Campaign Highlights: Obama Completes his Cabinet “A Team of Rivals”


Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

AT HIS RIGHT HAND Barack Obama and Valerie Jarrett getting lunch last week in Chicago. Ms. Jarrett took Mr. Obama under her wing nearly two decades ago.


  • A timeline of the Obama campaign – Newsday
  • Get to know the Obamas: Bios of Barack, Michelle, Malia and Sasha – Newsday

The Headlines…

    President-Elect Barack Obama Transition office:

  • An Old Hometown Mentor, and Still at Obama’s Side – NYT, 11-24-08
  • Official: Richardson to be commerce secretary – AP, 11-23-08
  • Obama Books Dominate Political Best-Seller List – NYT, 11-22-08
  • Clearer picture emerges of Obama’s Cabinet: A picture of President-elect Barack Obama”s Cabinet became clearer Friday, with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson emerging as a likely pick for commerce secretary. As word spread Friday that Sen. Hillary Clinton was expected to accept the secretary of state position, senior Democratic officials said Obama intended to name Timothy Geithner, president of the New York Federal Reserve, as his Treasury secretary to confront the nation”s intense economic turmoil. – San Jose Mercury News, 11-21-08
  • Obama Tilts to Center, Inviting a Clash of Ideas: Now, his reported selections for two of the major positions in his cabinet — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state and Timothy F. Geithner as secretary of the Treasury — suggest that Mr. Obama is planning to govern from the center-right of his party, surrounding himself with pragmatists rather than ideologues. – NYT, 11-22-08
  • Geithner Is Said to Be Obama’s Pick for U.S. Treasury Secretary – Bloomberg, 11-21-08
  • ‘Amtrak Joe’ No More – NYT, 11-23-08
  • TYLER COWEN: The New Deal Didn’t Always Work, Either – NYT, 11-
  • Another Triumph for Clinton, Many Women Agree: Hillary Rodham Clinton, a first lady turned senator turned almost-president, is now transforming herself again, this time into the nation’s top diplomat. But she is also back to a role she cannot seem to shake: a canvas for women’s highest hopes and deepest fears about the workplace. – NYT, 11-21-08
  • Al Qaeda Coldly Acknowledges Obama Victory – NYT, 11-19-08
  • For ’60 Minutes,’ a Jump in Ratings – NYT, 11-19-08
  • Dem officials: Daschle accepts HHS Cabinet post – AP, 11-19-08
  • Democrats Gain as Stevens Loses His Senate Race – NYT, 11-19-08
  • Blogtalk: The Lieberman Vote: Today’s decision by Senate Democrats to let the Democrat-turned-independent keep his chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee has only further frustrated the liberal blogosphere’s quest for decisive triumph over the moderate who emphatically backed Senator John McCain’s White House bid. – NYT, The Caucus, 11-18-08
  • White House Memo Obama Team Anything but Shy and Retiring: Whatever happened to Mr. No-Drama-Obama? – NYT, 11-18-08
  • Obama moves closer to key cabinet pick: A Democratic source said a conditional offer for the post of attorney general had been made to former Clinton administration official Eric Holder, making him the automatic front-runner for the nation’s top law enforcement position. – Reuters, 11-18-08
  • Clinton job for Obama may depend on Bill: If Sen. Hillary Clinton is to be picked by President-elect Barack Obama as his secretary of state, it may well depend on a review of the business activities of her husband, former President Bill Clinton. – Reuters, 11-18-08
  • Biden’s Guv Plans Midnight Swearing-in: ABC News has learned that Delaware’s newly elected Democratic governor is planning to take the oath of office at 12:01 a.m. ET on Jan. 20, 2009, making it possible for him to name Vice President-elect Joe Biden’s replacement to the United States Senate ABC News, 11-18-08
  • Cheney, Gonzalez Indicted in Texas Prison Case The indictment accuses Vice President Dick Cheney of a conflict of interest and “at least misdemeanor assaults” on detainees by working through prison companies: A South Texas grand jury has indicted Vice President Dick Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on charges related to the alleged abuse of prisoners in Willacy County’s federal detention centers. – Fox News, 11-18-08
  • Senate Republicans postpone vote on Ted Stevens – Miami Herald, 11-18-08
  • Obama moves to defrost relations between White House, Congress – Miami Herald, 11-18-08
  • McCain Vows to Work With Obama: The bitter general election campaign behind them, President-elect Barack Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain met Monday to discuss ways to reduce government waste, promote bipartisanship and find other ways to improve government. – AP, 11-17-08
  • Obama Quits Senate, Names More Staffers President-Elect to Meet With McCain Today – WaPo, 11-17-08
  • Clinton Vetting Includes Look at Mr. Clinton – NYT, 11-16-08
  • Palin’s political potential: THE 2008 presidential campaign may be over, but Sarah Palin’s moment in the spotlight has yet to run its course. – Boston Globe, 11-16-08
  • Barack Obama links Israel peace plan to 1967 borders deal: Barack Obama is to pursue an ambitious peace plan in the Middle East involving the recognition of Israel by the Arab world in exchange for its withdrawal to pre-1967 borders, according to sources close to America’s president-elect. – The Sunday Times, 11-16-08
  • Absent Obama still a presence in the capital – AP, 11-15-08
  • Obama Team Decides on 2 for Top Posts: Gregory B. Craig as White House counsel, Ronald A. Klain, a former lobbyist and Clinton administration lawyer, as chief of staff to Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. – NYT, 11-16-08
  • Say Goodbye to BlackBerry? Yes He Can, Maybe: Sorry, Mr. President. Please surrender your BlackBerry. Those are seven words President-elect Barack Obama is dreading but expecting to hear, friends and advisers say, when he takes office in 65 days. – NYT, 11-16-08
  • President-elect Obama reaches out to former rivals: Presidents typically say they want to be surrounded by strong-willed people who have the courage to disagree with them. President-elect Barack Obama, reaching out to Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republicans, actually might mean it. – AP, 11-15-08

