An important question

by Michael O. Allen on November 20, 2008

I will admit that I grew to dislike Hillary Clinton during the year and found how she ran her campaign as well as the contest with Sen. Barack Obama more than disgraceful. I don’t want her as secretary of state. The president-elect is a lot smarter man than I’ll ever be so, if he wants her in this role, more power to him. He was elected to make decisions like this.

The New York Times published an opinion-editorial, What’s So Special About a Team of Rivals?, by JAMES OAKES that I think is important to read.

Oakes’ piece corrects some of the gauzy history around Abraham Lincoln, fostered largely by Pulitzer-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and her book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, that this was such a monumentally wise idea.

Rather than it being a stroke of genius, Lincoln’s decision to appoint his main rivals for the Republican nomination into his cabinet was rather routine and mundane:

INSPIRED by the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln, President-elect Barack Obama is considering appointing a “team of rivals” to his cabinet — if rumors about the nomination of Hillary Clinton to be secretary of state are true. But there’s more mythology than history in the idea that Lincoln showed exceptional political skill in offering cabinet positions to the men he had beaten in the race for the 1860 Republican nomination.

For one thing, there was nothing new in what Lincoln did. By tradition, presidents-elect reserved a cabinet position, often secretary of state, for the leading rival in their party. John Quincy Adams inaugurated the practice by appointing one of his presidential rivals, Henry Clay, to that post. It was a controversial move in 1824; enemies of Adams denounced the appointment as a corrupt bargain.

By the 1850s, the practice had become a tradition. In that decade, Presidents Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan installed in their cabinets men who had been major rivals for their party’s nomination. Daniel Webster, who lost the Whig Party nod in 1848, became Fillmore’s secretary of state. William Marcy, after failing to win the 1852 Democratic nomination, took the same position in Pierce’s cabinet. Lewis Cass, the Democratic nominee in 1848 and a man whose presidential dreams never diminished, was appointed Buchanan’s secretary of state in 1857. These were not notably successful administrations. Most historians agree that Pierce and Buchanan rank among the worst presidents in American history. There was nothing particularly unusual, or even impressive, when Lincoln followed this well-established practice.

All we’ve heard from the chattering class is “team of rivals”, “team of rivals”, “team of rivals” since news first came out (leaked by the Clintons) that HRC is under consideration by Obama.

The Clintons, Bill and Hillary, are a special dose of poison. They suck up so much of the oxygen in the room whenever they’re involved in anything that, I think, it is best to leave them aside if you do not have to deal with them. I think this is such a time.

The president-elect will have many opportunities to make mistakes. Does he have to start with this one?

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