The Government Domain: Tracking the Transition

Everyone wants to know who’s who, or who will be who, in the Barack Obama administration. Luckily, there is no shortage of free online presidential transition trackers.

Press releases from the Office of the President-Elect’s Change.gov website are the closest thing to an official source until Obama takes the oath of office on January 20, 2009 and takes control of the official Whitehouse.gov site. The Change.gov Newsroom section carries the Office’s press releases, which are also available as an RSS feed. Unfortunately, one would miss much using Change.gov as the sole source of news. It carries official announcements once a selection is final but, being an official source, the site naturally does not say anything about potential appointees nor report any pre-appointment news leaks. On the afternoon of Friday, November 21, for example, when the rest of the world was buzzing about a report that Hillary Clinton had decided to accept the Secretary of State job, there was no mention of it in the Newsroom or on the Change.gov Newsroom Blog.

One of the best ways to follow Obama administration news is to subscribe to the feed for Politico 44: A Living Diary of the Obama Presidency. Like most other unofficial news sources, Politico 44 reports on names being floated and on those who turn down offers. Personnel news is mixed with other transition news, but if there is personnel news to report, you have a good chance of finding it here. A “Whiteboard” on the site highlights the current hot story, with other recent stories listed below. Politico 44 also features The President-Elect’s Calendar, “updated all day, every day”. The Calendar began tracking his movements at 11:00 pm EST when the Associated Press called the race for Obama. Check it out to learn exactly when Obama arrives for his daily workout at the Regents Park Apartments’ gym.

The Presidential Transition from the IBM Center for the Business of Government was one of the earliest blogs to stake out the transition territory. The IBM Center launched the blog in April 2007 to “to identify the toughest management challenges facing future government leaders.” The Presidential Transition blogger is John Kamensky, the former deputy director of Al Gore’s National Partnership for Reinventing Government. Kamensky brings his management reform experience into play in such posts as Line-by-line, about the difficulty of finding federal spending to cut. He also shares information on other transition information websites, some of which are covered in this column. Kamensky occasionally reports on Obama administration personnel news, but this is not the focus of the blog. To catch up with Kamensky’s blogging, check out his blog index.

Traditional news sources offer some of the best coverage of the people involved in the transition or in the running for a presidential nomination. The Washington Post website has a section called 44: The Obama Presidency: A Transition to Power. The 44 blog, which morphed from the Post’s campaign trail blog, has been reporting on personnel news regularly. To keep up, subscribe to the RSS feed. The Post has also launched an Inauguration Watch blog with practical information for locals and anyone else planning to be in Washington for the big day.

The New York Times website covers Obama’s selections in a section called The New Team. The New Team page features profiles of potential members of the new administration and a database of news stories about “names in the mix.” The New Team also keeps a running tally of those who have officially been appointed to White House jobs and those who have been officially announced as the future Cabinet nominees. For leaks and guesses, the page links to related Times stories and to headlines around the web.

The National Journal and Government Executive have teamed up for a Lost In Transition blog. Lost In Transition reports heavily on personnel rumors and picks, with a few Inauguration Day posts mixed in. The personnel-related posts are tagged for either the ‘Appointments’ or ‘Short List’ categories. Posts in ‘The Early Bird’ category link to a sampling of major transition-related news reported elsewhere. Early Bird posts go online every weekday day at 8:30 a.m. EST.

Yahoo! News has set up ‘Presidential Transition’ special topic page. The page offers six distinct information streams: current news from the pool of Yahoo! News sources, heavy on local newspapers around the U.S.; news videos from AP, Reuters, and local television stations; Washington Stories, linking to reporting from DC-based outlets; links to postings from Obama’s Change.gov Newsroom blog; a tally of most-blogged-about stories with links to the blogs; and a selection of photos from the wire services.

Newsweek has added a transition blog, Powering Up, to its website. Powering Up does not attempt to cover every bit of transitions news, but the Newsweek staff writing the blog provide in-depth background information on selected topics. The Eric Holder selection is a good example, with not one but two lengthy posts on the topic. Newsweek also has a Transition Toteboard with the odds on “who’s hot” for Obama cabinet appointments, but they appear to be neglecting it. As of November 22, the site had not been updated with the Hillary Clinton (State), Timothy Geithner (Treasury), and Bill Richardson (Commerce) news reports.

Finally, Carroll Publishing has a Transition Tracker 2008 that helpfully compiles several lists: Obama Transition Team members and staff; Newly-Elected Officials, with federal and summary-level state winners; and Newly-Appointed Officials covering White House staff appointments.