Political Quotes

  • Nov. 22, 2008: Barack Obama Delivers Weekly Address On YouTube – YouTube, 11-21-08
  • Gloria Steinem said in an interview: “Secretary of state is far superior to vice president, because it’s involved in continuously solving problems and making policy and not being on standby.” – – NYT, 11-21-08
  • Sen. Joe Lieberman said during a press conference: The resolution expresses strong disapproval and rejection of statements that I made about Senator Obama during the campaign. And in that regard, I said very clear, some of the statements — some of the things that people have said I said about Senator Obama are simply not true.
    There are other statements that I made that I wish I had made more clearly. And there are some that I made that I wish I had not made at all.
    And, obviously, in the heat of campaigns, that happens to all of us, but I regret that.
    And now it’s time to move on. – NYT, The Caucus, 11-18-08
  • An Obama campaign aide: “‘No-Drama Obama’ during the campaign meant that if you had something to say, you said it,” You didn’t go around people, or try to undermine people, you said what you thought. That’s how he’s going to run his administration.” – N”YT, 11-21-08
  • Stephanie Cutter, Mr. Obama’s transition spokeswoman: “He doesn’t put up with drama, but he encourages strong opinions and advice. In that environment of mutual respect, there tends to be little drama.” – N”YT, 11-21-08
  • Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn: “He said he’ll have our back. He’ll look out for House members. The idea is, we have his back, we do what Obama wants (and) he’ll do what we want. Something like that.” – Miami Herald, 11-18-08
  • Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.: “What happened this morning was in large measure due to him. We all know that Senator Obama has said that he doesn’t think anybody should hold a grudge, that we’ve got too much work to do.” Miami Herald, 11-18-08
  • Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees taxes, trade, pensions and health care, said that he’ll not be bound blindly by Obama proposals. : “My goal is to work with Republicans. My goal is to work with everyone. We all have to keep an open mind about this. There’s going to be a lot of knee-jerking on both sides, and my job will be to help stop the knee-jerking.” – Miami Herald, 11-18-08
  • McCain Vows to Work With Obama — Joint Statement after meeting: “At this defining moment in history, we believe that Americans of all parties want and need their leaders to come together and change the bad habits of Washington so that we can solve the common and urgent challenges of our time. It is in this spirit that we had a productive conversation today about the need to launch a new era of reform where we take on government waste and bitter partisanship in Washington in order to restore trust in government, and bring back prosperity and opportunity for every hardworking American family. We hope to work together in the days and months ahead on critical challenges like solving our financial crisis, creating a new energy economy, and protecting our nation’s security.” – AP, 11-17-08
  • Obama On Economic Crisis, Transition Also Discusses National Security, Iraq, And His Cabinet In 60 Minutes Interview – CBS News, 11-16-08
  • Sarah Palin at the Republican Governors Association meeting in Miami: “I had a baby; I did some traveling; I very briefly expanded my wardrobe; I made a few speeches; I met a few VIPs, including those who really impact society, like Tina Fey.”…. “The future is not that 2012 presidential race; it’s next year and our next budgets,” she said. – Boston Globe, 11-16-08
  • The feminist social critic Camille Paglia, a pro-choice Democrat, is appalled by the Democrats’ anti-Palin debauch, especially their attacks on her intelligence: “As a career classroom teacher, I can see how smart she is,” Paglia writes, “and, quite frankly, I think the people who don’t see it are the stupid ones, wrapped in the fuzzy mummy-gauze of their own worn-out partisan dogma.” – Boston Globe, 11-16-08
  • Nov. 15, 2008: Barack Obama Delivers Weekly Address On YouTube – YouTube, 11-14-08

