May 15th, 2012
08:38 PM ET

Letters to the President #1212: 'The French transition'

Reporter's Note: Je ne suis pas Français, mais j'écris au président tous les jours.

Dear Mr. President,

You’ve got to love the French approach to taking office.  I mean, the accountants have barely ripped the tape off of their adding machines to declare Hollande the winner, and already he is installed in office, making foreign visits, declaring things, reviewing troops!  Zut alors!

I wish our handovers of government were that fast.  Can you imagine?  In six months, the vote could roll in, and right then and there you’d either steam on with your agenda without so much as a pause, or you’d grab some cardboard boxes and make way for a new president to take your chair, as the French say, “en la mode immédiat.”  (Actually, that’s just a guess. Heaven knows how they would say such a thing.  If you call Hollande to say “salut,” can you ask?)

Our system of delaying inaugurations forever has some wisdom in it.  It allows the incoming president to figure out what he really wants to do compared to all the drivel he sold to voters.  Don’t get offended.  You and every president who has ever taken the oath know that’s true.  A slow inaugural allows you to assemble your team in a more thoughtful manner, although you wouldn’t know it from some of the teams you presidential types come up with.  Ha!  And in the olden days, it made it possible for people to arrive on time who lived far away and had to travel by horse, assuming they didn’t screw around about it.  “Jeesh, Josiah, if you’re going to stop at every tavern from Missouri to Maryland, we’ll never make it!”

Such advantages aside, however, I still think we could speed up our process these days.  I’m not sure when any sitting president would agree to such a thing, because after all, if he happened to lose it would mean cutting his own term short.  But it’s something to think about.

On other matters, when do you think you’re going to have Hollande over for a dinner?  I would think it’s the kind of thing you’d want to do, and yet the idea of you sitting down with a socialist during your own campaign might seem a tad dicey.  Would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.


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