Time magazine wants so badly to make Obama into the next Abraham Lincoln — so noble that he’s willing to include political enemies in his cabinet — that they are willing to throw away any pretense at observing the candidate himself to make it happen. The latest risible effort by Karen Tumulty and Massimo Calabresi invokes the supposed “team of rivals” comparison as Barack Obama begins to formulate his cabinet. The Time writers base their entire point on the fact that Obama is probably offering the job of Secretary of State to Hillary Clinton, his rival for the Democratic nomination.
But, there are is a glaring error Time makes in its analysis. Obama is not picking Hillary because he is noble or looking to include a wider range of policy proscriptions in his cabinet, nor is he picking Hillary to heal party divisions. For one, he’s picking Hillary because Obama himself doesn’t know anyone that could take the office. In fact, that is the main reason he’s going back to the tarnished Clinton years to fill his staff and cabinet positions in the first place. Obama himself has nether the experience nor the network of knowledgeable associates to take those positions so he has no choice but to rely on the past. Secondly, he mistakenly imagines that he can control her merely because she is supposed to be at his pleasure.
Lincoln, on the other hand, faced a far different situation when he came to Washington. He forsook his Illinois associates because his nation was disintegrating into internecine warfare. Lincoln didn’t have the luxury of bringing his Illinois patronage army into Washington because he knew he didn’t have the time for he and they to get the feel of Washington. He had to face a developing war and needed the only party left in Washington four square on his side right away. Even at that he fought his own appointees sometimes bitterly.
Obama, on the other hand, is picking his staffers and cabinet members from the Clinton machine because he has no political machine at home, no long associations with anyone with experience and has none himself to gauge from amongst those he does know for who would have the capacity to take on any of the positions he has to fill.
Far from being a noble gesture, Obama’s falling back on the Clinton era proves his utter lack of experience and a complete dearth of a network of competent associates. It also shows that Joe Biden may have just lost his chance to be the go-to-guy on foreign policy. After all, it is hard to imagine Senator Clinton taking direction from the likes of Joe Biden.
Worse, it shows that he really must not have meant what he said about Hillary’s supposedly wrong headed ideas about foreign policy. Even Time notes that he and Hillary were at odds over foreign policy far more than any other issue. Of course it makes sense that Hillary might feel disposed to take on a position where her ideas on foreign policy might find the light of day, but why does it make sense that Obama would put her in that position seeing as how he felt her ideas were so wrong?
He has to know that Hillary disagreed with his policy proscriptions, right? How can Obama imagine she will allow him to subsume her cherished ideas and replace them all with his own? It seems more likely that Obama is willing to allow Hillary’s input on foreign policy – or else why pick her at all — and that, indeed, his own ideas are not as closely held as he made on during the election.
Instead of a “noble” gesture, this choice of Hillary for State seems born of Obama’s inexperience, his lack of a network of qualified associates, his short term on the national scene, and a lack of dedication to the policy claims he made on the campaign trail.
There is one more thing that Obama’s reliance on Clintonites shows. It shows that he isn’t too ready to usher in that “change” he was advertising. He’s not picked any “new” folks yet, has he?
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