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Vanity Fair on Obama’s ‘Team of Mascots’



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Remember 2008, when President Obama’s intention to craft a “Team of Rivals” cabinet was hailed as a model of Lincoln-esque statesmanship and political genius? When Obama was in the habit of referring to himself as a “tall, gangly, self-made lawyer” from Illinois, and Time  Photoshopped him with Lincoln’s beard? Well, Vanity Fair reports that it turns out the “Team of Rivals” is mostly a team of Obama loyalists, and they get along pretty well. Some highlights from the piece:

Four years ago, Barack Obama said he wanted a Lincoln-esque “team of rivals” in his Cabinet. Thanks to his own temperament, the modern White House, and the 24-hour news cycle, what the president has created is something that doesn’t look Lincoln-esque at all. . . .

“No! God, no!” one former senior Obama adviser told me when I asked if the president had lived up to this goal. . . .

With a few prominent exceptions… Obama has surrounded himself mostly with a team of loyalists… In the main, Obama relates to his Cabinet the way he relates to the rest of the world. “He’s a total introvert,” the former adviser told me. “He doesn’t need people.” . . .

Obama’s Cabinet is remarkably free of internal bickering and infighting, even if the White House keeps Cabinet secretaries on a shorter leash than Bill Clinton did. . . .

Obama’s energy secretary, Steven Chu, may have a Nobel Prize in physics, but that counted for little when he once tried to make a too elaborate visual presentation to the president. Obama said to him after the third slide, as one witness recalls, “O.K., I got it. I’m done, Steve. Turn it off.” . . .

Holder, the first black attorney general, has taken a political beating… for following through on what seemed to be the president’s own wishes on such matters as proposing to try the 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in an American courtroom (in the middle of Manhattan, no less). . . .

The Cabinet these days amounts to a kind of demographically balanced assembly of team mascots, with increasingly ill-defined roles. The Constitution stipulates only that the president “may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices.” Maybe Obama should ask for an occasional postcard and leave it at that.



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