29 November 2008

A team of rivals

[Hillary Clinton ]

When Hillary Clinton was first mentioned as President-elect Obama's secretary of state, the two most oft-heard comments were: “team of rivals” and “keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”

(H.D.S. Greenway, “Greenway: A team of rivals”, Herald Tribune, 27 Nov 2008)

The tactic sounds simple and effective: defang erstwhile enemies by pulling them into your inner circle, gather the most talented politicians beneath your banner, and combine against the common enemy — but the strategy does not always work. It certainly did not work for Lincoln.

(Ben Macintyre, “Voice of history that is guiding Barack Obama to build power with ‘team of rivals’ ”, Times Online, 29 Nov 2008)

It is upsetting to read that Clinton insists on picking her own staff in order to avoid being saddled with people not loyal to her … She will not succeed if the State Department becomes Hillaryland. She cannot be seen as setting up a rival power center.

(H.D.S. Greenway, “Greenway: A team of rivals”, Herald Tribune, 27 Nov 2008)

Secretaries of State frequently must maneuver for power against the White House national security advisor, the Defense secretary and intelligence officials. Clinton would also have to share foreign policy influence with Vice President-elect Joe Biden, who was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. … Some people close to the Clintons have expressed concern that Obama may try to centralize power over national security issues at the White House, as many presidents have. To counter that, some predict that Clinton may try to find jobs for some of her loyalists in the White House.

(Paul Richter, “Clinton's potential pitfalls seen in FDR's secretary of State”, Los Angeles Times, 24 Nov 2008)

Many hard-core Obama supporters are furious about the decision to embrace the “monster”. They did not spend two years of their life working for “hope” and “change” only to see the Clintons and their various incubuses and succubuses restored to power.

(Lexington, “Head of State”, The Economist, 27 Nov 2008)

President-elect Barack Obama has been open about his desire to emulate Abraham Lincoln (and Michael Corleone) in building a “team of rivals”. This could be a brilliant, revolutionary move; or it could be his worst mistake.

The last administration could not cope with differences in opinion between the White House and State, and ended up sacking Colin Powell, one of America's most widely recognized heroes. In that case, the differences were ideological; in this case, it will be more about personal power and dynasties. We'll see how well Obama keeps his rivals in line.

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