The newly sworn-in president has to fill out their administration almost immediately, since the previous cabinet traditionally resigns. Confirmation hearings begin before the inauguration, and voice votes are taken in the Senate, usually with unanimous consent given, and the new president typically swears in their cabinet in one large ceremony. For instance, President Obama was able to swear in seven nominees the day after his inauguration, with most others taking their oaths the following week. Other presidents have had varied records on how quickly their cabinets were sworn in. Jimmy Carter's entire cabinet was in place within a week, but only half of George HW Bush's was.
To add a little fun (or stress) to the new President's first week in office, the outgoing staffers like to blow off a little steam (especially if their party lost the election) by pranking the incoming staffers of the White House. After President Clinton left the White House, his staffers went as far as destroying property during their transition in 2001. They took all the "W" keys off the keyboards so that George W. Bush wouldn't be able to type his name (lol) and there were also reports of broken glass desktops, tangled phone lines, and "Gore 2000" stickers left in paper trays. To be fair though, the Clinton staffers pointed out that when they took office in 1992, Bush staffers had done the same thing, covering the office with Bush/Quayle stickers and more.
One of the president's biggest responsibilities involves having the codes needed to launch nuclear missiles. While the winning campaign team might be partying it up in Washington, the president-elect is getting extensive training in the particulars of a nuclear weapons launch, though he can't actually launch an attack until after the inauguration is over (should it be necessary, the sitting president can still launch an attack). The process for launching a nuclear missile is extremely complex and depends on a precise sequence of events. During the inauguration, two aides carry two different "nuclear football" briefcases with the necessary attack protocols. One briefcase is for the old president, and one is for the president-elect, which goes live the moment the old one goes dead.
In order to authorize a launch, the nuclear football must be opened and then the president will be given attack options. In turn, the president has to give a special code, which is changed every day, and printed on a card with dummy codes. That card, called the Gold Codes, is carried on the president at all times. Complicated, right? Apparently in 1989 Ronald Reagan wanted the procedure to be as simple as handing over a card with codes on it, until Colin Powell persuaded him not to.
The President and First Family usually start moving out of the White House a few days early to give the 93-person staff enough time to prepare for the next First Family. This transition between families has to be done in a matter of hours and no outside help is hired due to security reasons. The new President and his family usually stay in the Blair House in the days leading up to Inauguration Day (which is also move in day). The Blair House, built in 1824, was purchased by the government in 1942 and actually has more square footage than the actual White House, made of four connected townhouses in D.C. The house also doubles as the president's official guest house, used by visiting foreign leaders and the likes.
The Secret Service supervises the new First Family's move into the White House, but the president-elect pays for it either out of their own personal wealth or with campaign funds. All in all, the entire process takes about six hours, though sometimes the former First Family is still moving things out at the same time. For instance, President Bush was having boxes moved and paintings wrapped during his final days, while Ronald Reagan's Oval Office only had a desk left by his last day.
The position of White House Executive Chef didn't exist until 1961 when Jackie Kennedy reorganized the White House staff. However, Lyndon B. Johnson disliked the formal food prepared by the Executive Chef and decided to bring in his own cook from Texas to make food for his family instead. Since then, most presidents have two chefs: an Executive Chef who stays at the White House from administration to administration, and a personal chef to meet the First Family's particular tastes.
In addition to a stellar kitchen staff, the First Family also gets an Executive Pastry Chef, Chief Floral Designer, Social Secretary, Official Calligrapher and a medical staff consisting of twenty people!
The new president gets to re-decorate the Oval Office however they please, installing new carpet (the old carpet is moved to the presidential library of their predecessor), new artwork, and new drapes. This tradition is fairly new, only starting in the mid-20th Century. Artwork and busts are chosen to reflect the president's heroes and influences, but the one thing that usually remains the same is the desk. Only six desks have been used in the Oval Office, with the current desk being the Resolute Desk, given to President Hayes by Queen Victoria in the 1880s. That desk was put into the Oval Office by Jackie Kennedy, toured the country in an exhibition related to President Kennedy, and was brought back by Jimmy Carter.
As for the White House itself, the First Family has the use of it for free (which includes a bowling alley and movie theater), and medical care, maintenance, and state dinners are all paid for by the government. However, the First Family does have to cover the cost of personal expenses, such as dry cleaning, clothing, and groceries for them and their guests.
Meanwhile, the First Family on its way out of the White House has the opportunity to take a few precious mementos with them before the new president moves in. Legend has it that Lyndon Johnson admired the official White House china on board Air Force One so much that he had it shipped back to his ranch in Texas, while the Reagans were investigated by the IRS for taking $25,000 worth of diamonds and a gown home. Most famously, the Clintons got in some hot water for taking gifts that had officially been given to the White House. They ended up returning about $50,000 worth of furniture and paying the US government for other items they wished to keep.
