Posted by: Randy Allgaier | November 21, 2008

Not a Team of Rivals – It is a Team of Excellence

As the press has speculated ad nasuem about President-elect Obama’s cabinet and White House personnel, the term “Team of Rivals” has gotten a lot of play. Of course “Team of Rivals” was Doris Kearns Goodwin’s great book about Lincoln’s approach to his cabinet and governing.

The Team of Rivals notion has been the phrase of the week as the press salivated about Clinton drama in the Obama no drama zone and why on earth the President-elect would choose Senator Clinton for Secretary of State. The press needed a story to fill up dead air so they followed every possible leak about the possible Clinton appointment including why the no-leak Obama ship was springing leaks. My goodness- chill guys! You have an historic President elect, a high profile Senator and former Presidential rival who is the spouse of a former President- Don’t you think that some leaks are inevitable? And don’t you think that this extraordinary circumstance may require some added negotiation?

But this article is not about Senator Clinton who I believe is a brilliant choice for Secretary of State. I am writing about the amazing people that the President-elect is choosing for his administration.

Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks writes:

“Jan. 20, 2009, will be a historic day. Barack Obama (Columbia, Harvard Law) will take the oath of office as his wife, Michelle (Princeton, Harvard Law), looks on proudly. Nearby, his foreign policy advisers will stand beaming, including perhaps Hillary Clinton (Wellesley, Yale Law), Jim Steinberg (Harvard, Yale Law) and Susan Rice (Stanford, Oxford D. Phil.).

The domestic policy team will be there, too, including Jason Furman (Harvard, Harvard Ph.D.), Austan Goolsbee (Yale, M.I.T. Ph.D.), Blair Levin (Yale, Yale Law), Peter Orszag (Princeton, London School of Economics Ph.D.) and, of course, the White House Counsel Greg Craig (Harvard, Yale Law).

This truly will be an administration that looks like America, or at least that slice of America that got double 800s on their SATs. Even more than past administrations, this will be a valedictocracy — rule by those who graduate first in their high school classes. If a foreign enemy attacks the United States during the Harvard-Yale game any time over the next four years, we’re screwed.

Already the culture of the Obama administration is coming into focus. Its members are twice as smart as the poor reporters who have to cover them, three times if you include the columnists. “

Brooks ends his Op/Ed by writing- “Believe me, I’m trying not to join in the vast, heaving O-phoria now sweeping the coastal haute bourgeoisie. But the personnel decisions have been superb. The events of the past two weeks should be reassuring to anybody who feared that Obama would veer to the left or would suffer self-inflicted wounds because of his inexperience. He’s off to a start that nearly justifies the hype.”

Let’s take a look at some of the possible cabinet members:

Tom Daschle

President-elect Barack Obama has chosen former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle to lead his drive to overhaul the U.S. health system. Daschle’s nomination as secretary of health and human services would have to be confirmed by the Senate. It’s hard to imagine a more useful ally for Obama to help lead his bid for health-care reform, both because of Daschle’s understanding of the legislative process and for his belief in the new President-elect. His years on the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Medicare and Medicaid programs, will also serve him well at HHS,” writes’s Karen Tumulty.

As former Democratic leader in the Senate, Daschle has a deep understanding of how Congress works and how to get legislation passed. He also knows how to bring various interests to the table to build support for legislation.

He is also expert on the issue, and is author of a book called “Critical: What We can Do About the Health-Care Crisis.” In it he argues the United States cannot neglect the issue any longer because it weakens U.S. competitiveness.

As a former Senate leader, Daschle brings stature to the reform effort. As an early supporter and close adviser to Obama, he will likely have the kind of support from the new president that is critical in any White House negotiation with Congress.

Tim Geithner

President-elect Barack Obama plans to announce his economic team on Monday as part of an effort to reassure markets and will name New York Fed President Tim Geithner his nominee for Treasury Secretary. “This is an excellent choice. He knows where all the bones are buried on Wall Street,” said Tom Sowanick, chief investment officer at Clearbrook Financial LLC in Princeton, New Jersey.

“Geithner is a solid choice. He has shown more independent thinking,” said Former Sen. Don Riegle, who chaired the Senate Banking Committee during the savings and loan crisis. “He has also seen this financial system meltdown from the inside … he can offer highly skilled and pragmatic advice to Obama.”
“He will understand the urgent necessity of assembling a world class team at Treasury … and be able to attract the talents he needs,” Riegle continued. “This choice will also facilitate close cooperation between the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve, [which is] much-needed given the increasing scale of the economic crisis.”

