In our rush to blame certain high elected officials for inappropriate storage of government documents, let’s consider the following. Remember that the people who will be working on this are lawyers and politicians, both of whom don’t know what real people do when they move. I’m not a moving professional, but I’ve moved a lot in my lifetime, so here are a few thoughts.
When normal people change jobs and move they do it well or badly, but personal and job are well delineated. I won’t talk about the home move as that’s a disaster in itself. When I changed jobs (early retirement) I knew at least two weeks in advance. On the last day before my going away party (which I probably planned at my fav dive restaurant because I was the only one allowed to make reservations over the years) I packed a box with my personal wall calendar, address book, family photo, and hardy plant not even I could kill. Done. Government files were just that, I had 750 bills in one committee and had written up each of them many times. They all stayed behind. If I needed to know about the issue, I could look it up in my new job. There were no classified documents per se.
For politicians, there would be a transition if there is a retirement or change of representative due to a lost election. That person has two months to arrange to transfer the office to the new representative and clear out with staff. It shouldn’t be a problem. Ditto cabinet officials, they should work with professionals to separate the personal from the professional, but they usually have time if there is a new administration.
That leaves us with the President and Vice President. In our wisdom or stupidity, we give them homes and demand that they live there. They can’t leave until the last moment and still need classified documents for meetings on the morning of January 20, as at noon a new administration will be coming in, lock, stock and barrel.
Since the Presidential Records Act in the 70’s, we’ve made things even more complicated. It’s easier for the President, the rules for the VP give much less staff and leeway. as the GSA will only help them out for six months. A president usually wants to set records aside for a future library, not so much the VP.
As Americans, we want to make sure our nation is safe and our military secrets are not broadcast to the world or certain nefarious characters. It would be in the best interest to not depend on traditions, which if you haven’t been looking have been tossed to the winds the past few years, but on sound legal policy and regulations put forth by the National Archives (NARA) to make the transition seamless and less prone to error or fraud. And yes, if Congress needs to vote dollars to assure that confidential documents remain confidential, so be it.
It’s damn hard to move your house and office at the same time while working and attending to the swearing-in of a new President of of the United States! Instead of blaming and political backstabbing, why don’t we deal with the myriad issues posed by former president Trump and former VP Biden and use it for the good of our country.
For the offenders, give the documents back, all the documents, acknowledge that errors were made, and fix the issue. It’s easy to see how an errant document fell through the cracks, and many “in the know” argue that way too much information is needlessly deemed “classified.” If there’s a briefing paper that says to remember at the meeting to mention, yet again, to the foreign secretary US disapproval of their human rights policies, do the American people really not know anything about this issue that has been campaigned on for years?
How about if we let the dueling DOJ Special Counsels do their thing and report to us what was taken, why, whether we have the documents back safely, and what recommendations they have. It’s ridiculous for politicians to dig into the investigative process, as we found out conclusively with the “special master” debacle in order to specifically politicize the issue. Then let’s deal with it effectively and plan for a non-political process that will help disappear the problem of missing documents. This is a serious matter, as some of these documents can save or lose lives. We, the people, deserve a solution that works for all and respects the difficulties involved with complicated jobs and life/work challenges. Always remember to VOTE! Cheers, Dee