An Unprecedented Presidential Transition: Curated by Robert McMahon

Robert McMahon is managing editor of the Council on Foreign Relations' (CFR) Emmy-winning website,, and cohosts a weekly foreign affairs podcast, The World Next Week. He has covered international affairs for three decades, including stints on the international desk editor of the Associated Press, and as news director and UN correspondent for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

An Unprecedented Presidential Transition: Curated by Robert McMahon

    All Does Not End Well

    Pulling off a high-turnout election amid a pandemic was a triumph of American resilience. But as public policy expert David P. Fidler spells out in this piece, U.S. politics on health issues remain divided as ever, with controversies unlikely to be resolved under a Democratic administration.

    Transitions Are Tricky

    A raft of tough issues awaits the Biden administration. The struggles caused by a pandemic that emerged from China highlight the importance of having a skilled foreign policy. This thoughtful podcast conversation between CFR President Richard Haass and Senior Vice President James Lindsay runs the gamut—from the logistical thicket new administrations must navigate, to how to address enormous troubles in the world beyond Washington.

    Primer for an Anxious Succession

    As the extraordinary spectacle of a U.S. president challenging his electoral defeat plays out, Benjamin Wittes offer insights into why those efforts will fail, yet still damage the country.

    Brave New Worldview

    On one foreign policy issue after another, from climate change to immigration, President-Elect Joe Biden seems poised to sharply pivot from Trump administration positions. A look at his record in office, campaign rhetoric, and policy platforms distills the Biden worldview.

    Beyond the Wall

    Few nations endured more harsh rhetoric than Mexico in the runup to the Trump presidency but in the end Washington asked relatively little of its southern neighbor during the past four years. This piece from Shannon O'Neil forecasts that a Biden administration will be more focused on trade, environmental, and human rights issues in ways that are likely to test the Mexican government.

    New Age Diplomacy

    This deep dive by two foreign policy veterans offers a path for creating a more diverse, capable department with expertise in crucial twenty-first century issues such as climate change, global diseases, and technological transformation.

    World Order Is Different

    U.S. partners and adversaries alike are now used to a world of declining American influence. Rather than revert to pre-Trump administration practices, the Biden administration should embrace fresh ideas for reintegrating with the world, writes Anne Applebaum in the Atlantic.

    The Folly of North Korean Provocations

    North Korea typically welcomes new U.S. presidents with a posture of bluffing, brinkmanship, and provocations to get their attention. But a longtime Korea watcher says a more businesslike approach to the new U.S. administration may prove fruitful for Pyongyang.

    Identity Crisis?

    Fractured Middle East states like Iraq continue to founder in part because of a lack of a shared national identity. This thought-provoking take by a scholar on the region reflects on whether the United States is now on the same path.

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