Historians’ Comments

  • Doris Kearns Goodwin: “Clinton-Richardson: Benefits of a ‘Team of Rivals'”: In her book, Ms. Kearns Goodwin explained the essence of Lincoln’s approach: “That Lincoln, after winning the presidency, made the unprecedented decision to incorporate his eminent rivals into his political family, the cabinet, was evidence of a profound self-confidence and a first indication of what would prove to others a most unexpected greatness … It soon became clear … that Abraham Lincoln would emerge the undisputed captain of this most unusual cabinet, truly a team of rivals. The powerful competitors who had originally disdained Lincoln became colleagues who helped him steer the country through its darkest days.” By “rivals,” Ms. Kearns Goodwin meant not only the Republicans who contested Lincoln for the 1860 Republican presidential nomination, but also several pro-Union Democrats who supported his opponent in the 1860 general election. – Washington Times, 11-24-08
  • Paul Light “Bum nominations hard to avoid, history shows”: Historian Light said experience shows that the lure of a Cabinet appointment sometimes proves irresistible to people who should know better. “The ambition to be a presidential appointee is so great that somebody’s not going to tell the truth, no matter how hard you push the vetting process,” said Light. “It happens all the time. There have been some recent nominees who just flat-out lied when asked whether there was anything about their personal or financial history that might embarrass the president.” – AP, 11-20-08
  • Gil Troy “Michelle Obama’s fashion Wife of U.S. president-elect has a wardrobe that is colourful and accessible”: Historian Gil Troy, of McGill University, agrees, saying everything about the new First Family will be scrutinized and copied by an adoring public. “We’ve seen this thing before, with the Kennedys,” says the author of “Mr. and Mrs. President, from the Trumans to the Clintons.” “But the frenzy this time is going to be that much more intense.” The press, which shares a “vibe” with the intellectual, urban Obama, is giving him a bit of a free ride right now, says Troy, feeding the public’s appetite for information about his favourite snacks (Planter’s Trail Mix), preferred drink (Black Forest Berry Honest Tea) and favourite book (Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls). “This product placement is a boon for consumer manufacturers of all kinds.” The Obamas, Troy says, are clever at making decisions, such as what car to buy, and “turning it into political points.” Saying this couple “is very coached,” he points out Michelle Obama has replaced early complaints about her “stinky, snoring husband” with the traditional supporting role. “Michelle didn’t play well. She was being passive aggressive,” Troy says of the early days of the campaign. The couple has to give off an air of authenticity, Troy says. Any signs “that it is too faux, too calculating and on the make will cause a backlash.” Their White House style will fit in with the new era of austerity, predicts Troy, but will still have sparkle and energy. As he puts it, “They give great celebrity.” – Toronto Star, 11-21-08
  • Robert Watson “All eyes are on Michelle Obama”: “Michelle Obama has done the impossible” said Watson, director of American Studies at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.. “The age-old debate, can women do it all? The answer with Michelle Obama is, you bet. She’s been the breadwinner. She’s been a great mother. She’s also managed to keep her marriage together. Michelle Obama has been superwoman. So why shouldn’t the expectations be high?” – Kansas City Star, 11-21-08
  • Catherine Allgor “All eyes are on Michelle Obama”: Catherine Allgor, a history professor at the University of California-Riverside, said optimism surrounds the entire Obama family, “and I think it’s completely tied up with how bad things are and how great they (the family) seem to be.”
    First ladies have become larger-than-life embodiments of everything their husbands stand for, powerful figures in modern, media-driven times, Allgor said. Obama carries a lot on her shoulders into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Women in particular see themselves in her, said Allgor, author of Parlor Politics: In Which the Ladies of Washington Help Build a City and a Government.
    She is not a governor’s wife or a vice-presidential spouse moving her family from one mansion into the next. She’s more the girl in the movies who wakes up one day to discover that she is really a princess, Allgor said. “She is the closest to a regular person to take on this role,” Allgor said. “She is really, literally, coming from a life that we are familiar with. To go from that to the White House … this is the ‘Princess Diaries.'”
