambolically out of whack, the civil service demoralized and stripped of its talent, the economy in tatters, the environment almost wholly destroyed, and the whole nation riven with what seem to be several different kinds of irreparable division, while Congress remains dysfunctional and so do the courts, now Mitch and Donald are finished filling all those vacant seats with every 20-something Federalist Society punk they could find (law degree preferred, but not required). Whatever it is, big or small, it’s lying there in pieces on the floor. I wouldn’t be surprised if the White House has a roach problem and the goddam roof leaks in the Lincoln bedroom. Listen, no joke: just moving staff into the West Wing will present all sorts of challenges, because the joint is lousy with coronavirus. They’re going to need a team in hazmat suits to wade in and scrub every surface with bleach before they can even take their desks and start looking for the office supplies. There probably aren’t any office supplies. There probably wasn’t anybody tasked with keeping them stocked.
Christ, where do you even start?
Well, you start with COVID, of course, because oh yeah, by the time Joe and Kamala get the keys to the file cabinets something like 400,000 Americans will have died in a raging pandemic that’s likely to be infecting well over a hundred thousand new victims every day, and killing ten thousand a week. The need for concerted multi-jurisdictional action guided by a firm federal hand is beyond urgent. It’s catastrophically imperative. Nothing else can be accomplished until it’s dealt with – Biden and his team will arrive like a fire department that has to deal with the active shooter before it can tackle the burning house. Word is that the President-Elect is going to announce his pandemic team on Monday, and you can bet it’ll be led by Fauci and the best epidemiologists the good doctor can press into service, so Joe’s on it, no doubt. Lord, lord, though, it’s going to be an uphill slog pushing a great big boulder. For starters, no small percentage of some 70+ million Trump voters still believes the whole thing is a hoax, and many continue to threaten armed insurrection if anyone suggests they should wear surgical masks while they’re out and about in the grocery stores, coughing all over the produce. Lord, lord.
Before even that, though, is supposed to come the transition, you know, the part where the outgoing administration and all its teams of experts brief the incoming administration and its teams of experts on just what the hell is going on, and why. Good luck with that! Suppose, for a moment, that Trump tells staff to cooperate and offer every possible assistance – I know, I know, but suppose – who, exactly, on the Trump team actually has the first f’ing clue about where anything stands across any of the government agencies? Barr, maybe – would you want to debrief Bill Barr? Gee, Bill, how are the witch hunts going? Think he’d give you any straight answers? Who else? Betsy DeVoss? Ben frigging Carson? Maybe Jared and Ivanka can do up the 95,000 briefing binders that would normally be required, after all, they’re on top of everything right? Jared can tell them all about how it’s going with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, or maybe how the speakerphones are acting up in the Situation Room, and Ivanka can brief about – er, something, surely. She’s been there for four years. She must know something.
Really, you might as well take a meeting with this guy:
Except he’s in a snit and won’t meet with you.
Then poor Joe has to get his Cabinet confirmed by Mitch and his Merry Men of the Senate. The situation demands the finest talent Joe can persuade to grab the shitbucket with him, and Mitch won’t let him hire anybody who knows what she’s doing. That’s going to be the first great disappointment of the Biden presidency; all the superlative people champing at the bit who Mitch won’t allow Biden to hire. I mean, Sally Yates should be given Justice, right? Elizabeth Warren should get Commerce, Mattis should be brought back to Defence, and Fiona Hill should get State. Jesus, Al Gore should be dragooned into heading up a new Cabinet level Department of Climate Change. I’m quite serious. The mess is so big that only the best, most motivated public servants will do. God knows who we’ll end up with.
Then, the wrangling can start on the Covid relief package. That too is urgent. I have a feeling we don’t even know how urgent. The whole frigging country needs help, now, every small business, every laid off worker, every local agency, things and people that simply can’t be allowed to sink without a bubble over the next few months, never to be heard from again. We can’t have it. We just can’t. Here’s the thing, though: it’s reckoned, so I’ve read, that mitigating the coming economic devastation is going to require an injection of 200 billion dollars every month until the vaccine arrives, just to keep state and local governments afloat, and people with roofs over their heads and food in their fridges. You think Mitch’ll be jiggy with that? Think he’ll say O.K., but only if you let me raise taxes on the wealthy to offset the spending ?
Great, then, let’s tick the “done” boxes beside Raging Pandemic and Economic Armageddon. On to foreign relations! Lots to do there, heaven knows! Then there’s the civil rights crisis brewing in all those jurisdictions with police departments who decided to remake themselves into the Gestapo during Trump’s authoritarian tenure. I guess that’s one for Justice. The whole federal election infrastructure, a mishandled patchwork of varying rules and polling systems scattered across fifty states, is badly in need of repair, reform and rationalization – who wants that one? C’mon! It’ll be fun, you’ll get to ride herd on 50 cantankerous Governors, trying to persuade them to adopt consistent election laws, polling methods and machinery, voting security measures – gotta keep those pesky Russians out of the system, amiright? – all that stuff. Before that, though, there’s fending off the climate catastrophe. Actually, yeah, better get on that one pronto, we can save democracy later. Plus, income inequality has gotten out of control out there, it’s starting to look like the Gilded Age, and labour and consumer protections have been allowed to go to hell in a hand-basket, we can do that one after we reconstruct the national security apparatus, the State Department, the FBI – somebody should give Peter Strzok and Lisa Page their jobs back, but quietly, for the love of God, we don’t want Mitch to notice – and, well, the rest of the federal government. Let’s fix the Post Office first, that shouldn’t irritate anybody – does anyone know whether that moron DeJoy merely dismantled all those expensive sorting machines, or actually wrecked them? Well, find out. We’ll have to get to the nation’s crumbling infrastructure at some point, too, somebody prepare a list of the 250 most important bridges at or near the point of collapse. Start with those, then move on to the power grid, and don’t forget the cyber threat. And this situation with all those armed “militias” full of proto-Nazis and domestic terrorists, all armed to the teeth, that’s off the rails, gotta put Homeland Security on those morons straight away. Right! I almost forgot! Immigration policy! Kidnapped kids in ICE gulags! Cancelling all construction contracts on the goddam Wall! And – and – and –
And so on. Even Air Force One is problematic – seriously, Trump messed that one up too. The existing planes need replacing, and Trump ordered a bunch of used junkers at an exorbitant price that won’t have all the necessary capabilities, lacking in particular the capacity for aerial refuelling. Since those aircraft are key national security assets, meant to serve for indefinite periods as airborne command posts in times of dire emergency, that file is going to have to be revisited too. Donald couldn’t even get his personal jets sorted out. You’d think that would have been the fun part for our Donny, and for once he would have paid attention.
One more thing: the Supreme Court is populated by six right wing stooges appointed by the party that has lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight national elections. Yup, SCOTUS is just sitting there, grinning, and waiting to rule as unconstitutional anything done to fix anything.
Honestly, you’d have to be crazy to take your seat behind the Resolute Desk. It’s nuts.
How’re they going to clean up this f*%#ing mess?