There was a useful fiction about Barack Obama. His cabinet would consist of a “team of rivals.”
After this week’s hearings, I doubt we’ll hear the term again regarding this administration.
So now we know who took the terrorist attack references out. Next shoe: who put the youtube claim in? #benghazi
— Noah Pollak (@NoahPollak) May 10, 2013
As Joe Klein enthused five years ago:
Obama has said he admires Doris Kearns Goodwin’s wonderful Lincoln biography, Team of Rivals. “He talks about it all the time,” says a top aide. He is particularly intrigued by the notion that Lincoln assembled all the Republicans who had run against him for President in his war Cabinet, some of whom disagreed with him vehemently and persistently. “The lesson is to not let your ego or grudges get in the way of hiring absolutely the best people,” Obama told me. “I don’t think the American people are fundamentally ideological. They’re pragmatic … and so I have an interest in casting a wide net, seeking out people with a wide range of expertise, including Republicans,” for the highest positions in his government.
But what does that mean? It has become something of a tradition for a President to claim bipartisanship by appointing stray members of the opposing party who either have a similar outlook or are tucked into the most obscure Cabinet positions; even George W. Bush hired Norman Mineta — remember him? — as Secretary of Transportation. Obama seems intent on going beyond that. “I don’t want to have people who just agree with me,” he said. “I want people who are continually pushing me out of my comfort zone.” Obama said he’d be particularly interested in having high-ranking Republicans advising him on defense and national security. “I really admire the way the elder Bush negotiated the end of the Cold War — with discipline, tough diplomacy and restraint … and I’d be very interested in having those sorts of Republicans in my Administration, especially people who can expedite a responsible and orderly conclusion to the Iraq war — and who know how to keep the hammer down on al-Qaeda.”
Obama himself, and many of his supporters saw these Lincolnesque qualities in the candidate. It was perhaps necessarily reassuring to believe this. After all here was the man who was perhaps the least prepared in history to assume the position of President of the United States. If he were not up to the job, no doubt his uniquely qualified cabinet with a wealth of talent and competing ambitions would push him the correct direction.
President Obama indeed surrounded himself with talented people. But they weren’t talented in the fields to which they were appointed or possessing executive experience, rather they were talented in the same area the President himself was: politics. NeoNeocon writes (h/t Instapundit):
The president seems to prefer to have people around him with even less experience and expertise than he has, which is saying something. . . . So it occurs to me that maybe the simplest way to describe what happened in Benghazi is that, from start to finish, nearly everyone in charge and everyone who was a close and trusted advisor to those in charge was a political operative. Everyone. This of course includes Obama and Hillary Clinton, and all the supposed national security advisors such as Rhodes.”
Did she write Ben Rhodes? Ed Lasky provides some background on Rhodes:
I have previously written about Ben Rhodes and his role in the Obama White House. It is shameful that this “kid” (he is all of 35) has been given any responsibility at all in our government.
In “Does it bother anyone that this person is the Deputy National Security Adviser?” I noted his problematic background for someone given so much power by Obama. But then again he does specialize in fiction-writing.
He earned a master’s degree in fiction-writing from New York University just a few years ago . He did not have a degree in government, diplomacy, national security; nor has he served in the CIA, or the military. He was toiling away not that long ago on a novel called ‘The Oasis of Love” about a mega church in Houston, a dog track, and a failed romance.
That doesn’t sound as much like “team of rivals” as it does “out of his league.”
Barry Rubin observes that the problem wasn’t just with Obama’s team either:
Benghazi is the perfect symbolism of the president of the United States going to sleep in the face of a crisis, the living embodiment of a 2008 election ad by his opponent about whether he would deal with a crisis that erupted at 3:00 a.m.
In order to “prove” that Obama was ready for the presidency despite his marked lack of relevant experience the MSM created a number of myths to help him evade the scrutiny they would have cast on any other candidate. One of them was that he’d surround himself with the best people. After the Benghazi hearings that myth has been effectively shattered.
It may not change anything, but it matters, as John Podhoretz writes:
We can say it’s a big deal because of the testimony of Eric Nordstrom, the regional security officer in Libya at the time of the attacks. “It matters to me personally and it matters to my colleagues at the Department of State,” Nordstrom said as his voice cracked with sorrow and he paused several times to choke back tears. “It matters to the American public for whom we serve and, most importantly, it matters to the friends and family of Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods, who were murdered on Sept. 11.”