    “While they were being lovely and gracious, they are going out and changing the world,” Allgor said. “I think she recognizes this,” Allgor said. “I think she will be very, very careful to couch the work that she will do under very traditional veils. My sense is that she’ll be working to correct inequities in class, race, gender. But she won’t say that. She’ll say, ‘I’m looking out for working moms and the health of our children.’ And she’s very smart to do that because she saw what happened to Hillary Clinton. “The other thing I would say, too, that is going to be easier for Michelle than Hillary, is that somehow we demand first ladies to be the women we are not. Because she has young children, it’s going to be much easier for her to use that role. “When you have young children, you end up doing things like carving pumpkins and making cookies, whereas Hillary had a 15-year-old. So I think with this young family and all of its needs, it’s going to make it much easier to present herself as nonthreatening.” – Kansas City Star, 11-21-08
  • Myra Gutin “All eyes are on Michelle Obama”: “The more official side of her life is putting people onto her staff in the East Wing, which is traditionally the first lady’s bailiwick. My guess is she’s flooded with resumes,” said Myra Gutin, author of The President’s Partner: The First Lady in the Twentieth Century. Obama will choose a chief of staff, press secretary and social secretary. In the past, first ladies have been drawn to people who have government experience. Choosing people with Washington smarts “is even more important for someone like the Obamas who really haven’t been in Washington very much,” said Gutin, a communications professor at Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J. – – Kansas City Star, 11-21-08
  • Don Ritchie “Clinton Would Leave Big Shoes to Fill Hillary Clinton is poised to be nominated as President-elect Obama’s secretary of state, leaving an empty seat in the Senate”: Senate historian Don Ritchie added that Bill Clinton is eligible for appointment to the seat because he is a New York resident. It is unclear though, if he would be interested. Ritchie cautions that anyone who is appointed faces a 50 percent chance of losing the next election. – Fox News, 11-21-08
  • Professor Eric Rauchway reviews the presidential electionCalifornia Aggie, 11-20-08
  • Ronald White “Can Lincoln’s playbook help Obama in the years ahead?”: Lincoln historian and author Ronald White said that both had a “tremendous trust in words and the power of language.” “And I think today, we come with a real kind of cynicism. … It’s only words. And yet I think underneath the words are the public’s perception of looking for someone with integrity and authenticity and not someone simply playing a role,” White said. White, author of the upcoming book “A. Lincoln: A Biography,” has lectured on Lincoln at the White House and the Library of Congress. “Both of them rose, in a sense, beyond their inexperience and in spite of their relative youth, the wings of their ability to use public language,” he added….
    White said Lincoln’s strategy was to surround himself with people who were equally strong. “And I think one of the comparisons to recent presidents is that they often have put in people from their own states who often are ‘yes people’ to them. Therefore, they have not been given the benefit of strong contending points of view,” he added…. “I think this is the great question. Would it be possible? I hope it is. I think it’s a more difficult task today,” White said. “The Civil War also helped kind of say, ‘we have to have kind of a unity government.’ This is a big challenge. I hope [Obama] can do it. I’m not sure he can.” – CNN, 11-19-08
  • Eric Foner “Can Lincoln’s playbook help Obama in the years ahead?”: But Columbia University history professor Eric Foner, also a Lincoln scholar, said people should take a step back from the comparisons. “Lincoln is a great man, and people should learn from him. But I think, as a historian, people ought to calm down a little about these comparisons,” he said. “They are entirely different situations, worlds, political systems. There aren’t I think a lot of exact direct lessons one can or should necessarily try to learn from Lincoln.” Foner, author of the new book “Our Lincoln: New Perspectives on Lincoln and His World,” said Lincoln has become something of a model for politicians on both sides of the aisle. “Lincoln is a Rorschach test. Everybody finds themselves in Lincoln. Everybody finds what they want to find in Lincoln. There are dozens of Lincolns out there. So saying ‘I’m reading Lincoln or modeling myself on Lincoln’ doesn’t really tell us a heck of a lot.”…
    “A lot of what has been said as a historian strikes me as a little misguided. [Obama], for example, is modeling himself after Lincoln by [possibly] putting Hillary Clinton in the secretary of state,” Foner said. “But, by the way, that was typical in the 19th century. Most presidents took a major figure of their own political party, often someone who wanted the job himself, and made him secretary of state. That was a fairly conventional thing to do.” – CNN, 11-19-08
  • Harold Holzer “Can Lincoln’s playbook help Obama in the years ahead?”: Harold Holzer, one of the country’s leading authorities on Lincoln and the Civil War, said the state of the nation today may be a major barrier to putting in place Lincoln’s playbook. “Sen. Obama could have never contemplated a state leaving the country in reaction to his election, which was pretty rough. Lincoln could have never imagined nuclear war, the kind of foreign challenges that occur,” Holzer said. Holzer’s new book, “Lincoln President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861,” examines the period between his election and inauguration. But Holzer said that although the nation’s challenges may be different, “leadership comes not from experience alone or sometimes not from experience at all. It comes from a gravitas and self- deprecation and understanding of other people. It’s going to be a very interesting period.” – CNN, 11-19-08
