Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Team of Rivals

Abraham Lincoln (left in the painting), a long shot for the presidency, beat out several
more seasoned opponents, including William Seward (bust on the right.) Lincoln went
on to appoint his rivals to his cabinet in a stroke historian Doris Kearns Goodwin has called
"political genius." President-elect Obama is following Mr. Lincoln's lead as he builds his Cabinet.

If you've been watching the transition activities of President-elect Barack Obama, you may have noted that he is preparing to name several campaign rivals to his Cabinet. What Mr. Obama is doing is reminiscent of what President Abraham Lincoln did after his victory in the Election of 1860. Mr. Lincoln was not favored to win and was running against more seasoned national figures like William Seward and Edward Stanton. When Mr. Lincoln won, he decided the best thing he could do would be to surround himself with intelligent, experienced men with political acumen. He found those men among his rivals for the presidency.

Mr. Obama is engaging in the same kind of strategy--appointing New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson to Commerce and New York Senator Hillary Clinton to State, two from among the field of candidates he ran against--and signaling a few things. First, that he views these two as seasoned, intelligent contributors to his upcoming policies and agenda. Second, that he wishes to patch up any last remnants of animosity that may have arisen in the campaign between candidates. And third, that he is effectively eliminating any competition when he runs for a second term in 2012. (That last one he won't actually say, but it is a result of his choices, particularly where Mrs. Clinton is concerned. She can't run against him as Secretary of State in 2012 unless she resigns her post, assuming she accepts the position.)

If you want to learn more about Mr. Lincoln and his cabinet and gain some insight into what Mr. Obama is doing, pick up a copy of historian Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.


Tomorrow's post: Thankful

Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential, 11/08


Virginia said...

Good info today DC. I like Doris K. Goodwin. She's a smart cookie. I think our new president is doing the right thing, the only thing to bring our country together. We have been at each other's throats for far too long. We need to learn to play well with others.

Jilly said...

A perfect photograph to illustrate the current transition. I believe Lincoln is Obama's preferred president in history. Could be wrong. Am so impressed with the President-Elect's news conferences and choices he is making. Sure does give us all hope for the future.

D.C. Confidential said...

VJ: Thanks! DKG is a smart cookie. I love watching her on Meet the Press. I think Mr. Obama is doing the right things, too, which makes me even happier that I check the box next to his name.

Jilly: When I saw this set up at the museum the other night, I couldn't resist! I'm glad Mr. Obama is making a favorable impression not only at home but abroad as well. Sadly (I think??) he doesn't have to reach to high, given the caliber of leadership we're coming out from under.

marley said...

Another excellent museum photo to illustrate this interesting political time. I think Obama has played a genius hand in gathering these people around him. It benefits him in many ways, as you have said.

USelaine said...

I love these combinations of paintings and busts. Very effective.

D.C. Confidential said...

Marley: I agree. I think this shows a level of wisdom, as well. Obama never claimed to be the most qualified candidate, esp. in terms of foreign policy. But he exhibited/exhibits a calm steadiness and depth that is punctuated by his ability to make smart choices. His selections will, hopefully, bolster his ability to govern well.

USElaine: Thanks!

Bernie said...

That book is on my 'buy it soon' list. I read somewhere that it is one of Obama's two favorite books. I don't remember what the other one one is.

Maya said...


D.C. Confidential said...

Bernie: You definitely must get this book. It will provide great insight into one of the influences in President-elect Obama's choices.

Maya: Amen!