Boondoggle

One blogger’s personal bridge to nowhere

Team of rival theories

teamofrivals1Good to see that not everyone is not smitten with the oft-repeated idea that Lincoln’s “Team of Rivals” epitomized his political genius — and should be a model for President-elect Obama to similarly bring Hillary Clinton his former rivals into his Cabinet.  Team of Rivals may indeed be a good book (I too have not actually read it, though I recall seeing it sitting around the house a while back), but this doesn’t change the fact that the analogy also just may not fit.  And the very pervasiveness of the comparison, the ease with which lazy journalists invoke the term, seems itself a reason to distrust its aptness.  Particularly when historians take it apart and find that the lofty phrase didn’t even really apply to Lincoln.  Here’s Dickinson’s Matthew Pinsker in the LAT:

Over the years, it has become easy to forget that hard edge and the once bad times that nearly destroyed a president. Lincoln’s Cabinet was no team. His rivals proved to be uneven as subordinates. Some were capable despite their personal disloyalty, yet others were simply disastrous.

And CUNY’s James Oakes concludes, in the NYT:

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.

A note to Barack, though: if you do decide to take advantage of Professor Oakes’ historical insight, I’d at least avoid calling Hillary a “prima donna.”

(image from flickr user urbaneapartments under a Creative Commons license)

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November 20, 2008 - Posted by | History, U.S. politics | , ,

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