Team of Rivals?


TEAM OF RIVALS?….Is Barack Obama really assembling a “team of rivals,” as Abraham Lincoln did in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s account of Lincoln’s presidency? Goodwin’s book was a little too hagiographic for my taste (even Lincoln’s obvious mistakes routinely get spun into accidental acts of genius), but there’s no question that Lincoln really did surround himself with a contentious bunch of personalities. Obama, conversely, doesn’t really seem to be doing that. Hillary Clinton and the other SecState candidates are the only real “rivals” he’s considering for his cabinet, and one cabinet spot hardly counts as a team, does it?

Still, Dan Drezner thinks the Goodwin analogy is serving Obama well:

That said, it’s pretty smart for Obama and his staff to spread this meme around. First, it flatters all of his cabinet officers to think that they’re like Seward, Salmon Chase et al. Second, by invoking the metaphor, Obama gets to frame his administration as evoking both the great challenges of the Civil War period and the greatness of Lincoln.

So maybe Obama isn’t assembling a team of rivals after all, but he’s still a pretty smart cookie for faking us into thinking he is. Nice move from the former gym rat.

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