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Obama and His “Team of Rivals”. Necessary?

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abraham-lincoln-625

he did good

President Elect Obama is a big fan of Abraham Lincoln. He’s not alone. One would be hard-pressed to find someone who wasn’t. In the last few days Lincoln has become famous for creating a “Team of Rivals” made up of his former adversaries to face the looming crisis of secession head on. It was all documented in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book called…. “Team Of Rivals”. Lincoln’s decision to invite his adversaries into his administration enabled him to create the unity he needed to face the crisis. History has shown it was a great move. But as we face our own, not quite so existential, crisis in 2008, would it be the right move now? The answer is – no.

If Obama were to actually invite a large number of contrarian opinions into his cabinet and inner circle, it would, in my view, be a very bad idea. The reason is simple. In economic, environmental, welfare and foreign policy, we already know full well what needs to be done to salvage the country’s future. There might be arguments over details, but the fundamental direction is surely already set in stone. Creative disagreements would set us back, braking momentum at a critical time, creating a constant need to find consensus, and undermining unity when we need it most. What we need is people who truly understand their briefs and know how to turn the vision into reality.

Singlemindedness of purpose has to be a hallmark of the new administration. So be careful what you wish for. If you start with with disharmony, you may end up fomenting division. If you start with a powerful coherent vision you might just earn the unity you seek.

And then there’s the hype factor. Obama spent his entire campaign doing the unity dance. He doesn’t want to telegraph to the world that it was just hot air, he wants to let that realization come gently. So he puts up a good show using the “team of rivals” concept as cover. Because there’s no way that Tom DeLay or Newt Gingrich get cabinet jobs anytime soon. I’m not seeing a White House future just yet for any unreconstructed conservative. And the idea that Hilary Clinton is a true adversary is not going to fly. She’s a solid Democrat with a policy approach which is almost identical to that of the next President. But yet again the media buy the story, hook, line and sinker, even though there’s precious little evidence for it.

Having said that, if Hilary Clinton does get the corner office at Foggy Bottom, President-elect Obama might have earned himself at least one new adversary. Bill Richardson.

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Written by coolrebel

November 16, 2008 at 10:10 pm

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