  • Gil Troy “Winds of patriotism renewed Election brings a liberal zeal for Old Glory”: Gil Troy, a historian who teaches at McGill University in Quebec, said that while Democrats accuse Republicans of co-opting patriotism, they’re also guilty of giving it up. “One of the great failures of the Democratic Party … is how they have ceded God and the flag to the Republicans,” he said. “Even as many Democratic voters have continued to wave the flag, party leaders and elite liberal opinion leaders have equated patriotism with” rednecks “and deep faith with dangerous morons.” – McClatchy Newspapers, 11-23-08
  • H.W. Brands “Winds of patriotism renewed Election brings a liberal zeal for Old Glory”: H.W. Brands, a historian at the University of Texas at Austin, said that Democrats became uncomfortable with only a certain type of patriotism — the exclusive variety. Primal and powerful, it appears most forcefully during times of war, whipping up fervor through an us-versus-them mentality, squelching most dissent in the name of national unity. It was on broad display, Brands noted, in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. – McClatchy Newspapers, 11-23-08
  • JAMES OAKES “What’s So Special About a Team of Rivals?”: 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….
    There is little doubt that Abraham Lincoln was a great president. But not much of what made him great can be discerned in his appointment of a contentious, envious and often dysfunctional collection of prima donnas to his cabinet. – NYT, 11-19-08
  • Julian Zelizer “Can McCain be Obama’s friend in Congress?”: President-elect Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain will meet for the first time on Monday since the election. The meeting comes at an important time for McCain, who must decide what to do with remainder of his career in the Senate.
    With his reputation severely harmed as a result of the campaign — some Republicans furious at him for having lost the White House with a poor campaign and some Democrats furious with the negative tone that his campaign embraced in September and October — he will have an interest in building a positive legacy.
    McCain’s best bet would be to form a bipartisan alliance with Obama on as many issues as possible — perhaps with an economic stimulus bill, immigration reform, exiting Iraq and new regulations on Wall Street….
    But what McCain can do, as he has done in the past with campaign finance and ethics reform, is to team up with the opposition and get legislation through Congress. According to Congressional Quarterly, former Bush and McCain adviser Mark McKinnon has predicted that “Senator McCain’s interest after this election will be not any political ambition but a genuine desire to make his last chapter in Washington all about bipartisan healing.”
    Now he has a chance to enhance his mark in the history books, this time with the person who defeated him, and then his legacy would not be the failed political campaign of 2008. CNN, 11-17-08
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin “President-elect Obama reaches out to former rivals”: It so happens that Obama and New York Sen. Clinton share a reverence for “Team of Rivals,” Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book about how Lincoln brought foes into his fold. Clinton listed it during the campaign as the last book she had read. Obama, clearly a student of Lincoln, spoke of it several times. “I think it reflects a great inner strength on Obama’s part that he is seriously considering creating a team of rivals as Lincoln did,” Goodwin told The Associated Press on Friday. “By surrounding himself with people who bring different perspectives, he will increase his options, absorb dissenting views and heighten his ability to speak empathetically to people on different sides of each issue. The challenge, of course, is to ensure that the discussions do not become paralyzing, and that once a decision is made the inner circle accepts that the time for debate is over,” she said. Goodwin says a true team of rivals is exceptionally difficult to make work in these days of hyperpartisanship, scandal-hungry blogs and raw feelings between parties and factions of the same party from the often nasty campaign. Disharmony in Lincoln’s Cabinet was largely kept inside the meetings, exposed years later in memoirs, and that’s not how the world works anymore. Still, she said the even-keeled Obama displayed a temperament in the campaign that could help him pull it off. “And I believe the country would respond with great enthusiasm, recognizing the great contrast to recent times.” – – AP, 11-15-08

Aaron Tomlinson/CBS

The Obamas, interviewed by Steve Kroft for “60 Minutes.”

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