Lessons From Obama’s Cabinet Picks
by Susan Battley
The beginning of President Obama’s second term seems an appropriate time to look at what makes a winning top team. Four years ago, he conceived of his Cabinet as a “team of rivals,” taking his inspiration from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s best-selling biography of Abraham Lincoln. Just as Lincoln appointed former rivals for the presidency to his Cabinet in 1860, Obama appointed former Democratic presidential competitor Hillary Clinton as his first Secretary of State. In 2008 he told Time magazine, “I don’t want to have people who just agree with me. I want people who are continually pushing me out of my comfort zone.”
By contrast, Obama’s second-term appointments thus far appear to place an emphasis on personal familiarity and extensive interaction, as suggested by his replacement choices to head the State, Treasury and Defense Departments. All three appointees — John Kerry, Jack Lew and Chuck Hagel, respectively — are trusted allies.