(CNN) — First lady Melania Trump, like her husband, is operating like he didn’t lose last week’s election: Has not yet reached out to the next first lady, Jill Biden, a familiar source told CNN on Tuesday.
On a day like today, four years ago, Melania Trump had tea at the White House and took a tour of the executive residence, at the invitation of the then first lady, Michelle Obama, as usual. But this time, no movement toward a transition has begun in the east wing or executive residence.
Instead, another source with knowledge of Melania Trump’s daily schedule said that there is very little change, and that most of the focus of the Office of the First Lady remains on daily meetings and planning for upcoming holidays.
“I understand that everything is the same in the east wing,” said the source. The source said that even if Melania Trump wanted to start the transition process, the first lady is still paralyzed by President Donald Trump’s unfounded refusal to accept Joe Biden’s victory.
“I’m not sure it’s fair for anyone to expect them to start the transition when the president has not yet relented,” the source said.
Anita McBride, who served as Laura Bush’s general secretary, who noted that Melania Trump has occasionally acted or expressed different opinions than her husband, said: “This moment is more complicated. His approach before he has conceded could be seen as completely against what the president and the administration are doing.
The source familiar with Melania Trump’s thinking says that when the time comes to acknowledge defeat, the first lady will deliver.
“If the president grants, I’m sure the east wing will be friendly and professional to the incoming administration, that’s how they work,” the source said.
The Difficulty of Transitioning the White House Out of Time
However, with each day that passes without transitioning, the job of preparing the White House for a new first family and moving the current one becomes more difficult.
“This transition will be a daunting task, although Dr. Biden is familiar with the White House and extremely capable,” said Capricia Penavic Marshall, who served as special assistant to Hillary Clinton when she was first lady, and later as social secretary of the Clinton White House, and is the author of “Protocol: The Power of Diplomacy.”
Marshall was with the entire Clinton administration and clearly remembers the importance of sticking to a tight schedule for the days between the election and the inauguration.
“At this point there would have already been at least one transfer of notes between the current east wing and the team of the first lady-elect, to talk about dates and times and what needs are beginning to occur,” he said. “There is a timeline to all of this, and what is happening now is going to bog him down.”
Among other things on a busy to-do list is planning for organizational changes, moving trucks, cleaning, and verbatim measuring of curtains. Inauguration Day is a choreographed event to the minute, moving one family and preparing the next, even storing the refrigerators and unpacking a first lady’s clothes in her dressing room.
McBride was part of the Bush team that was forced to wait until the Supreme Court resolved the vote between Bush and Democrat Al Gore.
“We were only able to begin the transition to the White House after December 13,” he said. “It worked. It was frantic, but it worked.
The first ladies who have passed the torch
For first ladies, the hassle of handing over their (temporary) home and the staff they have come to know and trust to a new president and first lady isn’t always easy. In particular, there was a well-known coldness between Rosalynn Carter and Nancy Reagan, two women who were fiercely loyal to their husbands. The transition of Carter and Reagan was not pleasant.
Rosalynn was further enraged when rumors circulated that Nancy Reagan wanted the Carters to move in a few weeks before the inauguration and live in Blair House, across the street from the White House, so she could begin redecorating the rooms. private rooms of the family, “wrote Kate Andersen Brower in her book” First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies.
“Rosalynn said Nancy called her to deny the reports that she wanted them out. “I don’t know if he said he was sorry or not,” Rosalynn said. ‘He just said he didn’t make those statements.’
Barbara Bush wasn’t happy to move out after a term either, yet she was kind and insightful when Hillary Clinton came to the White House after the election, to share traditional tea.
“Mrs. Bush took Mrs. Clinton into the residence and through her dressing room to show her the window that she would look through, across the rose garden, to see the Oval Office,” McBride said, recalling the sympathy of the visit. . “She told him she checked him every time she missed George during the day.”
Since then, the First Ladies have shown their successors the “secret” window.
It’s not just first ladies who have benefited from the kind, helpful, and open transition periods.
“It’s not just Laura and I, not just President Bush and President Obama, but our staff,” Michelle Obama said in 2015, according to Brower in her book. Obama added: “My secretary general continues to speak with Laura’s former secretary general [Bush] very regularly and it is this type of exchange that prevents us from inventing the wheel, allows us to build on the things that are already working, that the country gains as we move from one party to another.
McBride said he invited Obama staff members to join him in the office for a day or two so they could work together and show in person how it all worked.
When Marshall arrived with his team to begin the Clinton administration’s job as a special assistant to Hillary Clinton, he saw none of the tension or acrimony the country is now witnessing between the Trump administration and Biden.
“He was very supportive,” he said of Bush’s staff on the east wing backstage. “My predecessors and everyone in the White House compound left us bottles of champagne and nice notes and folders and folders with useful information.”
Tea for two
The traditional welcome of the new first lady to the White House has a different meaning than it does for the president and president-elect. For a first lady, albeit archaic, part of her role is to explain how the White House works as a home for a family.
It is up to her to instill advice on how to live there with children, as Laura Bush and her daughters did with Obama and her daughters, teaching them how to say hello from the Truman Balcony or glide down the hall to the private theater.
The image of Melania Trump and Jill Biden enjoying tea this time, if that day comes, will likely carry increased scrutiny, given the bitter weeks.
“It might be awkward, but that moment will bring a collective little sigh of relief to everyone else,” McBride said. «That image of the two custodians of the White House, of the house … will resonate. That image helps to remove some of the acrimony of politics.
Even in the most divided elections America has seen between presidents, so far at least a thread of country has remained over the parties, and a willingness on one side to help the other find their balance.
“That is what is so beautiful for our country. That moment of the inauguration in which a family says to the next one: ‘Welcome to your house,’ “said Marshall, recalling one of his favorite memories of that day, when the Bushes arrived at the White House to travel with the Clinton outgoing towards the United States Capitol for the swearing-in ceremony.
“Right before they got out of their car, they put on their coats, and Clinton came over and straightened Bush’s coat on her shoulder and said, ‘Come on, let’s do this.’ And Bush gave him a smile and a little look that clearly said, “Don’t worry. I have this”.
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