Snap Fact #197
President Obama Leads “Team of Rivals” to Excellence in Government! 
President Obama has emulated Abraham Lincoln’s appointment of his rivals to shape an outstanding cabinet and administration. In her book on Abraham Lincoln, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin portrays Lincoln’s inclusion of his rivals into his cabinet to produce a government which would consider all options, in which strong and opposing personalities would voice their opinions openly to the President and to each other.

Published in 2005, Goodwin’s book was among Obama’s favorite books before he was elected President in 2008. In appointing his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton Secretary of State, Republican Robert Gates Secretary of Defense, and future potential Republican Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Ambassador to China; President Obama surrounded himself with rivals and potential rivals who would tell him what they really thought, not necessarily what he wanted to hear.

Had the opposition been more cooperative and accepting, the new President would have appointed more Republicans to responsible positions. While campaigning for the office in 2007 the President-to-be often stated that he would consider appointing competent Republicans to positions of importance, including even at the cabinet level. Mr. Obama specifically named Dick Luger and Chuck Hagel among others as possible choices to join his cabinet.

Unfortunately, when the President assumed office he was flatly turned down by the very people who might have been able to help bridge the gap that was immediately created by the Republican Party who had firmly made up its mind that cooperation with the new President would be totally out of the question. The rare exception was John Huntsman, an intelligent man who paid for his patriotism during the Republican primaries of 2012.

To be sure, President Obama also surrounded himself with long-standing, big personality friends like Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod and Susan Rice and Elena Kagan, who also did not hesitate to speak their minds. The President’s approach to team building has produced a highly competent, diverse, and thoughtful leadership core for our government.

One of the many decisive reasons to support the President’s re-election is his record of appointing the most outstanding cabinet members, Supreme Court justices, Federal Judges, and administration officials, regardless of their friendship for the President or their party affiliation.

Governor Mitt Romney, on the other hand, has appointed cronies and hard-line conservatives like Robert Bork and John Bolton, and has allowed the Christian Fundamentalist Right to vet his advisers. Witness Romney’s throwing a top adviser “under the bus” after Right Wing opposition to this adviser because he is openly gay.

Although Mitt Romney is certainly bright and well-educated, his record of appointments does not indicate that he will surround himself with the best and the brightest, let alone a “team of rivals.”