Sunday, November 16, 2008

Team of Rivals?

Many people are going through election withdrawal. Me too. I was never as involved with a presidential election as I was with this one - practically and emotionally. I spent a lot of time making phone calls to New Hampshire, and spent a few weekend days canvassing up there for Obama. I donated and raised money. I watched the polls, read the news and the blogs, and I worried. Obama's decisive victory was an enormous relief.

Now we're in the transition, with a backdrop of economic news that seems to get worse and worse. As the many challenges continue to grow, everybody wonders whether Obama will be able to deliver on the promises of the campaign.

Time will tell, but he is clearly trying to keep the American people informed and involved even during the transition as he works to build the team that will help him to govern effectively from day one. By registering with the web site, you can contribute your ideas and comments. You can also follow transition developments through blog posts, news items, and videos. Yesterday the President-elect delivered his second weekly post-election radio address, and for the first time it was released as a YouTube video as well. This looks like a twenty-first century version of FDR's Depression era radio "fireside chats." I hope he will continue to deliver these weekly addresses directly to the American people once he is in the White House - and I expect that he will.

Although they are trying to keep the cabinet selection process confidential, it has been widely reported that Hillary Clinton is under consideration for Secretary of State. This is a strong indication that Obama is working to build a "team of rivals" in the spirit of Lincoln's first cabinet. He mentioned that he admires Doris Kearns Goodwin's book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln and he has stated that he intends to build a bipartisan team from the best people available. While this sounds like a bold idea for the sake of the country, a team of rivals in the modern political world of microscopic scrutiny and instant communication could also be tough to manage. I'm thinking the Obama Administration is going to be as innovative and exciting as the campaign was, and I'm looking forward to it. Meanwhile I've bought Team of Rivals and have just started reading it. With interwoven biographies of four people (Lincoln, Seward, Chase, and Bates), it's a long book, but so far it's quite an enjoyable read.

P.S. Doris Kearns Goodwin spoke about learning from past presidents (with examples from Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson) at a TED conference in February 2008, video here. She summarizes many of the key points of Team of Rivals in this brief talk.

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