THE BLOG
12/15/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

How Far Will Obama Take 'Team of Rivals' Approach? ... Hillary? McCain? Romney? Lieberman?

Turns out that Hillary Clinton (D) and President-elect Obama (D) met yesterday in Chicago, presumably to talk about the possibility of her being named Secretary of State.

My two cents: I love the idea. It would be great if Obama named Clinton as his very first cabinet appointment and such a move would show Obama was dead serious about his "Team of Rivals" approach to his administration. She's obviously qualified and I think America would love to see a new government that wasn't simply made-up of cronies but of people with differing viewpoints who come together for the good of the country.

Some will cynically view the effort as an attempt by Obama to remove his chief Democratic rival from the Senate so as to prevent a power clash like Carter had with Kennedy or Bush had with McCain. I don't buy it. Obama really has shown himself true to his word and has resisted attempts to make calculated moves that hint at petty politics. So, I do believe this intention is genuine and that he's determined to re-create the modern day version of President Lincoln's cabinet when he did bring in his true political rivals to govern with him. Beside, recall how close Clinton is to Vice President-elect Joe Biden (D).

The question I have is why would Clinton want the job? As Josh Marshall commented last night:

Secretaries of State don't usually last more than a single presidential term. And sometimes they don't make it that long. So, for the life of me, I do not understand why Hillary Clinton would want to give up what is in all likelihood a senate seat for life to run the State Department for Barack Obama.

It puzzles me too. Unless there was some belief that Biden would only serve one term and Clinton would land the VP slot for one term and set herself up for the presidency in 2016 -- but there's not a shred of evidence that Biden intends to do anything but serve eight years. Maybe Obama promises her the next vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court if she serves? Does Bill Clinton (D) get the appointment to her Senate seat (remember that he never ruled out running again for some office)? Who knows?

In any event, I hope it's true and would be very happy with Hillary as our chief diplomat. I'd feel very comfortable with her abilities in a tough meeting with the Iranians or Russians or North Koreans. She'd be exactly what we'd want in that respect, yet she would be executing Obama foreign policy, not her own.

Last point...How far does Obama go with his Team of Rivals approach? Who else does Obama name to his cabinet? He tapped Biden as his running mate and everyone fully expects that Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) - another presidential rival -- will land in some Obama cabinet post, and John Edwards (D) had a great shot at Attorney General until his own bad judgment derailed that possibility.

But does Obama tap his Republican rivals? Does Obama ask John McCain (R) to be Defense Secretary (I hope not) -- but be mindful that the two rivals are meeting next week. What about Mitt Romney (R) as Commerce Secretary (I'd be okay with that)? Or Rudy Giuliani (R) as either Homeland Security or FBI or CIA chief (no thanks)? I mean Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) or Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) or Tom Coburn (R-OK) are hardly rivals in any real sense. They're members of the opposing party who have worked with Obama on some issues -- especially Hagel -- but they aren't true political rivals. And then there's Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who has emerged as a true political rival (please God, no). What about First Lady Laura Bush as Education Secretary (somewhat interesting)?

I suspect we are not going to see an Obama-Biden Administration where Clinton, Richardson, McCain, Romney, Bush and Lieberman hold the top posts. But how far does Obama go to try to replicate Lincoln's governing approach? He certainly has surprised us many times with his decision to take the high road when he would have been well within his right to clobber someone. I suspect we're going to be surprised again. The real question is how surprised?

Mark Nickolas is the Managing Editor of Political Base, and this story was from his original post, "How Far Will Obama Take 'Team of Rivals' Approach? ... Hillary? McCain? Romney? Lieberman?"

Subscribe to the Politics email.
How will Trump’s administration impact you?