President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden walk to the Rose Garden to deliver remarks on the election result.

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden walk to the Rose Garden to deliver remarks on the election result. Susan Walsh/AP

Trump, Clinton, Obama, Ryan Harmonize for a Smooth Transition

Following upbeat victory and concession speeches, president praises American “team.”

Laying to rest fears of disruptive post-election bitterness, the key players in Tuesday’s election drama on Wednesday all stuck to Washington’s new script for executing a smooth transfer of power.

It began with winning Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s 2:50 a.m. speech in New York City saying he had received a congratulatory call from defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton. “Hillary has worked very long and very hard over a long period of time, and we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country,” Trump said. “To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.”

Clinton, who won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College by a tally of 228-279, would wait until 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday to speak, also in New York. She said she hoped Trump “will be a successful president for all Americans. This is not the outcome we wanted or we worked so hard for, and I'm sorry we did not win this election for the values we share and the vision we hold for our country.”

But, she added, “we must accept this result and then look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.”

Just after noon, it was President Obama’s turn, speaking from the White House Rose Garden to say that he had called Trump to congratulate him at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday and they discussed how to “make sure we have a successful transition between our presidencies. It’s no secret that there are significant differences [between us],” the president said. But in 2008 there were also “significant differences” between Obama and outgoing President George W. Bush, and Bush “could not have been more gracious,” Obama said.

It’s bigger than one individual, Obama continued, which is why he instructed his White House to use Bush’s transition effort as a model. “We are all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country,” Obama said. “The peaceful transfer of power is one of the hallmarks of our democracy. The next few months will show that to the world.”

Obama went on to thank Clinton for her work on behalf of the country. “All of us are sad when we lose, but the day after, we must remember we are all on one team,” he said. “We’re not Republicans and Democrats, but Americans and patriots first.”

Obama said he had told his own “team to keep their heads up,” commending the “remarkable work they have done day in and day out without fanfare, working at agencies or on an obscure policy that makes government more responsive and service-friendly.” He again expressed hope that the “handoff will be well-executed,” exhorting Americans who suffered an electoral defeat not to become “discouraged or cynical. The point is that we should all move forward with a presumption of good faith in our fellow citizens.”

Earlier in the day, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said, “We are working with the president-elect and vice president-elect on transition efforts to make sure we hit the ground running.” He then added his familiar litany of agenda items such as lifting “the oppressive weight of the regulatory state” and bringing “accountability to the federal government.”

The election results gave him fertile ground. A Wall Street Journal exit poll taken Tuesday asked departing voters for their “feelings on how the U.S. government is working.” It found that 23 percent were angry and 46 percent were dissatisfied; 24 percent were satisfied and only 6 percent were enthusiastic.

The Partnership for Public Service, which has joined with other nonprofits in organizing to assure a smooth transition under a new law enacted in March, advised the incoming Trump team to avoid past chaos by focusing on three priorities: 4,000 key appointments; converting campaign promises into policy; and tapping the knowledge of career civil servants.

“The presidential transition provides no time to spare,” said Max Stier, the partnership’s president and CEO. “Both candidates took unprecedented measures this year to be ready to govern on Day 1, but there is still much to be done. The next 73 days are critical to ensure that the transfer of power on Jan. 20 is organized, well-planned and worthy of the American people.”