THANK goodness George W. Bush can turn to Dick Cheney and Andy Card to guide him through the uneasy period between now and Inauguration Day.
Those two veterans of presidential transitions know how to put together a new administra- tion.
It would have been a mistake to hold off planning until courts in Washington and Florida resolved the disputed presidential votes.
Consider: The next president must fill 6,000 full-time jobs and part-time positions on boards and commissions.
Top White House staffers must be picked, along with a Cabinet, so they can hit the ground running on Jan. 20. Complicating matters are detailed FBI background checks for hundreds of nominees.
Additionally, decisions must be made about priorities for a new budget and presenting a domestic policy agenda to Congress.
With or without a judicial decision on the Florida balloting, Mr. Bush and Vice President Al Gore must make careful preparations for assuming office.
It's easier for Mr. Gore, since he could turn to holdovers from the Clinton years and phase in his new team. But Mr. Bush doesn't have that luxury.
That's where the veterans come in. Mr. Cheney is an old hand at transitions, having been involved in five Washington changeovers since 1969.
The other planning leader, Mr. Card, served as deputy chief of staff under Mr. Bush's father. Indeed, when Bill Clinton defeated President George H.W. Bush, it was Mr. Card who handled transition details for the outgoing administration.
President Clinton has helped matters by setting up six-a-week CIA briefings for the Bush team. Each federal agency is preparing material for the winner. Meanwhile, the General Services Administration can't turn over office space and $5.3 million in transition funds to either candidate until there's a clear winner.
That shouldn't pose an obstacle to the Bush team, which already is hard at work going over transition details. As the legal process plays out in the courts, it's reassuring that both candidates understand the importance of entering the Oval Office fully prepared on Day One.