Assembling a cabinet

December 3, 2008

Today, President-elect Barack Obama announced that he’d filled several positions in his cabinet. The two most interesting thus far are Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State and Robert Gates for Secretary of Defense.

Soon-to-be-President Obama outlined early on his plans for a “team of rivals“, a modern-day interpretation of Lincoln’s attempt to fill his cabinet with his political rivals.

I’ve read several commentaries about his picks, but I can say that I like that he’s surrounding himself with competing ideas. Several reports show that the Bush Administration has fallen victim to “groupthink” several times (most notably in the decision to invade Iraq); this seems unlikely to happen in a cabinet filled with such vastly different people and competing viewpoints. It seems like ideas will be more challenged in this administration, and perhaps better plans will emerge.

Of course, I believe all these positions require Senate confirmation. I don’t think that would be much of an issue, however, as the Democrats now have 59 seats in the Senate; enough to do almost anything except the most objectionable. (They can’t kill a filibuster, thank goodness.) With 59 seats of the President’s party, Senate confirmations should be a breeze.

I’ll be interested in seeing the direction this takes. Some worry that it could be disastrous to have a cabinet filled with such competing interests; the worry is that the President will be undermined by his rivals’ politics. I think – for the first couple years, at least – he’ll be fine. We’ll see.