Chatter: Former National Security Advisor Steve Hadley's Reflections on Presidential Transitions

David Priess, Stephen Hadley
Thursday, February 16, 2023, 12:00 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

Along with co-editors Peter Feaver, William Inboden, and Meghan O'Sullivan, former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley is editor of the new Hand-Off: The Foreign Policy George W. Bush Passed to Barack Obama. This unique and massive book contains 30 Transition Memos prepared in 2008-2009 under Hadley's direction by the outgoing George W. Bush administration’s National Security Council staff for the incoming Obama Administration—each with a postscript by these same experts critically assessing the Bush foreign policy legacy.

Historians and national security junkies usually have to wait a long time for such materials to see the light of day; this consolidated content reveals much, and relatively quickly, about the various policies of the time and the extensive effort that was put into the gold-standard 2008-2009 transition.

David Priess asked Hadley about his experiences with presidential transitions dating back to the 1970s; how it felt to be on the receiving end of the transition process in 2000-2001; President George W. Bush's transition mandate to him and to Chief of Staff Josh Bolten in 2008; the substantive NSC transition memos on the Freedom Agenda, the War on Terror, Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, and PEPFAR; public perceptions of the national security advisor's role; how much national security advisors should interact with the media; and more.

Chatter is a production of Lawfare and Goat Rodeo. This episode was produced and edited by Cara Shillenn of Goat Rodeo. Podcast theme by David Priess, featuring music created using Groovepad.

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Works mentioned during this episode:

The book Hand-Off: The Foreign Policy George W. Bush Passed to Barack Obama, edited by Stephen J. Hadley

The TV show The West Wing

The book Diplomacy by Henry Kissinger

The book The Icon and the Axe by James Billington

David Priess is Director of Intelligence at Bedrock Learning, Inc. and a Senior Fellow at the Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security. He served during the Clinton and Bush 43 administrations as a CIA officer and has written two books: “The President’s Book of Secrets,” about the top-secret President’s Daily Brief, and "How To Get Rid of a President," describing the ways American presidents have left office.
Stephen Hadley is an American attorney and senior government official who served as the 20th United States National Security Advisor from 2005 to 2009.

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