During his last moments in office, our first president decided to attend the inauguration of his replacement, John Adams. Yep, that's right---you can thank good ol' George Washington for the presidential tradition because since then, outgoing presidents have always done the same. In 1837 Martin Van Buren even rode in a carriage to the inauguration with President-elect Andrew Jackson. Another fun inauguration day tradition that still continues to this day got its start in the early 20th century in which the first lady arranges a luncheon for the incoming president and his family. Overall, the outgoing president plays a small role in the inauguration and once the new guy has been sworn in, it's time for the old guy to skedaddle. The outgoing president is escorted from the Capitol, gives one final salute, and leaves on Marine One, off to their new (and hopefully less stressful) life. The new president then attends the luncheon their predecessor planned and parties the night away.
Apparently when he left office with the country on the verge of Civil War, James Buchanan told Abraham Lincoln, "If you are as happy, my dear sir, on entering this house as I am in leaving it and returning home, you are the happiest man in this country."
The tradition of the outgoing president leaving a letter on the Oval Office desk for the new one started with Ronald Reagan, who left some wisdom for his former Vice President, George HW Bush. It read, in part, "Don't let the turkeys get you down." Most presidents haven't made the contents of their note public, and President Obama has followed that tradition, though we bet it will be revealed to us years later.
Ever since 1805 when Thomas Jefferson held the first inaugural parade, every newly sworn-in president (other than those who assumed office after a death) have had one. The parade, which goes form the Capitol (where the new President just had lunch with Congress) to the White House, includes the President, Vice President, their families, military bands, regiments and floats. The only president who didn't have a parade was Ronald Reagan at the start of his second term due to high winds.
And the fun doesn't have to end there! Starting with the Nixon Administration, Congress authorized a small amount of money to be used on entertainment expenses by the president as a small perk. The initial amount began at $12,000 but has since grown to $19,000. Official functions are usually paid for by the State Department, and performers almost always play at the White House for free.
Though it usually takes quite some time for a president to start getting bills through Congress, they can issue executive orders right away. One of the most famous is Franklin Roosevelt, who took less than two days in office to issue Proclamation 2039, which closed all banks for a week to give Congress time to stabilize the country's financial situation. President Obama signed several executive orders right away, including restrictions on government employees transitioning into lobbying, and revoking a Bush administration order restricting access to presidential records.
On the flip side, presidents about to leave office tend to issue pardons on their last few days. The Constitution allows for the President to grant pardons to those convicted of "offenses against the United States." George HW Bush controversially pardoned Iran-Contra figure and former Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger, while Jimmy Carter pardoned folk singer Peter Yarrow, who was in prison for taking sexual liberties with an underaged fan. But most famously, Bill Clinton caused controversy when he issued nearly 140 pardons on his last day, including one to disgraced financier Marc Rich, two members of terrorist organization "The Weather Underground," and his miserable half-brother Roger.
So exactly how much does the president make? George W. Bush's first term brought a raise of the president's salary to $400,000, which is still the current presidential salary. The president also receives a $100,000 non-taxable travel account and a $50,000 annual expense account.
Most people are nervous about being on time and getting to know people during their first week on the job, but the president doesn't get any kind of "newbie" grace period. In fact, many presidents have faced huge challenges as soon as they get into office and have responded by introducing major legislation. The Stimulus Act of 2009 was introduced into the House just days after President Obama took office (and had enormous input from the president-elect).
Other presidents have had similar almost-instant successes. President Roosevelt basically ushered in the New Deal during his first days in office, closing the whole country's banking system and creating new government agencies to get people working. Lyndon Johnson almost immediately gave a speech linking him to the memory of John F. Kennedy, assuring continuity. And Ronald Reagan ushered in massive tax cuts.
How's that for getting the ball rolling?
It's not all about the new guy! What about the dude leaving office? When the time comes to move out of the White House, the president receives a pension of about $200,000 per year, along with a staff, an office, health insurance, and Secret Service protection. But until 1955, former presidents received nothing, meaning they often had to go back to work, sell the rights to their memoirs, or endorse products. President Truman had lost almost all of his personal savings to dodgy investments, and when he left office, had only a $100 per month Army pension. Congress rectified the embarrassing situation by passing the Former Presidents Act, establishing post-term income for the office.
The vice president receives many of the same perks that the president does, but at a much lower rate. For much of American history, the position's salary has been substantially less than that of the president: $5,000 in 1789, $10,000 in 1873, $12,000 in 1909, and $20,000 in 1946. The office would then receive small raises, proportionate with congressional pay raises, until a substantial raise in 1994, from $62,500 to $171,000. Vice President Biden makes $230,000 annually. The VP also receives an expense account, but again, it's a much smaller amount than the president's account.
The vice president and family receive lodging at Number One Observatory Circle on the grounds of the Naval Observatory, and use of specially designed car, much like the president. The VP flies in Air Force Two, and on Marine Two.
Sounds like coming in second ain't so bad after all.
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