US stocks violently reversed earlier losses following the Geithner news, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average posting an almost 500-point move to the upside.

Janet Napolitano

President-elect Barack Obama’s apparent selection of Arizona Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano as secretary of Homeland Security was greeted Thursday as a sign that the new Democratic administration will fundamentally change the tone of the nation’s post-Sept. 11 approach to domestic security.

Immigrant advocates, business groups and civil libertarians said that the choice of a two-term governor from a Republican-friendly border state could lead to a reversal of policies that they contend unduly punish illegal immigrants, commerce and Americans’ privacy. Agency observers on the right and the left say that her selection appears to reflect a calculation that she could do so without appearing weak on terrorism.
In fact, immigration opponents and counterterrorism analysts praised Napolitano. However, they said they think the former federal prosecutor would continue much of the Bush administration’s enforcement-first policies.

In both promising to restore “balance” to what Democrats say has been a one-sided security debate and seeming to straddle wide political divisions, Napolitano is much like Obama, both Republican and Democratic observers said.

Eric Holder

Eric Holder, the man expected to be named the first African-American attorney-general of the United States, will likely bring swift reform to the Department of Justice, putting an end to practices he has described as “needlessly abusive” and helping close Guantanamo Bay, which he called an “international embarrassment.”

“It’s going to be a very different Justice Department under Holder,” said Nathaniel Persily, a professor at Columbia Law School. “He’s not a firebrand, but he’s someone who can execute the agenda.”

Holder is a strong choice for a lot of reasons: He is an experienced prosecutor with strong relationships in the law-enforcement community; he has an intuitive sense of the uneasy balance between security and liberty; and his affable, low-key manner will go a long way toward restoring morale in an abused and battered agency

A New York City native who graduated from Columbia University and Columbia Law School, Holder spent years as a federal prosecutor—a job in which he earned a reputation as tough and aggressive foe of public corruption. After serving in the public integrity section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and later a District of Columbia Superior Court judge, Holder was named by President Clinton as U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. He became deputy attorney general in 1997 under Janet Reno and was viewed as a centrist on most law enforcement issues, though he has sharply criticized the secrecy and the expansive views of executive power advanced by the Bush Justice Department.

General Jim Jones

Retired Marine Gen. Jim Jones has emerged as President-elect’s leading choice to become national security adviser in the White House. One person close to the transition noted Jones is a bipartisan figure who has warm relationships with both current Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who may stay on the job for at least a brief period, as well as Sen. Hillary Clinton, who is now on track to be nominated as Secretary of State.

Jones brings a wealth of military and foreign policy experience to the table. He is universally respected among both Democrats and Republicans, but he did ruffle neo-conservative feathers by calling the war in Iraq a “debacle.” His reputation as a “big picture” guy worries some right-wing Israeli bloggers who fear that his more even-handed approach will favor the Palestinians. According to The Jerusalem Post, leaked notes from Jones’ Middle East Security report are highly critical of Israel’s actions in the U.S.’s role in building a Palestinian security forces.

Coupled with Hillary Clinton’s expected nomination as Secretary of State, Jones’ selection could signal a seachange in U.S. foreign policy with relation to the Arab-Israeli conflict. A Clinton-Jones team would likely find their first task to aggressively resolve the “Core Issues” blocking the path to a recognized Palestinian state, which many feel is the lynchpin to normalizing relations between the U.S. and Middle Eas


I could write more about these amazing choices but I think that we can just revel in these names and their talents. If the President-elect continues to choose men and women with such talent and brilliance we will see a government that can work and that very well could reverse the incompetence of the last eight years.


  1. Hi. I am a long time reader. I wanted to say that I like your blog and the layout.

    Peter Quinn

  2. […] Not a Team of Rivals – It is a Team of Excellence « The Alligator The Team of Rivals notion has been the phrase of the week as the press salivated about Clinton drama in the Obama no drama zone and why on earth the President-elect would choose Senator Clinton for Secretary of State. … […]

  3. […] Not a Team of Rivals – It is a Team of Excellence « The Alligator […]

  4. […] is a Team of Excellence « The Alligator Posted in November 21st, 2008 by in Uncategorized Not a Team of Rivals – It is a Team of Excellence « The Alligator As the press has speculated ad nasuem about President-elect Obama’s cabinet and White House […]

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