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

By David Priess
Thursday, February 16, 2023, 10:15 AM

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