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Before Barack Obama claimed the “team of rivals” as a template for governance, the phrase was repeatedly used by the mainstream media as an indictment against the Bush administration’s alleged penchant for relying on a close circle of trusted aides in making decisions as opposed to the “genius” of Lincoln in incorporating rivals into his political family.
While the community of historians is not entirely convinced of either the novelty or efficacy of Lincoln bringing his political competitors into his administration, the idea of a president doing so has gained currency as of late. And even as the thought of bringing in the so-called best and brightest from across the political spectrum sits cozily with the notion of President Obama rising above partisanship, the facts—both current and historical—suggest that the proposition might leave much to be desired upon implementation.
In the area of economic policy, Obama has unnecessarily complicated things for himself entirely for the purpose of instilling a false confidence in his handling of the current economic crisis. During an appearance on “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” it was The New York Times’ David Brooks who questioned how Obama would reconcile competing ideas from his quintuple economic team.
The fatuousness of the “team of rivals” abstraction becomes even more evident upon examination of Obama’s foreign policy team. To the collective understanding of the Times, Obama is set to establish a cadre of aid workers and diplomats within the State Department that “would be engaged in projects around the world aimed at preventing conflicts and rebuilding failed states.” Alongside current Defense Secretary Robert Gates and retired Gen. James L. Jones as National Security Adviser, Obama will be relying on none other than Hillary Clinton to shepherd as secretary of State.
In the face of enemies who despise us irrespective of the fact that America is already the most philanthropic nation that has ever existed, I will venture to guess that this scheme will end up being an ineffective indulgence of liberal imaginary thinking.
In the end, the approach taken by the president makes sense only if you view a multitude of possible solutions to a given problem as equally feasible and practical, which is to say if you have no overarching principles or intellectual capital to guide your decision-making. Obama’s desire to project a sense that all ideas are on the table for consideration is born of a need to obscure his own lack of competence on a range of issues of which a future president might be expected to have an understanding.
In his contests with Sens. Clinton and John McCain, Obama portrayed the choice for voters as one between the experience of his rivals and his own judgment. He now reveals the fact that he possesses neither and shows himself to be more Forest Gump than Abraham Lincoln.
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