Formerly Bereft-on-the-Left


The word "transition" is derived from the Latin "transito," a past pluperfect verb meaning "to clean a medium-sized flounder while reading War and Peace." This should not be confused with the word "transari," a similar-sounding verb meaning "to juggle endangered farm animals." As Barack Obama unveiled his transition team last week, the Los Angeles Times noted that "... since 1797, when George Washington handed over the presidency to John Adams in the first transition, transfers of power in the U.S. have sometimes gone smoothly, have often been bumpy and sometimes verged on the outrageous." An understatement, to be sure. Andrew Jackson's transition team so enjoyed their new roles, they reportedly adopted a secret handshake, bought matching silk bowling shirts with their names embroidered on the back and even hired an itinerant former designer of domino tiles as an advisor. He advised them to send out for Chinese. Authorities had to intervene when James Garfield's new Treasury Secretary, Aloysius Fester III, arrived at his first cabinet meeting dressed as a postal worker and played the concertina while reciting the third act of Othello. The newly-elected John Adams stunned party officials by eschewing a transition team altogether. In their place, he hired the squash team from the College of William and Mary -- despite their dismal 3-12 win-loss record that year. It's generally conceded that Chester A. Arthur sought out the most qualified candidates for his team, choosing only 30-degree Freemasons whose parents, despite truly valiant efforts, had failed to make a name in vaudeville. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Herbert Hoover was so disappointed in his choices, he reportedly threatened to make them eat Mrs. Hoover's fried okra in pesto sauce. Conversely, Ulysses S. Grant was so pleased with his team, he offered them continued, uninterrupted employment after he left office -- as long as they would agree to become rabbis and study astrophysics. By far the most legendary member of a newly-elected president's transition team was Thaddeus Pinkerton, former governor of what is now Bayonne, New Jersey, who was appointed Chief-of-Staff by president-elect Millard Fillmore. Pinkerton -- "Pinkie" to his friends and selected members of the judiciary -- was said to be so devoted to his boss, he could often be found doing his taxes -- his laundry -- and sometimes Mrs. Fillmore. Pinkerton was summarily let go when a female member of the White House domestic staff accused him of impersonating Czar Nicholas while riding a goat.
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